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In the Dumpster of Life

People email me with all kinds of questions about bikes and I have to admit I know a lot, but not everything.

Someone might find a frame in the dumpster and email me pictures asking if I know what it is.

I may know, I may not, I may offer an educated guess.

When looking for answers, concentrate on what you already know, not on what you don’t know. When you pull a frame from the dumpster look at the dropouts. Are they forged steel like Campagnolo? If so, it is probably a quality frame. If the dropouts are stamped from sheet steel, it is of lesser quality.

The exception would be, if it were an antique, pre dating forged dropouts. (1950s and earlier.) Then you look at the quality of the lug work, etc. You can ask an expert who will give you an educated guess, an opinion.

Nine times out of ten, it is nothing of value, which is why it was in the dumpster to begin with. If a person really needs another beater bike, then build it up and ride it, and enjoy it. Alternatively, give it to someone who needs it more than you do, or throw it back in the dumpster and forget about it.

In life too, it is more important where life's journey has taken us, rather than the point we started. In fact once we have left that point it is of little significance. More important is the direction we continue to steer ourselves on the road of life.

I once knew a young man who didn’t know who his father was, and was a basket case as a result. His mother wouldn’t tell him and a possible reason was that he was the result of some drunken one night stand and she didn’t know who the father was.

If this was the case then honesty with her son might have been the better course, although not necessarily. Had she been honest, he may have been even more troubled, because now he would know that he could never find the answer. Perhaps that knowledge would have alienated him from the one person who truly loved him, his mother. 

Did he really need to know where he came from? He was here on this planet, he was healthy, fit, intelligent, tall, good looking. He had a hell of a lot going for him. Instead, he was a failure in life, and blamed it all on the fact that he didn’t know who his father was.

He would have done better had he concentrated on what he knew. He had a mother who loved him, he had a good education, etc. etc. Instead he was obsessed by the unknown.

My father was the parent from hell, I have written about him here and elsewhere. I turned out all right in spite of this, would I have turned out any better or worse if I had not known who my father was?

Some of us are born more privileged than others, our country of birth for a start. But that is like the frame we find in the dumpster. It might be a Charlton or a Colnago, a Huffy or a Hetchins. Build any of them into a bike and they will get you from A to B. Make do with what you have.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but there will always be more questions than answers, some knowledge we seek just for the sake of it. Having certain knowledge does not always improve the quality of our life. 

In the “dumpster” of life, we will find many things, some treasures, some trash. We take what we can use, the rest we discard. Some things we find may appear to be worthless but turn out to be treasures, and vice-versa. 

Sometimes we think we have found treasure. We find a job or a relationship and become very excited, only to find later we should have left it in the dumpster.


Footnote: This article was previously used, but I recycled it, edited and reworked it. In other words I pulled it from my dumpster of old posts, because it was worth another look.

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The Vuelta

The Vuelta a Espana (The Tour of Spain.) is fast becoming my favorite of all the Grand Tours. The Giro d’Italia being the first of the season is often missing a lot of the top riders because they are saving themselves for the Tour de France.

But the Vuelta, everyone is there, all my favorites that I have watched throughout the season. The Vuelta is extremely hard, and everyone is tired so anything can happen. To me Grand Tours are all about the mountains. The Vuelta doesn’t mess around, there are big hills and mountains right from the start in the first week.

The Tour de France you may as well skip the first week. Flat sprinters stages where every day there is the inevitable break, the sprinter’s teams all give chase, and the break is reeled in with five or so kilometers remaining. Then comes the exciting part as the sprinters all jockey for position.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to see Cavendish, Greipel, and Kittel in action, but I will often have the commentary playing in the background while I do other work, and just watch the final 5K. If I want to watch a parade, I prefer one with a band, and balloons.

The Vuelta is so tough the big name sprinters stayed away this year, meaning that when there is a sprint it is not a foregone conclusion, which adds to the excitement. Because there are hard mountain climbs early on the race, the General Classification (GC) is soon established with a list of favorites coming to the fore in the first week.

This means that breakaways made up of riders way down in the GC are allowed to stay away as they pose no threat to the race leaders. This, I think makes for more interesting racing. You get two races in one going on. One for the stage win, followed by another as the General Classification boys duke it out.

With most of the riders having raced all season and done at least one other Grand Tour, everyone is tired. A rider can have one bad day and turn the whole race on its head. Alejandro Valverde for example rode consistently and was second or third in the GC, from Stage 2 until Stage 14 when he blew up big time, lost 10 minutes, and slipped out of contention.

Sunday, Stage 15 it was Chris Froome’s turn. His team, tired from the previous day’s efforts slipped off the back, leaving Froome isolated. He missed a vital split and allowed other GC contenders to gain time on him. Froome is still second overall but he is now 3:37 behind Nairo Quintana, and Estaban Chaves is only a further 20 secs down in 3rd. place, with Alberto Contador only another 5 seconds back in 4th. place.

Froome can’t afford another bad day, or he could slip out a podium spot altogether. Orica’s Simon Yates is only another minute back in 5th, and is looking really strong. Quintana has consistently looked the strongest in the race, but with another week of more mountains and a Time Trial, anything can happen.

It is by no means a foregone conclusion that Quintana will win. Froome could claw his way back, or he could go “Pop.” Simon Yates could surprise everyone. That is what makes the Vuelta a Espana such a great race.


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Fast Eddie Williams

I awoke Sunday morning to the sad news that New York Bike Messenger Legend “Fast Eddie” Williams had passed away.

Apparently, when Eddie didn’t show for work on Friday morning a coworker went to his apartment where he found Eddie had died during the night.

Life is strange, death is even stranger. We all know it is inevitable, and yet when it happens we are so ill equipped to deal with it.

We are shocked, stunned, we can’t believe it. Or is it just that we don’t want to believe it?

Eddie had been a bike messenger in New York City since 1983, long before riding a fixed wheel, no brakes, track bike on city streets became a hipster fashion. In fact it was the bike messenger who started the craze.

Bike messengers provide an essential service in the city, delivering important documents when overnight delivery is just not fast enough. Speed is of the essence, and a fixed wheel track bike is the perfect tool for the job.

A skilled rider has tremendous control over the bike, able to speed up or slow down easily and thread between cars when traffic is at a standstill. A courier on a bike can get from A to B quicker than any motorized vehicle.

I met Eddie just once when I traveled to New York in November 2014. We met in a bar/restaurant in Brooklyn, where Eddie lived. (Picture above.) He was a big man, at least six-four, maybe more. Soft spoken, humble almost. He showed me his bike, a track bike I had built in 1983, and had been raced on the Trexlertown Velodrome. Eddie had bought the bike from the original owner in 1998.

Then just two months later around Christmas 2014 Eddie’s bike was stolen. Eddie was devastated. He needed this bike to earn a living. I listed the bike as stolen on my Bike Registry, and several months later the frame showed up in a Queens bike store. Someone contacted me, I contacted Eddie, and he got his bike back.

That was the last time I spoke to Eddie just hours after he had retrieved the frame. The parts were gone, but Eddie had other parts and had already re-built it. I asked if he had found the thief.  He replied, “Oh, it was just some young kids.”

This response was typical of the man. He wasn’t vindictive or looking to punish someone, he was just full of joy to have his bike back.

I will always be grateful that I got to meet Eddie, and also with the help of many others was able to get his bike back to him when it was stolen.

I hope that bike never gets restored, but that it remains as is, with its thousands of paint chips. A working bike, displayed in a bike store or somewhere, as a memorial to a Legend.

Rest in Peace Fast Eddie, I will always remember you, as will many more.


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I first arrived in the United States in January 1979. I flew into New York’s Kennedy Airport, and was picked up by my new employers, Vic and Mike Fraysee, owners of Paris Sport.

From there it was probably and hour’s drive to Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. About seven miles from New York City on the other side of the Hudson River. The frameshop where I worked was at the back of a bike store that the Fraysee’s owned.

The terms of my initial visa that I had when I entered the US, was that I would return to England before the end of the first year. I could then renew my visa and come back again.

I planned to return to the UK for the Christmas Holidays 1979, which gave me almost a year to work and save for the trip. By the fall of that year, it was clear money was going to be tight and I needed to find some extra cash to meet expenses.

On the corner of the same block where the frameshop was, there happened to be a large warehouse type building. It was home to a company that packaged Christmas wrapping paper. They were hiring seasonal part time workers for an evening shift.

And so it was, I started moonlighting. When I finished my day job building frames, I would work 6 to 10 in the Christmas wrapping paper plant.

It was probably around early November that year, as I took my one-mile morning walk to work, I rounded the corner just off Main Street, Ridgefield Park, to a scene of utter devastation.

The Christmas paper business had burned to the ground in a fire during the night. Only the four brick walls were standing, the roof was gone, and firefighters were cleaning up. All that was left of the place where I had worked the previous evening was a blackened, smoldering pile of rubble.

As I walked slowly past on the opposite side of the street, the cold realization was sinking in. I no longer had a part time job, no extra income, and possibly no Christmas trip to England.

However, within two weeks, the owners of the business had salvaged and repaired some of the machinery, and had started up again in another building close by.

With only a few short weeks left before Christmas, they were now desperate to replace their lost stock, plus make up for two weeks lost production. I not only got my part time job back, I was now working a full 8 hour shift, from 6pm. to 2am.

There was a feeling amongst the workers, of wanting to help the owners succeed. They had not given up, we were not giving up.

I was also working two shifts on the weekends. The result was I probably made more money than if there had not been a fire. I made the trip to England with cash to spare.

I often think of this incident and a quote in the form of a question,

“How boring would life be without uncertainty?”


We need certainty in our lives to feel secure. We need to be reasonably certain that we will wake up in the morning, and that our loved ones will still be there. That our job will be there and the building not burned to the ground as I found.

Then every so often, life throws us a curve, something unexpected. Without the unexpected, life would be boring. Curved roads are more interesting than straight roads, we don’t know what is round that next bend.

Within uncertainty, there is adventure, excitement. I have always found in the past whenever a relationship has turned sour, or I have lost a job, when I look back years later, it was for the good.

Disappointments, for the most part are only temporary. Quite often they bring about an outcome that is better than originally expected. Throughout my life I’ve had many disappointments, but very few regrets.


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The Grey Escape

The Grey Escape is a charming little documentary film about a group of volunteer cyclists delivering bicycle rickshaws from Denmark to neighboring Norway. They take with them as passengers, a group of elderly residents from a Danish retirement community.

The 250 km. journey started in Rende, Denmark, and covering around 50 or 60 km. per day, the group traveled north to Hirtshals, where they took the ferry to Norway. There the bikes were handed over to the local municipality of Arendal, where they will be used for trips with retirement home residents there.

Coming from Denmark, these elderly passengers had been cyclists all their life, so a trip like this must have brought back many happy memories. To once again feel the wind in their face. It was mentioned in the movie that cycling is to Danes what skiing is to Norwegians.

In one part of the film a commentator says, “They’ve cycled all their lives, and now they can’t do it anymore.” I wondered why? If someone has ridden a bike all their life, they must have a certain level of fitness. They don’t suddenly become disabled overnight.

In a country like Denmark, where cycling is the normal way people get around, I would have thought there would be a number of the elderly who still ride bikes. The only reason to stop is when a person can no longer stay upright, their eyesight fails, or they are too weak to turn the pedals.

The movie touched on a subject that is constantly in my own thoughts, especially when some of these retirees were close to my own age. This is a generation who grew up in the same period I did, and at least in Denmark they maintained a certain level of fitness through cycling.

Whereas, most of the same generation from other parts of Europe and the USA, never exercised a day in their life. These Danish retirees did appear more mobile than those I see of the same age group in the US, but they were still “Old Folk.”

Age is not just physical fitness and appearance, it is attitude. Who was it said?

“People don’t grow old, they only become old when they stop growing.”

The state, or society can provide care for the elderly, a place to live, food, a warm bed, etc. But society cannot provide a purpose in life, and independence. This is up to each individual, and what is more symbolic of independence than the bicycle.


The documentary is 28 mins long, some of the dialog is in English, and that which is not has sub-titles. There are more details here:

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