Posting this from Windows, which I abhor with the fire of a thousand suns. Near as I can tell the thing is riddled with malware out of the box, and while I have managed to get a couple of linux distros going, the last one did not want to play and the muse is speaking and you have to roll with it.
A couple of days ago a post attracted the attention of a visionary with whom I was familiar, one of the founding fathers of the Mountain bike, one I have referred in passing as the Jefferson of the concept.
This post is gonna include a great deal of inside baseball, and if you are completely uninterested in the subject feel free to wander to more comfortable climes.
Speaking of climes, here in south central Indiana, Bloomington to be exact we are having a most magnificent day. It is around 70 degrees (freedom), low humidity with wisps of clouds painted upon a robins egg blue sky. A day that one would design for every day of the year if one had the power.
OK, now begins the part where regulars might not find an Interest.
Since you asked for a trading of stories, I will begin with the development and design of my first bicycle frame.
I had purchased my first, a mid range Nishiki in 1983. Later a top end fillet brazed Ross (a model whose name I have forgotten.).
I started work in a bike shop, in fact I was recruited by the owner of said shop in ’85, but I had known the dude within a week of opening his shop because as a teen, when I was not riding I visited every shop in town nearly every day.
Fast forward to the fall of ’87. we had a torch, and the boss showed the man I consider my best friend and a phenomenal mechanic to boot, how to use it. We also had a supply of thin walled tubes on which to practice, from that point on it was off to the races.
My fighting/raciong weight was 140 lbs. we tore up everything resembling a trail we could find, mostly singletrack, went on the equivalent of raiding parties all over the county to discover more places to ride, It may have taken nearly a decade to discover the wonders of fat tires and hill bombing (as is usual in this state before the internet, the lag time of cool things that is.)
Point being is that I suspected that the commercial offerings vis a vis Mountain bikes were heavier than necessary. So I set out to see if that was in fact the case.
My primary ride at the time was a Holdsworth Professional, a High end British road bike. It occurred to me upon close examination that I could fit 26 x 1.5 inch mountain bike tires on both ends, and so I had the platform of discovery. A lightweight road bike built with Reynolds 531, and a torch.
I fired up said torch to solve the primary problem, brakes. I brazed cantilever bosses on the fork and seatstays, knew that drop would be an issue, but one that I could work around. I beat the shit out of that mongrel contraption on many of our discovered trails and to my satisfaction the road, cum mountain bike performed admirably. I did plant a pedal in a few tight corners, but hell you gotta roll with what’s at hand.
Satisfied with the durability of 531 road tubing (at least for a guy of my size) an order was placed, and a box of gleaming silver tubing arrived. I also ordered the two investment cast lugs and fork crown, that would work with my design, from Henry James, a lugless bottom bracket from Quality Bicycles.
For those who might still be following and know not so much we will cover wheels.
The front wheel on nearly every bike on the planet is dishless. What that means is that the rim is centered between the flanges of the hub and thus symmetrical. Like an arch in architecture it is a very strong and stable structure. The rear wheel on most geared bicycles on the other hand is asymmetrical. The spoke tension on the geared, or freewheel side is considerably higher than on the other side. Generally speaking it is not a problem, but I had an Idea.
I am designing and building my first frame and the idea of a dishless rear wheel creeped into my brain. While it would have been easier to recreate a standard frame, I just can’t help myself. I wanted to try something no one else had. At least to my knowledge of the state of the art at the time.
The problem with the offset rear triangle involves bottem bracket width, q factor, and crank clearence, but after a couple of drawings it seemed that I could manage with a rear hub spacing of 126 millimeters with an 8 speed cassette.
During the spring of ’88 my best friend and I both launched into our unique designs. As he was a bigger guy, 6’2″ 200 lbs, and also very bright in the amateur engineering department, had different needs and opted for different parameters to serve his needs.
Forty hours later two new bikes were properly kitted and ready to roll. We had spent an all nighter at the shop and managed the initial parking lot tests abt 20 minutes before we were supposed to open the shop.
To my amazement, the fillet brazed bottom bracket did not fall off, and around mid day, after getting another dose of needed cafiene from a shop across the way, I witnessed one of my co-workers on my newly minted machine executing a perfect Rockford maneuver (a full on tailslide with the front wheel at 90 degrees to the rest of the frame) with horror. I had not had a chance to do anything but a ride around the parking lot, was not still convinced of the soundness of my design and felt that I should have been the first to pull that move. At the same time I have to admit that the Horror was accompanied with a bit of pride.
At the end of the day, I pounded the shit out of that ride for nearly a decade, only had to touch up the rear wheel with a spoke wrench on two occasions, set the big ring hill record (a really short, really steep traverse of a ridge around a tree with a very short run, in short, an extremely technical exercise) with a 48×14.
The thing worked, and well. One of these days you might hear of the heartbreaking collision into the back of a parked car at speed, cratering the front end, and of the means that resurrected the sled.
If anyone has a copy of the January ’93 issue of Winning Magazine, you will find a picture of me riding that steed at full speed in my last race. You will find it in the weekend warrior section.
And if anyone has a copy…I no longer have one of my own…I would love a scan….
To the regulars, thanks for your forbearance, I’ll be back to mocking wingnuts soon enough.
To Mr Kelly, thanks for the inspiration.
If you haven’t checked it out yet, you need to look at Mr. Kelly’s website to get a true feel for what kind of legend we have here. This dude was there at the beginning of the revolution. We’re extremely happy to have you here good sir.