Sunday, May 30, 2010

Number one

Memorial day weekend arrived and I thought that if I had time, I would attend to finishing a long-delayed project hanging over my bench.Back in June of 1978, or thereabouts I built my first frame. Since it was my very first, there were some real blunders in the building of this opus-one that it never really rode correctly. This did not deter me from riding it for a number of years, even riding a metric century in the sierra foothills-this was no mean feat as my first frame was a track frame and I put stupidly tall gearing on it as well. Fast forward to 1994.....I was having a particularly rough week and my temper was boiling over. I needed to break something in the shop....anything, so long as it wasn't a customer owned item. My old number one was hanging on a hook , all disassembled waiting for the day I would re-build the rear triangle and make it ride the way it should have originally. I took the frame down and got out a large piece of tubing and beat the crap out of the rear triangle . ( those were different days....primitive times of high frustration and long hours) I reasoned that the rear stays would all be replaced anyway, might as well get some good venting in.
Old number one remained in that state until about three months ago when I finally got the paint stripped and redied the frame for repair. I did nothing further on the frame until this particular Memorial day weekend-I made the time on Sunday afternoon and set out to fix this old relic 32 years after I hastily and haphazardly threw it together. As I started work on the frame I became aware that the mistakes that I knew about such as the rear triangle being set too high , lowering the bottom bracket and slackening the angles ( pretty much the opposite one would want for a track bike ) and the fork being built too short were just the beginning of the maladies. When I started building the frame in 1978, the one guy who guided me , Ross Shafer kept telling me : "Paul, you really should do a full-scale drawing first ." -Of course, I was much too anxoius and headstrong to listen.....the result : My first frame was a total piece of shit....rideable, but a real genuine steaming piece. I had put all my energy into the lugs and fork crown, gracefully and ambitiously crafting neat little crest-shaped cutouts everywhere they could possibly fit. I spent six weeks of after work hours cutting, filing, thinking that I was going to make a stunning groundbreaking work of framebuilding genius. What I made was as I said before, a total piece of shit.
Now it is almost 32 years later to the day and I am working on this P.O.S., going about rebuilding the rear-end and putting new dropouts in the fork in an attempt to make this track bike a good riding machine. As I hold the front triangle with it's nicely crafted cutout lugs and old Italian threaded Cinelli/Fischer bottom bracket up to my drawing paper I notice that my lack of planning back in 1978 had created a frame that most likely would never be correct as a track frame. # 1, the BB was too low. # 2, the angles were too slack,even when the rear triangle was re-done. # 3, the fork being so short really made getting the BB higher pretty much an impossibility. Faced with this, I pondered throwing the whole mess into the shop dumpster and letting go of old number one forever. At this point I decided to call another builder, a friend who just might get a chuckle out of my predicament . This builder is someone who I regard as one of the top in the field and also someone who can appreciate irony like myself. The builder asked me what my background was before I had built the frame. I told him that I was a fulltime bicycle mechanic with no metalworking skills at all. What I should have said is this: My background.......lousy bike racer, obsessed mechanic, social zero , borderline psychopath...and yes......ignorant asshole who couldn't take the time to do a drawing. I was so focused and obsessed with the artistic part of the frame that I completely dismissed the fundamentals needed for proper bicycle design. This is what created my P.O.S. and it was a waste of materials. But......on this Memorial day weekend I felt that scrapping old # 1 would be an even bigger waste of materials so I spent the afternoon carefully doing what I could to make this bike roll again. I was sure to use old tubing where I could and period-correct dropouts to try to capture the original look. A customer called and told me : " Sure, it will roll again, but don't you think that by repairing it 32 years later you are destroying some of the authenticity ?" I assured the customer that no amount of repair, even with all the skill I have from a couple thousand frames under my belt could change the authenticity of this bike. It is and will always be, a total piece of shit.


  1. Oh God, my first frame is also a piece of shit, hard work aside it is so wrong in so many ways, now thanks to you, I can admit that. Mine is only 14 years old but I am not going to try to fix anything on it. Steaming it remains.

  2. mine is on the wall, and it too is a total piece of shit. it never broke {just bent falling off a cliff} has more rod in eack joint then i put into an entire bike now and it taught me how & why bikes are not built like it was: 70*/70*, 0mm BB drop. live & learn....steam always, mine shall.