Sunday, January 6, 2019

The things that we do on rainy days.....

 Back in the '90's I got to know a frame builder of note named Dave Tesch. I had seen his bikes before I actually got to know him personally. Dave's bikes were made to be really nimble- so nimble that many people had a tough time riding them ! The bikes had very short wheelbases and steep angles- not unusual for the times but the bikes were extreme even for the period. Dave made no apologies for his bike design and was happy to tell all about how successful the design was.
 I did see a lot of Dave's bike back in the day- I was still a hobbyist builder in the '80's when Dave was at his most prolific. He was putting out super-twitchy neon-colored fillet-brazed criterium frames by the dozens and they were selling well. To me it seemed like one of the most popular American built frames of the era. While I didn't hear many other US builders heaping praise on Dave or his work he was outdoing most of them in production and sales. There was definitely ( and still is ) a following for his crazy unusually twitchy bikes.
 At one point or another things went south for Dave's company- seems like when a sole proprietorship starts getting to be a mid-sized company there is a danger of becoming too much in debt, too vested in doing big numbers of sales- any number of pitfalls. I don't remember the reason Dave had to shut his doors but I was surprised that such a seemingly successful operation could fail.
It was about this time that I got to know Dave. He had gotten involved with two guys that had been in a partnership with another well known California frame builder. I was involved a bit as the two partners had decided to part ways with the builder and start their own company. At first the company was based in California but after a number of months the partners decided to move the company to Phoenix Arizona and hire Dave to run it. Not long after Dave got involved with the partners he began calling me with stories about the company- stories that were very dark, funny and revealing about the partners and what sort of train-wreck was in the near future for the whole operation.  Dave had no illusions about the mess he was recruited to fix- I had already left the association with the partners as I had heard from the original builder that the partners had stolen all of his shop equipment to create their own operation.
This brings me to this frame that you see in the photos. I was given this frame probably 15 years ago by a shop who had originally looked to having it repaired for a customer. Later on, the customer flaked and the shop gave me the frame as they had no use for a broken frame. All the frame needed was a new down tube and alignment. It hung on a hook in my shop until today. This particularly rainy Sunday I went to the shop with the purpose of finally fixing this frame. It turns out that Dave Tesch after leaving the failing operation with the partners did not live long- he died of cancer at the age of 44 in 2003. This was about the time I got this broken frame. I was never sure when I would fix the frame but remembering Dave and how we were both involved in a comically flawed frame building company with the two questionable partners I felt that I owed this frame a fix- one last chance to honor a guy I considered a friend and kindred spirit of sorts.
So now the repaired and aligned frame and fork will be painted and road ready in the coming weeks. I feel better knowing that there's one less old dusty project in my shop and also that an example of Dave's work will be back on the road. Not everyone appreciated Dave's approach to building but knowing him personally I can state that he was full of insight and humor about what we as builders do. He made me laugh at some stuff that normally I wouldn't laugh at.......he was able to do that without trying- it's just who he was.

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