Friday, March 14, 2008

More questions than answers

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.

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.

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.

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, would he 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 only 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?

Had my father died before I was old enough to know him, I would still be the same person. The path my life took was the direction I decided to travel; it had nothing to do with where I came from, or from where I started.

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 affect the quality of our life.

It seems to me knowledge often comes to us on a need to know basis. We might be riding our unknown dumpster bike one day and someone will ride up along side us and say, “I’ve got one of those.”

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


Jan said...

Amen, Dave. You almost sound like me!

Take care now!

Thomas F. said...

Dave, it always amazes me how you can pack simple truths in small blog entries and get right to the point.

Although I don't always agree 100% with what you say, I have to admit that I really, really enjoy reading the more philosophical entries. Firstly, they are very well written. Secondly, they make me think.

Cheers, and keep them coming...

Anibal said...

thank you.

SD_pedalpower said...


I love this post. Peace & bike Luv!

lancewrite said...

Slight aside... Do I remember one of your UK frames (Patson's?) being featured in the comic and them mentioning that the rear dropouts were modified sheet steel ones? I think it was a weight saving device. Or am I mis-remembering?

Dave Moulton said...


You have a good memory. On time-trial bikes in the 1970s I would often use Campagnolo vertical dropouts, that were hot stamped from steel plate. I used to braze a steel washer on the inside of the dropout and file it to the contour of the slot. This brought them to the standard thickness of a regular dropout.

The vertical dropouts were smaller therefore slightly lighter, and they allowed the chainstays to be made shorter, bringing the rear wheel closer to the seat tube (Fag paper clearance.) that was the height of fashion back then.

I have pictures of that bike somewhere I will have to look for them.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the last line, that is beautiful. I've been to church today and that was quick.


Fritz said...

This is a wonderful post. In that coffee table book you're working on *ahem* you should include this essay :-)

warthog said...

Not really what you were meaning but, I have to mention because I still find it hard to believe. I once got a 1969 Paramount frame out of a shop dumpster. The only thing "wrong" with it was, the dust cap threads were completely striped out of the left Campy Strada crank, and they were unable to remove it. The customer got pissed (american pissed) and chucked it it there himself. I simply took out the BB. Guess they didn't think of that.

Anonymous said...

Some people refer to me as Thomas, some as Thomass. I've earned them both. Peace