Bicycle Days – Part 3

I did all my own paintwork and here too I tried to be innovative by doing multiple colours, and even using my own handprints to make a pattern that made every paint job unique.

All the while I was racing NSW State A grade, I usually finished in the top 10. I was a terrible sprinter but an excellent climber. My main claims to fame being 6th in the Goulburn to Liverpool, 6th over the range in the Grafton to Inverell, 3rd outright in the Canberra Milk Race 2 day tour when it used to go over the infamous Fitz’s Hill, and 13th and 17th in 2 Australian Road Championships. I was always knocking at the door, but never quite making it!

I went back to work for Dad in about 1992 and stopped racing in 1993, the year I turned 30. Family and work commitments meant I couldn’t devote the time required to train at the level I wanted, although I did qualify for the Australian Championships that year but decided to forfeit my spot. I hadn’t done enough training and the State Championship race hurt too much. I knew I was racing far from my best and I just couldn’t train enough to be at the level I wanted.

I always lusted after a Colnago or DeRosa frame, these were the sort of benchmarks I always did my best to exceed. I believe I achieved it. My philosophy was that all other things being equal, the guy with the most efficient and comfortable bike would be the freshest, and have the best finish at the end of the race.

I strove to make every frame I built the best it could be. I would measure up each client, setting them up on a “donor” bike to arrive at the dimensions I would build their frame to. I worked in increments of 5mm and half a degree, varying head angles, bottom bracket height (this in 2mm increments) et cetera to suit the intended purpose and riding style of the owner.

Various comments were made to me by customers such as “this is the best bike I have ever ridden” (this by a guy in his 60s who had been racing for nearly 50 years – he won a couple of age division Australian and State Titles on the bike) and another guy commented that he had no idea that a bike could go so well. The only dissatisfied customer I ever had was an older guy in the club who went through frames, usually Italian ones, at a rate of about 2 a year. They were never quite right apparently. He was the only client I ever let influence how I wanted to build the frame. I ended up buying it back from him and sold it on – the new owner loved it. I am convinced if I had built the frame how I wanted he would also have had the “best bike he’d ever had”.

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