Happy birthday, bike!

I bought two bikes in 1990. It was my birthday and my old bike had been stolen. After a few months of shopping and about 30 test rides, I fell in love with two bikes and couldn’t decide, so I got both. One has a serial number that indicates it was built in December of 1988, so it will turn 35 later this year. It will be featured then. The other contains no serial number – Bill Davidson doesn’t (or at least didn’t then) stamp numbers on his frames.

The Davidson

He does stamp his name into seat stays, so it’s pretty clear that he built the bike. Due to componentry, I will assume it was also built in 1988. Lacking a clearer date, I have decided to celebrate its birthday on Mayday.

Bikes don’t always sell in the model year in which they are produced. I bought these bikes in January, 1990 but they had been on the shop floor long enough to be marked down.

He also signs his work.

Shimano 600 components were the forerunner to Ultegra. Hyperglide was introduced, as near as I can tell, in 1989 – most sources just say “late 80s”. This bike contains a pre-Hyperglide 7 speed cassette. “Biopace” was a Shimano innovation to make ovalized chainrings. This bike had Biopace rings but, by 1990, they had fallen out of favor. I swapped them for round rings (from Specialized) before I took the bike home.

Back in the day, the gold standard for wheels (especially rear wheels) was “hand-tied and soldered”. You won’t see that much any more, but here is a detail of the hand-tied and soldered rear wheel on this bike. It is still going strong after 35 years and has never needed truing. The wheels were hand-built by Vance Sprock at Cupertino Bike Shop, who had just taken ownership when I bought my bikes.

Internal routing of cables was relatively new on the scene at that time. Here’s the rear brake cable exit point from the top tube.

And the head joint/brake cable entry point:

The keen-eyed will notice two different frame pumps. The original silver Silca frame-fit pump met its demise last year on a camping trip when it was under a blanket and broke when I picked it up. It didn’t like the weight of the blanket or the leverage when I picked it up by the end. The new black Silca pump is in the more recent pictures (and with an aluminum, rather than plastic, body it should outlive me since the plastic one made it over 30 years).

I suppose I should add that the frame was built with Tange Prestige tubing. Prestige was Tange’s highest grade tubing, a lightweight, thin-walled, double butted, heat-treated chrome-molybdenum steel tubing. Davidson is a small shop. Back then (when I visited some time after I’d bought my bike), two people were building these frames (the “Impulse”), another was building the “Signature” fully-custom model, and Bill himself was experimenting with tandems. He signed all of the frames he approved. While he designed them, he didn’t build every one himself. He also had a separate frame painter who did beautiful work. His “Superfade” paint job was legendary. The Superfade combined a base color with silver in a very gradual fade (mixing the paint something like 100/0, 75/25, 50/50, 25/75, 0/100 and overlapping the layers for a smooth transition).(This paragraph added about 18 hours after publishing, so not all will see it.)