Frank Berto was born in 1929, and was, to all appearances, a perfectly normal mechanical engineer working in the petroleum industry until he experienced a Demascene moment:
“I bought a second-hand Schwinn Varsity in 1971, and I became involved in Boy Scouts with my sons. The first Boy Scout bike trip included a long winding hill. I shifted to low gear (38 inches on a Varsity). Halfway up, I got off and walked while the troop pedaled past. My sons said, "Are you OK, Dad?" The mechanical engineer thought, “If I had a bigger sprocket on the back, I could pedal up this lousy hill." Little did I realize it then that this was the beginning of my lifetime fascination with bicycle gearing. The next Saturday, I pedaled to the nearby bike store and bought a 14 to 34 SunTour freewheel and a SunTour VGT Derailleur.”
Following this epiphany Frank Berto wrote the first of literally 100s of magazine articles, many about derailleur gears. He actively championed wide ratio gearing and good engineering design. From 1986 to 1990 he occupied the surprising position of engineering editor of Bicycling Magazine (does any current cycling magazine have an ‘engineering editor’?).
Based near San Francisco, Frank Berto also was in the right place at the right time to observe the birth of the mountain bike, in many ways the culmination of the wide ratio gearing movement.
Frank Berto is the author of a number of books including:
Frank Berto has a web site that says all of this more accurately, comprehensively and elegantly than I ever will.