Dave Moulton

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How a single ride changed the face of British Time Trialing

In England, in 1953, the top British time trialist was a man named Ken Joy. (Left.)

The previous year he had ridden a 100 miles in 4 hours and 6 minutes, which at that time was phenomenal.

In the early 1950s, British riders racing against the clock invariably rode on a single fixed wheel.

48 x 15, or 48 x 16 (86.4 inch or 81 inch.) would be a typical gear ratio used for 100 miles. Courses would be selected over the flattest possible terrain.

At the end of 1952 Ken Joy turned professional and was sponsored by Hercules, a large manufacturer of roadster bikes, located in Birmingham, England. As British time trialing did not have a professional category, the only thing open for Ken Joy, was to ride solo and attack the many place to place records and distance records under the auspices of the Road Records Association.

So when Ken Joy was invited to ride in the Grand Prix des Nations in 1953 it created tremendous excitement for the average British Club Rider. This famous French event was after all considered to be the unofficial World Time Trial Championship of Professional Cycling.

Britain was somewhat cut off and isolated from the rest of Europe as far as cycling was concerned. We were in our own little world of time trialing, and the time trials held on the continent of Europe were odd distances, and held on courses that were not always flat, so how did you compare.

There was much speculation in the weeks leading up to the event as to how well Ken Joy would do. After all he had to be in with a chance, 100 miles in 4 hours 6 minutes is not exactly hanging around, by any standard.

I was 17 years old at the time and in my second year of racing, mostly time trialing; I was definitely caught up in all the excitement. The Grand Prix des Nations was to be run over a distance of 142 kilometers, which was just over 88 miles, a distance that would suit Joy.

The event was held on a weekend, and a few of the major British newspapers had the results in Monday’s morning edition. However we had to wait until the following Wednesday when the “Cycling” magazine came out to get the full impact of what had transpired.

The event was won by a then unknown 19 year old French rider named Jacques Anquetil. Not only did he beat Ken Joy, he started 16 minutes behind the British rider and caught and passed him. A nineteen year old kid, just two years older than me, had trounced the best that Britain had to offer.

There were two British professional riders in the 1953 event; the other was Bob Maitland whose previous riding was mostly in NCU Mass Start Circuit Races. I seem to remember Maitland finished with a better time than Joy, but both were well down the field. Later in 1955, Bob Maintland did become part of the first British team to ride the Tour de France.

I remember well the above picture of Anquetil, low, aerodynamic, with his hands curled around the slim Mafac brake hoods. His mechanic standing on the running board of the following car with a spare bike on his shoulder. This was a whole different world, a whole different level of bike racing.

This one ride changed the face of British time trialing. Anquetil used a five speed free-wheel, with 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 cogs. With a single 53 tooth chainwheel; it gave him a top gear of 102 inches. This was the highest ratio mechanically possible at that time. Soon after British time trialists would abandon fixed wheel and use five speed straight up 14 to 18, and later 13 to 17 free wheels.

Jacques Anquetil of course went on to become one of the great cyclists of all time. Winning the Grand Prix des Nations 9 times, and going on to become the first man to win the Tour de France five times.

The Grand Prix des Nations which started in 1932, and became one of the professional classics, was held annually until 2005 when it was abandoned after the UCI inaugurated an official World Time Trial Championship.


Footnote: If you haven't already done so, read this 3 part series: The History of British Cycle Racing. It tells of the ban on road racing in Britain that lasted 50 years, and how a handful of cyclists fought to get this ban lifted. Britain's current success in cycling is due in part to those who went before and dragged the sport out of the dark ages

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Searching for the Meaning of Life

I couldn’t sleep the other night, I lay awake in bed,

With thoughts about the meaning of life running through my head.

I went over to the window and looked into the night,

I saw a million twinkling stars, it was an awesome sight.

I got quite excited, and I began to shout,

“What are we all doing here, and what’s it all about.”

A voice came back with the answer, and this is what it said,

“It’s none of your fucking business.” So I got back into bed.

I wrote the above song lyrics some years ago. It sums up my thoughts about the meaning of life. I try not to take life too seriously, or rather try not to take my own life too serious. Why does life have to have a meaning anyway? Is it not more important to live a life that has meaning?”

What is life? Life is anything that dies if you stomp on it. A tiny ant crawling across our kitchen counter has life until we crush it under our thumb. Life is what keeps meat fresh without refrigeration. The moment life leaves any living entity, be it plant or animal, it will start to rot and decay.

One might as well ask, “Where does fire go when it goes out.” A candle will burn until the wick is totally consumed, and the flame will go out. However, if I light another candle from the first candle I have the same flame that in theory could burn indefinitely, as long as someone keeps lighting a new candle from the same flame.

Likewise my mother created me, (With a little help from my dad) a new life from her life. I share DNA from both parents. When their candle burned out the same flame of life continues to burn in me, and will do so long after I’m gone. It will continue through my children, grandchildren, and so on.  

Life is my belief system. I do not need to believe in some Deity or other which may or may not exist, rather I know there is Life, because I have Life, plus I can see it in abundance everywhere.

There’s a small change in perception between Heaven and Hell,

And I’ve found a God that I can trust, the one within myself.

The above are more lyrics. Heaven and Hell are not necessarily where we go when we die, but what we create for ourselves here on Earth. I have met many people over the years whose lives are a “Living Hell.” Created mostly by their own negative thoughts and actions.  Even Shakespeare said, “Nothing is good or bad that thinking makes it so.”

The God within myself is of course “My Life,” as previously explained. Time and time again I have seen a positive thought result in a positive outcome. Bad thoughts will result in a negative outcome too, proving to myself it works either way.  It is not necessary I prove it to others, only to myself.

Another man praying to his God may have the exact same outcome, because what is a prayer but a positive thought? And a positive thought is but an unspoken prayer.

I love to watch nature programs on TV, and in doing so it seems to me that the main purpose in life is to survive and procreate. Thus ensuring that life continues. Humankind however has the brain capacity to go way beyond simply survive and procreate.

It would seem the noble thing to do is to do something that is of benefit to others. However, there are those who went before us who did just that and in doing so created an industrialized world, one from which we can never return.

I sometimes wonder if the honorable thing to do is to simply survive and procreate. Providing of course that person lives a happy existence, and raises children who are themselves happy and stable. And as long as on his journey through life, he harms no one.

The world would be in a better state today if more people had been left to do just, instead of being encouraged to get ahead, make more, and buy more stuff.

But now I am thinking too much, which is mankind’s downfall. Occasionally someone will have an idea like sliced bread, but mostly it is a series of "It seemed like a good idea at the time," all strung together. We can never see the problems we cause further down the road.

But then again, probably it's none of my business.


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Sometimes a person will say to me, “I am a perfectionist.” They say it with pride as if perfectionism is a virtue.

Perfectionism is a curse that will bring nothing but misery to the perfectionist and those around them.

It is a personality trait that goes hand in hand with low self-esteem.

Why? Because one can never achieve perfection, therefore you are always a loser.

My own perfectionism led to my success as a frame builder but self-hatred and anger as a person. My perfectionism was caused by abuse not only from my father but by the British school system, a system that beat down kids, and used sarcasm and ridicule as well as physical abuse. If you have seen the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” you will know what I mean. That movie touched me deeply and helped me understand later what was going on.

I believe the reason all the great music came out of Britain in the 1960s was because of our childhood during WWII and the school system in place at the time. I was just another child of that era whose creativity went in a different direction. But for the fact my anger was directed towards myself I could have just as easily gone a different direction. Had my anger been directed towards others I could have become a violent criminal as many of my generation did. This forms the basis for my novel Prodigal Child It is a work of fiction, a story of what my life might have been had it taken a different turn early on.

As a child I was never given credit for doing well, only punished for doing wrong. As an adult I continued with the self-punishment if I screwed up and I would not tolerate anything but perfection from myself. This led to success as an artist, but failure in every other aspect of my life. Many times in my early days as a framebuilder I would take a hammer and destroy a frame because of some minor flaw. Afterwards I would sit and cry like a child, then work all night to replace the frame. This was my punishment for screwing up.

By the late 1980s my second marriage failed and I realized I needed to change. I was not always a pleasant person to be around. The sheet rock on the walls of my frame shop was full of the impressions of tools I had thrown across the room in a temper tantrum. The anger was always directed at myself never others, but those around me had to witness and listen to this. I knew I had to change, for my own sake as well as others. I started to look deep within myself to see why I was the way I was.

By the early 1990s the bike business had also changed. Bicycle dealers almost overnight it seemed were switching from road bikes to mountain bikes. By 1993 I knew it was time to leave and there was one incident that I think helped push me over the edge. A customer called me saying his Fuso Lux frame he had bought had a tiny bubble in the Columbus decal. Columbus decals were always a pain because of the material they were made from caused them to bubble when the paint was being baked in the paint oven. This is why you don’t see a Columbus decal on a custom ‘dave moulton’ frame. 

I told the customer to send the frame back. When it arrived the “bubble” in the Columbus decal was buried deep within the clear coats and was so tiny you almost needed a magnifying glass to see it. I stood there looking at it, seething with anger. I had finally come to terms with my own perfectionism, but still had to deal with the perfectionism of others. This customer expected me to repaint this frame and there was no guarantee if I did that the Columbus decal would be any different, and maybe it would be even worse.

The frame was in a vise held across the bottom bracket faces. If a fit of rage I grabbed the head tube and folded the frame in two with the head tube ending up next to the rear drop-outs. This time I did not cry, I did not stay up a night building a replacement. Instead I walked into my office and wrote the customer a check for the full retail value of the frame. I attached the check to the frame with scotch tape, threw it in the box and shipped it back. I never heard from him again.

As well as coming to terms with my perfectionism I realized that all creativity comes from the same source. It is not a right brain, left brain thing, it comes from deep within the artist, his soul or very being. The artist is simply a vehicle through which art appears. Because all art comes from the same source, all art is the same and if I had been successful in one art form, I could do so in another. This is why I was able to leave the bike business and take up writing and songwriting. If I screw up in writing unlike frame building it’s easily fixed in a rewrite.

Writing has been great therapy for me, better to get all this shit out than to hold it inside. Which is exactly what I am doing now so thank you for allowing me to indulge myself.


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Women’s rights and an old picture from 1985

The above picture from the cover of an October 1985 “Cyclist” magazine, was brought to my attention recently. It is of interest to me because the bike in the picture is a FUSO that I built.

Apart from the bike and the cycling mitts the model is wearing, this picture from 33 years ago, has little to do with cycling. The “see through” skin suit is hardly practical cycling wear. The picture is nothing more than “Soft Porn” to draw attention to the magazine, and supposedly encourage men to buy it.

Today a similar picture on a cycling magazine cover would have the Twittersphere ablaze with outrageous indignation, and cries of “Sexism.” How times have changed, I thought. But have they?

I spent my childhood in the 1940s, my teen years in the 1950s. My father was physically abusive to my mother. People knew it went on, but did nothing, they “Minded their own business.” A women’s lot was pretty grim back then.

One thing that saved me from repeating this vicious cycle, was that my mother instilled in me, what a cowardly act is was for a man to hit a woman. As a result I have never abused a female, physically or otherwise. Hardly something to be proud of, this should be the norm. But some men are pigs, I am often ashamed of my own gender.

So what has really changed since 1985? We have the Internet and social media. Now far from everyone “Minding their own business,” everyone has a voice, and often anonymously. On the surface this would seem to be a good thing, but in many ways people are being driven further apart.

It seems everyone has an extreme POV. Extreme Left or Right politically. Fundamentally Religious or Complete Atheist on the other side, no middle ground. It has occurred to me that the moderate voices tend not to get involved in pointless online discussions. We only hear the extreme view point.

People always had differing opinions, but there used to be a respect for the other man’s point of view. Whatever happened to:

“I may not agree with your opinion, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It has been replaced with, “I disagree with you, therefore you are a terrible person, and you should die a horrible death.” I have been told in the past that, “I should die of the worst kind of cancer.” Simply because someone disagreed (Anonymously of course.) with my point of view.

I do not need that kind of negative energy coming my way, so what do I usually do? I shut up and do not express an opinion. In that regard Political Correctness becomes a form of censorship.

The important issue is not “Girlie” pictures in magazines, or Podium Girls at bike races. Men need to stop beating women, raping and killing them. They need to be brought to justice if they do. There are currently thousands of rape kits in police departments all over the US. They go untested because of lack of funding.

I realize this is only part of women’s rights, but it is the biggest one. If a girl or woman can’t walk alone along a darkened street, or some deserted place, without the fear of being attacked, that is a huge loss of freedom that we men take for granted.

It is a national disgrace, and needs to be addressed. It is something I have been aware of for some time. It took and old picture from 1985 to give me a way to write about it without stirring up a political shit storm. I hope so anyway.


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The makeup of an artist

Most children are born with the potential to be an artist. A child’s imagination is pure creativity, and the basic instinct within every child, is to show off. “Look mommy, look at me.” The problem is the creativity, in most cases, is educated out of the child.

A child comes to a parent with some fantastic story, and they are told, “That’s not true, you made that up.” Instead of given credit for creating something, that is possibly quite cleaver. A better response might be, “That’s a wonderful story, did you make that up all by yourself?”

A child needs to be taught the difference between fact and fantasy, but what is writing a novel other than making stuff up and writing it down. In other words, child’s play.

I was fortunate that I had a mother who encouraged me to be creative, to draw and paint, and make little craft projects. She gave me praise for what I had created, and more important she told others about my creations, and even showed them off. She built my self-esteem.

If you look up the word “ego” in the dictionary, it refers to self esteem. Contrary to an “egotist” which refers to a self-centered person. As I see it, an artist can have an ego, and not necessarily be egotistical. However, we are often taught throughout our life that it is wrong to have an ego.

Children are taught that it is wrong to “show off.” Showing off is only wrong, when you have nothing worthwhile to show. The loud mouth in the bar is saying, “Look at me,” but when we look, there is no talent, nothing to see.

Most artists have an ego, the desire to “show off.” Without it, there would be no art. No TV or movies made,no books to read, and no music on the radio. Why would any actor get up on a stage or in front of an audience or camera, if they did not have the ego to say, “Look at me, and look at what I can do?”

It is not wrong to have an ego, but it may be a huge mistake to parade that ego in front of others. Get more than one of these persons in a room at the same time and you have a clash of egos.

Knowing that you have a talent for something is to have an ego, in other words, confidence in oneself, or self-esteem. However, ego needs to be toned down with a little humility. If a person truly has talent, it will be imminently plain for all to see. There is no need for further embellishment. 

Initially an artist creates for their own satisfaction of seeing what they have created. I always got a tremendous rush from looking at my finished bicycle frames. For some this is enough, but for most, we need the validation of others. This usually comes in the form of people putting down their hard-earned money for what you have created.

The driving force behind most artists is not money. Those who become artists to make a lot of money rarely make any, and often are not good artists. Some do make a lot of money, movie stars for example. The money is really a validation of their work, a large number of people appreciate what they do.

All true artists are successful, there are only varying degrees of success. The simple act of creating something is a success in and of itself, even if it only benefits its creator. Who would even attempt to write a book if they didn’t think in the first place that someone would read what they had written? If no one tried in the first place for fear of failure, there would be no books.

No creative work is a complete failure, sometimes it is necessary to create one piece of work, simply to enable the artist to get it out of their system, and move on to the next project.

Failure paves the way for success in the future. Success cannot always be measured in terms of money. Every time a frame I built is sold on eBay, there is no monetary reward for me. Just the satisfaction of knowing I created something worthwhile, and it stilll has value.

The line between ego and egotistical can be extremely thin. How do I write about myself and not appear egotistical? I tell myself it is okay as long as I have something worthwhile to say.

I was blessed in this life to have been given the ability and the opportunity to build a few decent bicycle frames. Along the way, I gathered a great deal of knowledge about the bicycle and its design. Most of this knowledge is in my head and when I am gone, it too will be gone. That would be a shame and a waste.

Writing satisfies my creative passion, just as building bicycle frames did in the past. My purpose is to share knowledge, enlighten, and attempt to entertain. Statistics show that readership remains steady. As long as there are people willing to take the time to read my occasional scribbles, I will continue. This is my validation.


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