Dave Moulton

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What does the length of your forearm and the price of fish have to do with stem length?

This method of determining handlebar stem length has been around forever. My cycling experience dates back over 67 years and it was practiced then, and many years prior. Actually it is not a bad guide and works for most people.

Of course in an age of computerized bike fitting, this may seem to be bordering on an old wife’s tale, but believe it or not, back in the day before computers people figured shit out using only the power of their mind, and the wisdom of old wives.

Place your elbow against the nose of your saddle and if your fingertips do not fit behind the handle bars as shown above, then your stem is probably too short. If the bars are more than 2cm. away from the finger tips your stem maybe too long.

When I was racing I used a stem that placed my fingertips one centimeter from the bars. Now as a mild concession to my aging body I’m using a stem a centimeter shorter. If you are wondering as I did for many years what the length of a person’s forearm has to do with stem length? I will explain.

When I am determining frame size I take into account three body measurements.
1. Inside leg length (Often referred to as inseam.) measured crotch to floor without shoes.
2. Overall height.
3. Shoe size. (Length of foot.)
I do not require body length because I have overall height minus inseam. I do not require arm length because this is relevant to leg length and foot length combined.

Human bodies although all different do generally follow certain rules of nature. We have the same basic design and structure as most other animals on this planet except we walk on our hind legs while most others walk on all four. So it follows a person with long legs will also have long arms; short legs, short arms.

Four legged animals generally walk on their toes (and finger tips) whereas we stand and walk on our heels. So some people have a long body, but short legs and it is not unusual for a person with this build to have longer feet, and also longer arms. The long arms are not out of proportion if you consider the leg length is a combination of inseam plus the length of foot.

When pedaling a bicycle the toe is pointing downward at the bottom of the pedal stroke so the foot becomes an extension of the leg, which is why it has to be taken into consideration when determining frame size. The person with short legs, long feet needs a larger frame than their inseam alone would suggest. The larger frame with its proportionally longer top tube will also accommodate this rider’s longer body and arms

The length of the forearm is proportionate in length to the length of the foot. Take one of your shoes and hold it against your forearm and you will see it is the same length as the distance from your elbow to your wrist. In other words the big bones in your forearm are the same length as your foot.

So assuming you are on the right size frame and your seat is set at the correct height, then chances are if you have very long feet then you will have a short inseam and a long body.

Because you have long feet you also have a long forearm and if you do this little elbow against the saddle trick it will show you need a long handlebar stem which will be right for your long body and arms.

A person with very long legs for their height will also have long arms but will have a short body and small feet relative to their height. Small feet mean short forearm and a shorter stem which will be right for their short body. Because this rider has long legs his saddle will be set high making a greater distance from the seat to the bars. This will accommodate his long arms.

There is another method for determining stem length which states: “A rider seated with their hands on the drops of the bars, will have the front hub obscured from view by the handlebars.” This works in the same way, longer body calls for a longer stem and vice-versa.

The only thing is that this method could be affected by the head angle of the frame and the length of fork rake. I prefer the length of forearm method because it is simpler. It works for most people but there is a small percentage that it will not. I always say if you are comfortable and happy with your current position, don’t change it. Go by the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.

And what does all this have to do with the price of fish? Nothing at all, but it got your attention.


This is a rewrite of a post from the very early days of the Bike Blog. At the time it was shot down by a reader as “Utter Rubbish.” I repost it today for the reasons I did the first time. Not to get people to rush out and buy new handlebar stems, but rather to explain that before the days of high tech bike fitting, people managed to get by. I hope also I have explained why this method did have some merit, and the reasons why.

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A cyclist must be passed

The late and great George Carlin said:

"If I am driving at a given speed, anyone who passes me is a Maniac, and anyone driving slower than me is a Moron."

The only reason this is funny is because it is the truth, a trait in human nature that we can all relate.

I recall the day I observed a guy on an old beat up moped. The engine was screaming, black smoke billowed from the exhaust, and he was driving at about 20 mph in the center of the lane on a busy main street.

There was no doubt from the sound of the engine, that this was the top speed this aging two wheeled clunker was capable of.

Cars were just following along behind him in a slow procession, no one was honking at him. Traffic was backed up at least a mile, and drivers positioned six cars back or more were oblivious to the cause of the hold up anyway.

They were all just calmly following this guy on a moped, and I wondered, what if that were a cyclist riding down the center of the lane at 20 mph. There would be a medley of car horns blowing, people would be screaming abuse from their open car windows.

Human nature would kick in, a cyclist is someone who must be passed. It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing close to 25 mph in a 25 mph speed zone.

It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing 50 mph, plus, down a winding mountain pass. Where it is not safe for a car to travel at above fifty, a cyclist must be passed.

On the other hand, put a motor on the bicycle, electric or gasoline, just as long as it doesn’t have pedals, and it has some magical calming effect on following drivers.

The actual speed at which the moped or scooter is traveling has no bearing on the situation. Human nature and human behavior is indeed strange.


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The Paris Galibier


In 1950 as a 14 year old, I attended Luton Technical School, some 30 miles north of London, England. Adjacent to that school was a Technical College for older engineering students. Many of these students were racing cyclists and would leave their bikes in the bicycle rack in the school yard. 

Lunch time would find me scrutinizing every fine detail of these bikes; it was the beginning of love affair with the bicycle that ultimately shaped my life, and lead to a career as a framebuilder.

One of the most unusual and eye-catching bikes was the Paris “Galibier” model. Paris was the brand name of London framebuilder, Harry “Spanner” Rensch.

His last name sounded like Wrench, hence the nickname “Spanner.” During WWII Rensch was an oxy-acetylene welder in London’s shipyards.

Paris Cycles started during the war in 1943. Harry probably chose the name Paris rather than use his own German sounding name, because of obvious wartime anti-German feeling, especially after the London Blitz.

He used a “Bi-laminated” construction for his frames that is a sleeve brazed over the ends of the tubes, and the actual joint then filet brazed. Referred to as “Bronze Welding” in the Paris literature.

Beside the Galibier model, Harry Rensch also built conventionally designed frames. The most popular of which was the “Tour de France” model.  (Above.)

Paris frames often sported very flashy paint jobs, especially for that time. I remember red, white, and blue fade paint for example. There was a large Eiffel Tower decal on the seat tube, and the Paris name was stenciled on the down tube. 

Ever since the introduction of the Galibier, and to this day, many a fierce argument has been held over this style guru’s dream machine. Is it just a style gimmick or is there real merit in this design? 

I never rode a Galibier, but I will say this, a bicycle frame twists as it is being ridden, about a line from the head tube to the rear dropout. So placing a single large tube along this line, (Or there abouts.) does have merit. The seat tube is also split to form an interesting cantilever design.

One thing cannot be denied is the superb craftsmanship of Harry Rensch. Like many artists before and since, Rensch was not a good businessman. Paris Cycles was always plagued with financial problems, and lasted just 10 years, closing their doors in 1953. Harry Rensch never returned to the bicycle business and died in 1984. The Galibier is his legacy. 

In recent years Condor Cycles in London bought the rights to the Paris name and are reproducing the Galibier model. (Picture above.)

Pictures from Classic Lightweights, UK

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How many Fuso Lux Frames?

Like most frame builders, I stamped a serial number on my frames. Most products of any value have a serial number.  It is an identification mark on an often otherwise identical product. My custom frames were stamped with a number that represented the date it was built.

When I started to build the non-custom frames like the John Howard and the Fuso, these would hang in stock unpainted, sometimes for months, waiting for a customer who needed a particular size.  To stamp the frame with the date it was built, and the customer would perceive it was old stock.

It was practical to simply stamp these in sequence starting at number 001, which I did. It also served as a record of how many frames I was building. Beyond that I could have kept records of frame sizes, the color they were painted, and who they were sold to.

I kept no such records, I could see no useful purpose in doing so at the time. The reason, back in the 1980s when I built these frames, I could never envisage the Internet, and corresponding with people 30 years later about these very same frames.

However, since I started my Dave Moulton Bike Registry in 2010, and owners are sending me details of their frames, I am able to fill in some of the missing information. For example in 1986 I introduced the Fuso “LUX” model.

The Fuso Lux had a chrome plated right chainstay and dropout faces.

People had often lamented the passing of the John Howard frame with its chrome plating and superior finish with decals buried under eight clear coats, then sanded smooth before applying the final clear coat for a super smooth, ripple free finish.

The LUX (Luxury.) frame had these niceties. These frames were built to order, in other words an order preceded the frame being built. Other than that it was built on the same jig setting as the other Fuso frames. In a batch of five frames, one might be a special order LUX model.

But, when I stamped the batch of frames in sequence following the previous batch, I kept no record of which number was allocated to the LUX frame. As a result I have no idea how many Lux frames I built over the years. There is no point in counting the LUX frames on the registry, as even after nine years it only lists a fraction of the total frames built.

However, back in 2015 I wrote a piece about “One Thousand Fuso Crowns.”  In 1985 I ordered 1,000 Cinelli fork crowns with the Fuso name cast in them. (See picture left) Just this week a blog reader emailed me to point out there was a Fuso frame for sale on eBay #303 with a FUSO crown. This is a lower number than I previously had known.

So at the time of writing this, it has been established that FUSO frames numbered in the range of 303 to 1511, built in the five year period from 1985 to 1990, had the FUSO name fork crown. This is a total of 1208 frames.

As there were only 1,000 FUSO crowns, the excess 208 frames must have been the LUX model, as the LUX had an integral aero crown, without the FUSO name. (See right.)

This is the most accurate estimate I have so far. There will be a few more built after 1990, and as we discover more FUSO crown frames outside the current 303 to 1511 range, it will increase the Fuso LUX count.

So be on the lookout for FUSO crown frames with serial numbers below 303, or above 1511. If yours is within that range, it is already counted.


Read more about the Fuso LUX here.

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Update on Fast Eddie Williams' track bike

Ever since the untimely passing in August 2016, of New York’s Legendary Bike Messenger, Fast Eddie Williams, I had wondered what had happened to his bike. Not having direct contact with Eddie’s family, I had no way of knowing.

So imagine my delight when David Perry, one of Eddie’s mechanics since the late 1990s, emailed me to say the bike was in his keeping, being safely held until Eddie’s immediate family decided what to do with it.

Last fall, a curator for the Museum of the City of New York came by inquiring about objects to loan for an upcoming exhibition: “Cycling in the City—A 200-Year History,” from March 14 to October 6, 2019. The museum has chosen to exhibit Eddie’s bike.

Since David Perry is not the bike’s owner, he had to get written approval from Eddie’s family to loan the bike to the museum. That happened this weekend, and David was kind enough to pass the news on to me.

I hope this bike will remain safe in the future, never refinished but left as is, a working bike. Possibly find a permanent museum home, where all can see it as a memorial to Fast Eddie.


Click here, then scroll down to read previous articles about “Fast Eddie”

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