Dave Moulton

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Monday
Oct142019

Is the beauty of a bicycle in the way it rides, or the way it looks?

When I built my first frames in England in the late 1950s, early 1960s, I was trying to build myself a better frame. A typical frame of that era had a very shallow, 71-degree seat angle and a long top tube. This did not suit my small stature of 5’ 6”. (167.64 cm.)

When making a maximum effort, I found myself sliding forward and consequently sitting on the narrow nose of the saddle. The result was it was extremely uncomfortable and had the effect of the saddle being too low.

The answer seemed obvious to me, if this was the natural position my body wanted to adopt, put the saddle where it needed to be to accommodate it. I also looked at the way the bike handled at speed, there was a tendency to wobble on fast descents. Also, the bike tended to feel sluggish when getting out of the saddle sprint, or to climb.

Over the next 10 or 15 years I built several different frames with varying angles, and each frame had extra front forks of various rakes, (Offset.) Some of these experiments improved the bike’s performance, and others made things worse. It was a long, slow learning process.

By the early 1970s I had pretty much got my own frame geometry figured out. But now I was being asked to build frames for other local cyclists. By now the trend in Italy and in England was the build road frames with 75 or even 76-degree head angles. I went against this trend as I had experimented with these angles years before and found it did not work too well. The handling was skittish or squirrely.

73-degree head had been established as the ideal head angle as far back as the 1930s, and it still worked. However, the old idea was to have a very long fork off-set, and zero trail. This is what lead to the speed wobbles of those old bikes. I had found that I ¼ inches (32 mm.) fork rake worked better and finally settled at 1 3/8 inches. (35 mm.)

With feedback from other riders, I found that a 73-seat angle worked fine for the taller riders, but I would gradually steepen the seat angle as the frame got smaller. The top tube was lengthened as the frame got taller, but at a lesser amount that the seat tube. This was offset by a longer handlebar stem on the larger frames. The idea was to always have the front part of the handlebars directly over the front hub. This meant the handling was consistent throughout the range of sizes.

Having spent many years designing and building a better bike, it became my main selling point.

Here was a frame that would fit better and handle better. (See the advert (Left.) from the British Cycling Magazine from 1975.)

Strangely, I have seen few framebuilders or manufacturers advertising their product on the premise that it rides and handles better than their competitors.

I feel proof that my frame design is valid, is the fact that I still have a following 26 years after I built my last frame. Many owners are original owners and will not part with their bike. I regularly receive emails from owners saying their FUSO or other bike I built is their favorite ride.

I was recently asked, “What do I think of the current American builders?” I don’t really know enough to answer that. I only know what I see at NAHBS each year. I see beautiful pieces of art, outstanding paint and metal work, but how do they ride? Or does anyone even care? No one will ever go out and race on such a machine anyway. Race bikes are no longer made of steel.

As far as I can see, the corporations who today build the carbon fiber bikes that are raced, are doing little that is innovative as far as geometry. They still build the basic 73-degree parallel frame that dates to the days when it was easier for a builder to build a lugged steel frame that way.

It is difficult to find a CF fork with a 35 mm. rake anymore. Today frames come out of a mold, angles and geometry could be unlimited. Within UCI rules of course, but even within those rules there is room for change. The UCI will also follow what the manufactures want. Disc brakes was an example of that.

 

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Monday
Oct072019

Owning and maintaining a paint facility 

One of the largest outlays in setting up a framebuilding business is a paint facility, by that I mean to include a totally enclosed, dust free paint booth.

It is a large expense to set up and maintain, because it takes up a lot of space. It therefore it prohibits one from working out of their home, or some tiny hole-in-the wall shop. In most places you can’t spray paint in a residential neighborhood anyway. You have to own or rent space in an industrial area.

Rent is a huge overhead when running any business. It is the reason I eventually went out of business in 1993. The demand for road frames had dropped to a level where I could not generate enough income to pay the rent on a 1500 sq. ft. industrial unit.

I could have maybe squeezed into a 1000 ft. space, but the rent would not have been that much lower, plus I would have had the expense of moving, costing money I didn’t have.

My paint booth was totally enclosed, it measured 20 x 20 feet. That is 400 sq. ft. and with at least a 3-foot clear space required all around it, as a fire precaution, actual floorspace required is 676 sq. ft. You can perhaps appreciate that any space under 1500 sq. ft. for the rest of the shop would be a squeeze.

At one end of the booth was a large fan that drew the air from inside the booth and exhausted it through a 2 ft. diameter vent through the roof. The air was drawn through replaceable filters that caught the paint over-spray. Thus preventing it from being exhausted outside into the atmosphere. These filters had to be replaced every month.

At the opposite end of the booth were air intake filters. These were “Sticky” so they caught dust and prevented it from entering the booth. The booth had a partition inside, one side to hang frames waiting to be painted, the other side was where the painting took place.

The partition prevented frames waiting and those just pained, from getting over-spray on them. I also had an electric paint curing oven that baked the paint to 250 degrees. This was another essential piece of equipment, as It allowed paint to cure in less than a hour. It could then be sanded for the next coat, rather than wait a day or more for it to air dry.

Owning a similar facility with a paint booth, is also the reason why I never started up again years later when the demand for road frames picked up. My shop cost $30,000 to set up in 1983, today that figure would be closer to $100,000. Too large an initial outlay, with no guarantee I would ever see a return on the investment.

Is it essential to have a paint facility? I am often asked. The answer is no, but it was for me. Many framebuilders build frames and ship them somewhere else to be painted. But the paint job is more than half the profit in building a frame.

To me, the paint is as important as the building of the frame, and the two go hand in hand. The paint is what the customer sees, it is too significant to be left in the hands of some outside entity. I would never build frames and not have total control over painting them.

There is the cost of shipping the frames both to and from the painter, and there is also the time factor. When you have your own facility, you can handle a rush job easily. Mistakes and flaws can be fixed immediately, and even a complete strip and re-paint is not the end of the world.

The one drawback is, you have to produce enough frames to warrant the expense of owning your own paint facility. One or two frames a week won’t cut it. Initially I painted myself, but at the height of my production in the mid-1980s, it became necessary to train and employ a full-time painter. I produced as many as 30 frames a month. It was a good and profitable business.

When the demand dropped below 20 frames a month, I could lay off employees, but I still had the rent and overhead on the large industrial space. Times have changed. In the eighties if you wanted a top of the line bicycle frame, it was hand brazed, lugged steel.

Those days are gone forever, and it is the reason why builders like myself and others are no longer building frames. And really I do not need to build anymore frames, there are thousands of them still out there. They come up for sale every week on eBay and Craig’s List, many of them hardly used and still in mint condition.

Even on frames that have had a lot of use, the paint has held up well, which speaks volumes for my always having my own paint facility.

 

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Monday
Sep302019

Irrational Fear 

If I do a search on the web for cycling related stories, as I often do, it is most times depressing, many of the stories are related to cycling deaths.

If one is not careful this can give a person a totally distorted view of cycling and the risks cyclists take. It is probably the reason many people who would ride a bicycle, are afraid to do so.

If you are a cyclist you cannot allow fear to take over your thoughts, and one must constantly push negative thoughts from your head. Most people believe in the power of positive thinking, and that success and good things happen to those who constantly think good thoughts.

By the same rule, if every time you ride your bike you think, “Is today the day a car will hit me,” chances are at some point a car will hit you.

It is not so much thinking those thoughts, one has a hard time not to sometimes with all these negative stories occurring on a daily basis. The important thing is to be aware of those thoughts and constantly push them from your mind, or better yet, replace them with a positive thought.

One has to get the whole picture in perspective. 40,000 people died in automobile accidents in the US in 2018. That is 109 people a day who got out of bed in the morning climbed in their car without a second thought, and by the end of the day were dead.

In that same 24 hour period two cyclists were killed. (800 annually, 2.3 per day.} The difference is most of the 109 people who died in their cars each day did not get a mention in their local newspapers, but the two cyclists did.

Fear that I might get hit by a car when riding my bike is an irrational fear. Compare the 800 cyclists who die each year with over 3,700 people who drown each year, an over 2,800 die in a fire. And yet does the fear of drowning or death by fire ever enter our mind? Of course not.

So the next time you prepare for a bike ride and a nagging little thought that you might get hit enters your head, ask yourself, would I have these same thoughts of death and doom, as I walk down a flight of steps, or that I might choke while I am tucking into a nice juicy steak in a restaurant?

I refuse to let irrational fear stop me from doing what I love, that is to ride my bike on the road. I don’t take chances, and I choose the safest routes, and I ride defensively. I also look at statistics and I like my odds of survival.  

If I consider the odds of getting hit by a car in America today is roughly half that of my being either intentionally or accidentally shot, maybe I should wear a bullet-proof vest along with my helmet.  

 

Statistics for this article were found here:

https://www.google.com/search?q=road%2Bdeaths%2Busa%2B2018&se_es_tkn=uecrfrwk

https://www.safetynewsalert.com/number-of-accidental-deaths-hits-new-high/

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/08/16/what-the-data-says-about-gun-deaths-in-the-u-s/

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Monday
Sep232019

Moving Target

Paul Theroux wrote a series of essays in a book titled “Fresh Air Fiend.” One of the stories is called “The Moving Target,”

It starts out by talking about a traveler named Nathaniel Bishop, who in 1877 rowed a small boat from upper New York State to New Orleans. A distance of 2,600 miles.

On arrival in New Orleans, as the exhausted Nathaniel Bishop tied up his boat, a group of young drunks approached, mocked him, swore at him, and threatened him with violence. Theroux commented:

“This, I have come to think, is a very American reaction, rewarding eccentric effort with scorn and violence.” 

Theroux then goes on to write about a man named A F Tschiffely who in the 1920s rode a horse 10,000 miles from Buenos Aires to New York City.

His two-and-a-half-year journey took him over the Andes, through Central America, across deserts, swamps, and jungles. However, his worst part of the journey was traveling through the United States.

Cars would deliberately swerve close to scare him and his horse. He had bottles thrown at him, and shouts of “Ride ‘em Cowboy.” In the Blue Ridge Mountains, a driver sideswiped him injuring his horse’s leg. Then honked and waved in triumph as he drove away.

After two more serious incidents, Tschiffely had to abandon his ride in Washington, DC and finish the final leg to New York by train. Theroux goes on to write about intolerance towards cyclists and runners, or anyone engaged in any form of exercise in public.

 

After reading these accounts of how things used to be, I am reminded of a line from the 1969 movie “Easy Rider.”

“Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it.”

Isn’t that the truth? Haters are “Equal Opportunity” bigots. It is not just about race, and it probably never was. It is simply prejudice toward anyone appearing different, or doing something different, or behaving differently than the perceived norm.

 

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Monday
Sep162019

KT Tape

I often experience shoulder pain caused by arthritis, recently I aggravated this further, straining the joint by lifting a heavy box. Immediately after the injury the shoulder was so sore it was difficult to raise my arm to any extent, and even shaving and brushing my teeth was quite painful. 

I decided to try something different and use some kinesiology tape. I had seen this used in cycling and other sports. The brand I used was KT Tape. It came in handy pre-cut pieces, 2 inches wide and 10 inches long. (5cm. x 25.5 cm.)

I applied it as shown in the video above. The tape is elastic and adhesive, the idea is to apply two inches of the tape to the skin, unstretched. Stretch the center portion by the recommended amount, then apply the last two inches again unstretched.

This not only applies light pressure to the injured area, but it allows the wearer to continue with normal activities. Unlike a sling or bandage that simply immobilizes the joint. I do know that applying pressure to an injured area will help to ease the pain, even simple hand pressure. 

After applying the KT Tape, I took a couple of Aleve and applied ice twice a day. I tried not to aggravate the injury but lifting anything heavy or doing anything too strenuous. Apart from that I went about my usual daily activities.

I left the tape on three days and it withstood a daily shower, and probably could have stayed on longer, but I decided to replace it with a fresh dressing. The tape did allow normal movement and eased the pain a little.

After reading other articles, and comments from readers, some are skeptical that kinesiology tape does anything. As I see it, left alone a body will heal its own injuries, but why not apply ice to help it along, and why not use something like KT Tape to make the injury more comfortable as it mends? It is working for me.

KT Tape website.

 

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