Still to this day I will get emails from people asking for information on their small wheel Moulton bicycle. When an A&E “American Pickers” program featured a small wheel Moulton the pickers found; people again emailed me and friends approached me saying, “I saw one of your bikes on American Pickers.”
And once again I had to explain it was not one of mine but one made by Alex Moulton, or rather by the company he started. We share the same last name; however Moulton is a fairly common English name and we are in no way related.
Sir Alex Moulton, is his title; he was Knighted by the Queen for his lifetime achievements. He is now 92 years old.
His bicycle company he started in 1962 has just celebrated 50 years in existence, and is still going strong.
There is a saying that in order to be successful in any venture, one must be first, best, or different.
Alex Moulton was both first and different with his small wheel bike, and his timing was perfect too.
It was the swinging sixties in England, the economy was booming and Beatle Mania would soon be upon us.
Into this mix came a small wheel bicycle, a Mini Bike if you like; to go with the Mini Car and the Mini Skirt.
It captured the imagination of the media and the public. Alex Moulton was first and different because before that bicycles had diamond frames, and wheels somewhere between 26 and 28 inches. The bicycle had been that way since its invention in the late 1800s.
In fact the bicycle business worldwide was on the decline, as the world economy grew and working class Europeans especially were dumping their bicycles as a means of transport, and replacing it with the automobile. However, to own and be seen on one of these mini-bikes was indeed trendy.
The reason bicycles had always traditionally had large wheels was because they roll over the bumps easier.
Imagine running into a deep pot hole with a small wheel.
The Moulton bike overcame this problem by adding a simple suspension system that consisted of a swinging arm that pressed into a block of rubber.
In the 1950s Alex Moulton had first invented a similar suspension for cars; his invention lead to the iconic British Motor Corporation’s Mini car, designed by Sir Alec Issigonis.
The Mini car (Left.) with Moulton’s rubber suspension and small wheels enabled Issigonis to design a car that was much smaller than anything before it, but with the seating capacity and performance of a much larger car.
The Moulton Bicycle Company was bought by Raleigh Industries in 1967, and they produced the bike until 1974 when they ceased production. Not to be discouraged, Sir Alex redesigned the frame, and in 1983 re-launched the company and the new Moulton bicycle to great acclaim.
The reason the company is going strong today is the same reason it was a success in the first place during the 1960s. The bike fills a niche market. There are other companies making small wheeled bicycles, but the Moulton Bicycle Company was the original, they were first and still acknowledged by many to be the best at what they do.
You can read more in this article and view another video at the end of the piece