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The Story of a 1985 Criterium

The following piece used to be on my now defunct Prodigal Child website. Written by Russell Rollins, about a bike that I built, and he owns. A well written essay, which after re-reading I thought I would share it once again here, with pictures:

"It seemed a small moment in life. One of those passing coincidental events that would come and go then cataloged in the back of the mind. In the beginning I failed to see how much it would mean to me over the next few days.

He built a bicycle in 1985, I bought it in 1993. "He" was Dave Moulton. It's important for me to tell you that I am not a "cyclist", nor am I an athlete, nor am I a sportsman - I am not competitive. If there is a stereotype of the kind of person who would own a bike like this, I am the opposite.

It was during the mid-1970's that I bought a bike from Beach Bike in Galveston. I paid something around $200 for it, which was half my monthly income. The bike was a Motobecane Grand Record. The frame was black with red graphics and gold pin striping. I was drawn to the bike because of the lugs. The lugs were the pieces of metal that joined the tubes of the frame together.

Normally, these are round or flat edged and provide strength while holding the tubes in alignment. The Motobecane was different, the lugs were sculpted.

Carved scrolls of hand cut steel forming intricate lace at the ends of the tubes. It was art and the artist highlighted the shapes with gold pinstripes.

I held on to that modest bike until 1993 when it was stolen from my garage. It broke my heart to have lost that unique piece of craftsmanship. I immediately began searching for a replacement. The new hi-tech models of the early 90's were impressive. New materials and components were light-years ahead of my old bike.

But there was something missing, something that couldn't be found in mass produced frames and over the counter components. Campagnolo was nowhere to be found, replaced by Japanese manufacturers. These were just clones to me. They all looked alike, at least they did in my mind.

One day I was strolling through Daniel Boone Cycles talking to Joy Boone about my old bike and how much I loved its "art" over its technical appeal. Hanging on the wall at the back of the shop I saw the "lugs". Chrome, sculpted, brilliant, the light was startling. It appeared to bend and intensify as it reflected. The entire bike stood apart as a Lamborghini would in a showroom of Fords.

Moving closer toward the bike the white pearl paint sent out laser beams of color so subtle it was more of an experience than a physical presence. The cobalt blue "dave moulton" lettering was understated and elegant.

And the chrome, it was a flawless mirror finish that reflected and refracted light and image from every angle.

The components were not simply parts bolted to the frame, they were born to the frame.

On the brakes were small jewels, blue round semiprecious stones that captured light and threw it back in lightning bolts.

The frame reached out and held them, a mother and her children. Each piece carefully matched for form, function and of course beauty.  It was timeless.

This bike was not built, it was created. As God creates men, men imitate God by creating machines. The soul of a man's creation begins in his heart and passes through his hands.  If he is right, if he is passionate, the creation will bear his soul. If you don't believe me it is only because you haven't touched this creation.

I spent the next few years riding the bike and absorbing its charisma and personality. I didn't ride for competition, I didn't ride in "packs". The experience for me was more ethereal. I wanted to be alone, I wanted to be hypnotized by the cadence and constant rhythm.

It didn't matter if it was in the city or in the countryside, the release was the same. There is a harmonic balance to the ride. The gyroscopic motion of the wheels and the sonic music of the spokes singing in the wind travels from wheels to frame. The steel frame of the Dave Moulton has its own musical note, a tuning not found in other types of material. Composites and aluminum do not harmonize.

It is the blended steel frame that has a musical note, each bike having a unique sound depending on the size and metal. You won't "hear" it on other bikes, only those that are perfectly tuned like a musical instrument. The "note" enters the body of the rider and soothes the soul with music. It is an addiction.

                                                                                                                As I rode I would think about the bike and its creator. I knew little about him. He was a man I knew had sat across the table from champions. His bikes were bred as magnificently as a horse in the Kentucky Derby, and I'm riding one!

Over the years I began searching the internet for anything I could discover about Dave Moulton. At one point I found a website for Dave's shop in California. At Last! But the phone number was disconnected. Another dead end.

Then about a year ago I was able to gather some information from the Classic Rendezvous website. They had a short bio on Dave and some grainy photos of a figure hulking over a frame with a welding torch. It said something about his music career, but gave no contacts or forwarding information. It added to his mystique and elusiveness. I had more questions than answers.

Two weeks ago I came across Russ Denny's site and his mentorship with Dave. Russ and I emailed a few times and he posted the pictures of my bike on his site.

The following Monday morning my jaw dropped to my knees when I saw an email in my inbox - "From: Dave Moulton". It was an extra-terrestrial contact. He existed and he was alive and he was here... in my Inbox.

The following emails were short. He shared with me small details of his life past. I learned from his website that he quit frame building the year I bought the bike. Since then he pursued his creative energy through music and writing.

Today I am looking at the bike with the same wonderment I had that day in Boone Cycles. Before this chance encounter with Dave I was ready to let the bike go to someone else to be appreciated all over again. I wanted someone else to take up the search. Now I am certain it will stay with me forever.

The colors still dance in the light. It is still a chameleon that changes with the light and mood. It is a time machine, a timeless machine. Like art, time only enhances its beauty. Of all its qualities that I admire, it is its ability to create dreams that is most remarkable. After all, it's only a bike, a mere child's toy."

Russell Rollins. May 13, 2004


Addendum: This bike now resides in the Houston Bike Museum http://www.houstonbicyclemuseum.org/


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Reader Comments (11)

Love it! The pictures are stunning, and the write-up sums up the feeling of owning a custom bike very well. I am so glad that hand built bicycles are making something of a comeback, nothing really compares.

Thanks for sharing.

January 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

Great essay! The chrome treatment is what I would want on my bike and Campt too! Thanks Dave for sharing the essay. I was wondering about the back story!

January 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

It is stunning Dave, looking at art never gets old.

Campag, Chrome and steel handbuilt by a craftsman that sparkles in the sun.

Nothing like it! Never will be.

If someone asks why? Russell sums it up and answers "why" with eloquence.

January 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKeith. British Columbia

Beautiful bike made especially so by the chromed features. I lived in Houston in the 70s but did not know of Boone cycling shop - sorry I missed it.

January 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Dave. You built bike frames, wrote books, played a few songs, Have you ever written a song about cycling OR building bikes? do you ever dream about that?

January 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

I love my FR93 built by Russ Denny but the bike pictured in this post is absolutely beautiful. Incredible. A work of art.

I'd also say, the Fr93 rides like nothing I've ever ridden. I have a hand built Dawes, a carbon Cannondale, but the FUSO is special. It's ineffable but it seems to ride with you. It's almost a little bit alive. It's with you on the ride if that makes sense.

February 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPat, Brooklyn

That sure is one satisfied customer!

February 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPat D. Back

Dave, Is the pen mightier than the TORCH? You could make MILLIONS going back, I think.

February 5, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

I made a recent visit to Boone's shop last week. Hanging in the light as you walk in was a white Dave Moulton with blue lettering eerily resembling this one to a tee. Wonder if it's fate led it back to the shop from which it came. Coincidentally I was on my #062 John Howard at the time of visit!

March 23, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMichael Harris

The same bike I'm sure, the owner lives in Houston.

March 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

This bike now lives at the Houston Bicycle Museum. Go visit the museum if you ever get the chance. It is AWESOME!

May 9, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRon Huebner
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