Dave Moulton

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Pablo Escobar’s Bike

Apparently I built a bike that was previously owned by infamous drug lord, Pablo Escobar, according to this story on GloryCycles.com. I had heard of this bike before some years ago. Someone had emailed with a description of this bike and a frame number. No pictures were furnished, in fact this is the first time I have seen pictures.

I’m not sure if this contact was made by the current, or a previous owner. The person emailing me wanted conformation this bike was indeed owned by Pablo Escobar. I could not give that confirmation, because the bike was built in 1981, when I was a full time builder for Masi. I was only building a handful of my own frames in my spare time, and I didn’t keep records of frames built, or where they went.

At the time I only accepted frame orders from established bike dealers, so the frame was probably sold through a Florida bike store, and I would have no knowledge of the end customer anyway. So the answer I gave then was the same I give now. The story is entirely possible, but I have no way to prove or disprove it.

End of story? Not quite.

Aside from who may have owned this frame, 1981 was an interesting period in my own history. I built just a few custom ‘dave moulton’ frames that year. I was a full time builder for Masi, building between 20 and 25 frames a month, which left little time to build and promote my own frames.

In fact, it was my own productivity that lead to me working myself out of a job at the end of 1981.

No one at Masi had placed a limit on how many frames I build, so I just plugged away, building 20 to 25 a month, until December 1981, Masi found themselves with a huge stockpile of several hundred frames.

I was told I would be laid off for a while, until some of this stockpile was sold. And so in January 1982 I rented space from Masi, and went to work building my own frames full time. I went from building a handful of my own named custom frames in 1981 to building 69 frames in 1982.

By 1983 I had opened my own shop in San Marcos, California, and built 96 custom frames, and in addition that year, (1983.) I built over 300 John Howard frames.

So getting back to the 1981 frames. What made them different and special? It was a transition period where I found what worked and sold in England did not necessarily work in the US market. Most of the 1981 frames had a contrasting color on the head tube, and matching panels on the seat and down tubes. (Other 1981 frames are shown below.)

This was the way I had painted most of my frames in England before coming to the US in 1979. I was an established and known builder in the UK. I had forged a reputation by building frames for top International class British amateur riders. I placed my name decal within a contrasting panel to draw attention to it, and make it stand out.

Top riders using my frames brought me a lot of orders, and customers wanting to emulate these riders wanted the same style of pant. However, I quickly found I was relatively unknown in California when I arrived there at the end of 1980. Even less known than I had been on the US East Coast.

There was resistance to the name at first. "Not exotic sounding." Was a common comment. The US market had become used to Italian sounding names. Looking back, I probably should have changed my name to “Moltinelli” or something similar. Instead I stuck to my guns regarding my name and always stuck with all lower case letters my my name decal.

I dropped the contrasting decal panel, which drew attention to the name, and instead understated the name. The lower case letters fell right into this understatement thinking. Whereas the original idea conceived in the UK was to make it easy to read. The font used was similar to that used on British road signs.

Other details that make these 1981 frames different. The Henry James lugs, with the head lugs  sometimes re-sculpted the angular shape you see on the top two frames pictured above. The bottom bracket shell, and fork crown were not engraved. That was started later at the beginning of 1982 when I started full time production again. (Picture Below)

As a footnote, the Pablo Escobar's frame was built in California, not the UK as the article states. Why then does it say “Worcester, England” on the head tube decal? I stole the idea from Masi. Their logo said “Masi, Milano.” Even though the frames were built in California. I thought, ‘It’s my heritage, and if Masi can do it so can I.’ So all custom ‘dave moulton’ frames have the “Worsester, England,” as part of my logo, even those built in the US..


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Reader Comments (2)

The tale of Pablo Escobar's interest and involvement in Colombian cycling is told in Matt Rendell's 2002 book, Kings of the Mountains.

Beautiful workmanship on those bikes, by the way.

June 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterYoav

Very interesting (as usual!)

Following the link to look at more pics, one of the captions says "Lightweight Edco shifters and lightweight Edco alloy headset would have been a cool custom touch back then.", but I'm sure the second picture has a visible "M P" which must be part of caMPagnolo, not Edco. Are the shfiters really Edco? Or just Campy with some added Drillium?

June 12, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

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