Dave Moulton

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Restored to its former glory

The Campagnolo Company was founded by Tulio Campagnolo in 1933, so 1983 marked the company's 50th. Anniversary. To commemorate the occasion a limited edition special Super Record Group was issued, featuring gold plated inserts and special engraving.

One of these groups was presented to me, by Campagnolo with the understanding I would build a special frame to showcase the Anniversary Group at the 1983 Interbike Trade Show, held in Las Vegas. The bike I built is the one shown here.

After the show the bike was sold to one of my dealers, Cycles Olympic, in Diamond Bar, CA.  I never heard of it again until around 2005. (The year I started this blog.) The new owner had bought the frame at a swap meet in New Jersey. It was a frame only, the 50th. Anniversary was gone. Who knows where?

It broke my heart, but there was nothing I could do about it. Like any other frame I built they are no longer my property, and I have no say over their destiny. But to buy such a bike that was built as a showpiece, then strip it of its parts, as if they are the only thing of value. And the frame ends up in a swap meet.

Call me overly sensitive if you will, but this was degrading. “Your work is worthless in other words.”

The sad thing is the original Campagnolo Group is probably now hanging on some lesser production frame.

In time I got over it, and at least the new owner appreciated the frame.

It got rebuilt with regular Campagnolo parts, and changed owners a couple more times.

Imagine my delight when this last week the current owner, John Ames, sent me pictures of this 1983 Criterium model, restored to its former glory with another 50th. Anniversary Group. John Is moving long distance and the bike is up for sale. I hope this time the bike will stay intact.

There were only 36 of the Criterium model built. The frames were built in Columbus PS (Pista Sprint.) A tubeset intended for building track bikes.

The head angle was 74 degrees, with 1 1/4 in (32 mm.) fork rake for quick but stable handling. The BB is also slightly higher.

People who own these say they ride and climb like you wouldn’t believe.

The asking price is $4,500, but it seems Campagnolo 50th. Groups alone are going for about that amount on eBay, I think the price is fair. Once again my interest is purely sentimental, not financial. The frame size is 57 cm (Center to Top.) and the frame number #9832. The paint is original.

I don’t usually get involved in private sales, but I feel John has done me a huge favor in restoring this one to its former glory. If we can find it a new safe and loving home, it will please me no end.

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Night or Day, these lights could save your life.

I first bought lights for my bike some years ago because I was setting out on my morning ride before 6:00 am and in the winter months it was still dark. My first lights were the cheap kind that run on replaceable AAA batteries. I soon grew tired of replacing batteries and they were unreliable as the batteries would vibrate loose, and the light would go out.

I soon invested in a set of the rechargeable kind. 700 lumens of light, the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb, it projected a beam of light up the road some 50 or 60 feet ahead. I could actually see where I was going. The other thing I noticed, people didn’t pull out in front of me. They would stop and wait for me to pass, even though they were some distance away, and had time to pull out.

Although the headlight is only about 3/4 inch (2 cm.) diameter, in complete darkness the light is so intense, it appears to be much bigger.

Drivers I’m sure mistake me for a moped or scooter, and assume I am traveling at a greater speed that I actually am.

The other thing I noticed, drivers gave me more room in passing.

I seldom ride in the dark any more but as I already have the lights, I use them in daylight too. Imagine yourself in this scenario. You are riding in the city, or some country road, and a car comes barreling across a parking lot or a along a driveway. You can tell by his speed he probably does not intend to stop. Most likely he hasn’t even seen you, you might be hidden behind trees or bushes. All he sees is a gap in traffic and he is going for it.

When this happens to me I go into defensive mode, and slow getting ready to stop. But at the last moment the driver sees my flashing head light and slams on the brakes. If I had no such light, I know this driver would not have stopped, even if he saw me. I would not register as a danger or threat to him.

I cannot think how many times this actual scenario has played out over the years, which is why I label these lights a “Life Saver.” I would not usually make such statements, unless I truly believed it. Other times there have been a line of cars coming towards me, and someone has pulled out to overtake. They the spot the flashing head light, reconsider and pull back in line. How mant cyclists are killed in such head-on colisions?

My under the saddle tool bag (Below right.) is actually a padded camera case I picked up for $5 at Wal-Mart. It is strapped under the saddle with a couple of nylon toe straps. I poked two holes in the zippered rear flap and threaded a black plastic zip-tie through to make a loop to hold the lamp. The rear light comes with a seat post clamp, but I figured it would be more visible in this position

Both the front and rear lights in flashing mode, can be seen a mile away. Especially if you are riding in the shadow of trees, the lights show up even more.

I can’t count the number of times drivers will actually slow as they pass, to comment about the light. “Those are the best lights I’ve seen,” is pretty typical. One time I was taking a roadside break when a car stopped. The driver said, “I could see that flashing red light a mile away, I thought it was a cop car.”

With so many distracted drivers on the road, it is good that they see a flashing light and think it is a cop, or some other emergency vehicle. At least you have their attention. With having advanced warning there is a cyclist ahead, they have time to adjust their speed to accommodate road conditions and other traffic. I generally find that most drivers will go clear over to the opposing lane to pass, and if they can’t do that they at least slow and pass with caution.

I have had good luck with the Nite Rider brand of lights. I have had them several years now. One of them stopped charging and I sent it back to the maker. They fixed it under warrantee, and sent it back. Apart from that I’ve never had a problem. They are spendy, around $80 for the head light, and $50 for the tail light. But shop around and you can find the same brand for less.

(Left.) They plug into your PC with a USB cord to rechage in a couple of hours. Or you can use a phone charger.

They are now available in over 1000 lumens. I advise you use a steady beam in the dark, as the flashing mode is distracting to both the rider and other road users.

In day light the flashing mode uses less current, and actually draws more attention that a steady light.

I am surprised when out riding, I see more cyclists without day time lights, than with them. How much is your life worth? Anything you can do to make yourself more visible is a plus. Personally, the added peace of mind these lights give me makes it money well spent. Getting drivers to stop and not pull out in front of me, or turn in front of me, because of these lights, just makes my ride safer and more pleasurable.  


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Tiny Ripples on the Pond of Life

A line in my song “Prodigal Child” goes:

“I used to lie in the long grass and watch the clouds go by, as a child my world was happy, only people made me cry.”

Sadly today it is still people who make me cry. I will go so far as to say there is not a single thing wrong with this world today if it were not for people.... Or to be more precise, people misbehaving.

Hardly a week goes by that there is not some act of terrorism somewhere. I can handle the occasional natural disaster, but I can’t understand why people can’t behave properly and not kill other people. It makes me sad… It makes me cry.

It seems to me the biggest drive in life is to affect the lives of others. We can do this in a positive way or we can do it in a negative way. Unfortunately many people do not figure this out.

Young people especially. Bullying, vandalism, destroying things, which if taken to extremes includes killing people. All effect the lives of others in a negative way. Events sometimes so horrendous they affect a whole nation, and even the World beyond.

If any good is to come from these insane acts, it can only be that we need to realize and teach our children that this urge to affect the lives of others is natural.

It takes almost no thinking or effort to do this in a negative way, when with a small conscious effort it can be quite easy to do so in a positive way.

Who knows what affect a simple smile, a kind word or action can have on the rest of the world.

For every action there is a reaction. Actions both good and bad have a ripple effect, cause a chain reaction so to speak.

Like a ripple, the affect has most of its power felt by those close to its source, further out the ripple has less affect. 

However, ripples can start small, cause others to join in, and they can gain energy and travel far.  A harsh word or unkind act can ruin someone’s day and may push someone who is unstable enough over the edge that they might just kill someone.

Giving the finger to a fellow traveler on the highway may cause that person to drive angrily and aggressively, resulting a crash that kills someone. On the other hand a small ripple started by a simple smile, if joined by enough other small ripples can form a large wave that travels far, and affects a lot of people.

Today I will try not to let the rudeness and negative acts of others affect me. If it stops with me, at least I am not passing it on where it might gain momentum. I will try to start my own tiny ripples, with positive thoughts and actions. Who knows, it may just gather momentum, travel round the world and come right back to me.


How do you deal with negativity?

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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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1970s Time-Trial Bike

Fag paper clearances. (British slang for cigarette paper.) Meaning the rear wheel was so close to the seat tube that you could barely get a cigarette paper between the tire and the frame tube. See the picture above.

This was an extreme fashion fad in the UK during the mid 1970s especially on time trial bikes. It served no useful purpose except to make the chainstays shorter thereby saving a little weight, and making the rear triangle a little stiffer. The frames were usually built using vertical rear dropouts to achieve the close clearance.

When fads like this become fashion a framebuilder can do little but follow the latest trend, or loose business. I was no different. However, I did not follow the extremes of some framebuilders who built these frames with clearances so close you had to deflate the rear tire to get the wheel in and out. This bordered on the ridiculous. 

Some built frames with extremely steep head angles so the front wheel barely cleared the down tube. This was a part of the trend I refused to follow, as it made for some very “squirrelly” bikes. The last thing a rider needs is a squirrelly time trial bike. A TT bike needs to hold a straight line.

I remember one frame (not one of mine.) brought to me for repair. The down tube and top tube were bent. My first question was, “What did you hit?” The owner replied, “Nothing, I slowed to take a corner, and the frame collapsed under me.”

When I inspected the frame the first thing I noticed was a black rubber tire mark under the down tube right where the tube folded. It became clear to me what had happened. The front wheel was so close to the down tube that when the rider applied the front brake there was enough flex that the front wheel touched the down tube.

Maybe his headset was a little loose, whatever the cause, once the front wheel touched it would have stopped the bike very quickly and the forward momentum folded the frame. I replaced the top and down tubes, making sure to make the head angle a little shallower, making for a little more front wheel clearance.

The bike pictured at the top was one I built for John Patston, an international class rider who represented Great Britain on their national team. In the above picture, John Patston is leading, followed by Paul Carbutt, and Pete Hall. (All on ‘dave moulton’ frames.)

The forth rider Grant Thomas is obscured behind Patston. This was the British Team riding in the 1975 World Championship 100 km. Team Time Trial event.

John Patston was primarily a road rider, very strong and aggressive, often riding away from the opposition to win solo. If others stayed with him, he would usually win the finishing sprint. He was also an excellent time trialist. 

I received a great deal of publicity from this particular bike. It featured in the British “Cycling” magazine. (Affectionately known by cyclists throughout the UK, as “The Comic.”) 

I can’t remember whether the bike was built in Columbus or Reynolds tubing, but the complete bike built up with Campagnolo titanium components, weighed in a 19 lbs. Pretty light for 1977 when this was built.

The bike was also featured in “The Penguin Book of the Bicycle” published in 1978. (Left.) The same photo shown at the top was used for the title page as the book was opened. (See below.) 

My name was airbrushed from the picture, as were the spokes from the wheels to make room for the title text. However the same picture appeared again later in the book, (Page 97.) this time with my name intact.

The frame was painted black and had gold pin striping on the edges of the lugs. It also had John’s initials “JP” painted in gold on the seatstay caps. Cycling magazine drew an interesting parallel to this, one that I had not realized when I chose that particular color scheme.

The British tobacco giant “John Player,” also with initials JP, sponsored a Grand Prix racing team at that time. The cars built by Lotus were painted black with gold lettering.


This article was first posted  March 2008.

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