Dave Moulton

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Sunday
May102009

My Mother

The greatest thing my mother ever did for me was to boast about my achievements to other people while I was present.

She would always say things like, "David is so good at drawing," or "He is so good with his hands, he is always making things." She would show people my creative endeavors.

I don't think she was even conscious of what she was doing. I believe she was genuinely proud of what I could do,

This turned out to be a tremendous boost to my self esteem.

I remember starting school at aged five, full of confidence.

My father was gone, in the Army during WWII, I never knew him in those early years until I was nine years old.

By the time I left school, throughout my teen years and early twenties, every scrap of self esteem had been taken from me. Either physically beaten out of me, or probably worse removed by the verbal put downs, not only by my father, but by school teachers in the British school system.

My father I can excuse, he knew no better, but school teachers were a different matter. I can only trust that the school system in the UK is different today.

However, underlying this low self esteem, was the knowledge that "I was good with my hands." I felt there was nothing that I could not make with my own hands. Not only that, there was the feeling that I could do it better that most. This in time was my saving grace.

My self esteem returned many years later by way of bicycle frame building. At first it meant little to me that someone would tell me my work was good; I already knew that, my mother had told me so. But, in time when I allowed myself to give credit for all I had achieved, I realized if I was good at this, there was nothing I couldn't do.

My mother was born in 1897. She was almost 40 years old when I was born. I never knew her without grey hair. She had a tough life. Smashed her kneecap as a child in an accident while playing on a construction site. As a result one leg was permanently straight, unable to bend.

She was widowed in her thirties, with two small children. Married my father and endured a lifetime of pysical, verbal and emotional abuse, because that is what women did during her time. She died in 1982 at the age of 84.

One other wonderful thing she did for me, after witnessing my father strike her on many occaisions, she would tell me what a cowardly act it was for a man to hit a woman. Because of this I was able to break the cycle of abuse. I have had my share of problems in relationships over the years, but abuse is not one of them.

I thought that I should write this as tribute to her on this Mothers' Day. I owe her so much, and can truly say I would not be who I am today had it not been for my mother.

 

Friday
May082009

Right where he should be

The cyclist in the above picture is riding right where he should be. I'm sure the driver of the dark colored SUV behind him doesn't think so. He probably thinks he should be another 18 inches to the right where the asphalt meets the cement gutter.

If the cyclist was riding there in all probability this driver would pass in the same lane and just about squeeze the cyclist off the road. You can see where the SUV's wheels are in relation to the edge of the asphalt on one side and the white line on the other that there is not enough room to safely pass a cyclist within the lane.

The term is called "taking the lane," which is precisly what this cyclist is doing. Any newcomer to cycling needs to learn this strategy as quickly as possible. Maybe you have decided to commute to work on a bicycle; either for economical reasons or for your health, or both.

Assert your place on the road. You are not cycling in traffic, you are part of traffic and your bicycle is a vehicle like all the other vehicles on the road. Also I should point out, subject to the same rules and laws pertaining to public highways.

You don't have to be an ass to be assertive, but at the same time you should not be expected to compromise your own safety by trying not to inconvenience others.

Returning to the above picture you can see it is only a very slight inconvenience for the passing driver to signal and move over to the other lane as the truck is doing. Let's say traffic is heavy and both lanes are full so the driver behind can't move over. Then he must wait behind the cyclist until he can move over.

It is possible the lanes will widen further on down the road; then the cyclist can opt to move over a little and drivers can pass safely within the same lane.

Car drivers need to realize that in heavy traffic you are going to be delayed anyway, and if you squeeze past the cyclist you place a human life at risk, and for what? You will be stopped again at the next light. Remember there are no fender-benders if you hit a cyclist. Bones break and people bleed.

By taking the lane the cyclist is also making himself highly visable. The most common car/bicycle accident is caused by drivers approaching from the opposite direction and and not seeing the cyclist, they make a left turn in front of them.

If the cyclist is on the extreme edge of the road and in the gutter, chances are there will be a car along side, or just in front of him hiding him from the view of the turning motorist.

By being in the position of the above cyclist, the turning driver can see him, and chances are there will be another car following closely behind the cyclist so the oncoming diver will not even consider turning at that moment.

The second most common accident is the "Right Hook." (Left Hook in the UK.) This is where the motor vehicle passes the cyclist then immediately turns right; the cyclist either runs into the side of the car, or in in a worse case the vehicle runs over the cyclist. This is less likely to happen if the cyclist is a little distance out from the curb.

By avoiding just these two most common accidents you make your cycling experience safer and more enjoyable; you can do so by taking the lane. Let me point out however, that taking the lane should never be abused and used just because you can.

If you can see traffic a hundred yards or so ahead of you then you are not really delaying anyone, you are simply making yourself visable by having that space in front of you.

Motorists need to realize there are going to be more and more cyclists sharing the road with them, and for every cyclist that means one less car which in the long run will ease conjestion.

 

Footnote: The excelent photo that illustrates this point so well is from Mighk Wilson's blog

 

Wednesday
May062009

Fuso Max: Transition from the old to the new

These pictures of a Fuso built in Columbus Max tubing were sent to me by the bike's owner Phil Strong. Phil from San Luis Obispo, California, bought the frame from Art's Cyclery in 1993; this was about the year that I built it.

October 1993 was when I finally left the business. It was a time of transition when bikes were changing in appearence. Up until that point frames had round tubes, standard 11/8 inch down and seat tubes, and a 1 inch top tube.

The Columbus Max tube set intruduced around 1992/93 had oversize tubes that were ovalized at the ends. The top and down tubes were ovalized vertically at the head tube front end, and horizontaly at the other. The tubeset came with a special set of investment cast lugs, bottom bracket shell, and fork crown.

                

The photos above and left show the seat cluster aragement from the rear and from the side. 

This seat cluster was a little tricky as the seat stays were oval in shape and a normal seat stay cap could not be used. A cap on the side of the seat lug would have looked out of place anyway on this radical new design.

As it turned out the seat lug bulged out where the top tube entered, as the top tube was oval and therefore wider than the seat tube that was a standard 1 1/8 inch diameter at the top end to accommodate the seat post.

This bulge in the seat lug made an obvious spot for the seat stays to merge with the seat lug. The stays had to be hand mitered to fit, then fillet brazed for a smooth transition. The seat tube was oval at the bottom bracket end for extra stiffness.

The picture above shows the ovalized seat and down tubes where they enter the bottom bracket shell. Also note the oval chain stays. I clearly remember doing this one of a kind paint job on this frame. Six bands of masking tape were placed around the tubes, the cut down the length of the tube with an Exacto knife to form squares. The alternate squares were removed to give a checkered effect.

(Above.) The front forkblades and the investment crown that came with this tubeset are interesting. The forkblades are aero in shape, round at the leading edge, and knife edge at the trailing edge. The narrow section fork crown is integral fitting that gives the finished fork a pleasing one peice look.

Phil recently rebuilt the bike up using a 2007 Campagnolo Centaur Gruppo. In an email he wrote:

I felt it would simply look wrong swathed in the black carbon fiber of either Chorus or Record. I built up a set of NOS Mavic GP-4's withthe Centaur hubs, but I need to glue on some new tubulars so it's wearing some Neuvation clincher wheels for the time being. 

I agree with Phil, this gruppo with this frame makes a perfect transition from the old vintage look of the 1980s to the modern all carbon-fiber bike of today. Phil also stated:

In all the years I've had this bike, it NEVER fails to put a smile on my face when I ride it, and I plan to keep riding it for many years to come.You've written more than once that you doubt anyones life has ever been changed by one of your bikes, but I'll tell you this. My life has most certainly been enhanced by one of your bikes.

I thank Phil Strong for these kind words and great picures, two of which I have added to the Gallery page. Phil currently works at Wally's Bicycle Works in San Luis Obispo.

 

Friday
May012009

The Higginson Twins: A Pedaling Phenomenon 

In 1952, the year I started racing in England, to be able to ride a 25 mile time trial in under one hour was an achievement that only a few top riders in the country could lay claim.

The previous year 1951, the British Competition Record for the distance was a little over 57 minutes, and was held by North London rider Dave Keeler. Many of the top twenty-five milers of that era specialized in this distance, and was the only event they rode.

Two other 25 mile specialists who stood out were twenty something identical twin brothers Stan and Bernard Higginson from Halesowen in the Birmingham area. (Stan Higginson is pictured above.) They always competed in the same event and usually took first and second place.

Occasionally Bernard would beat his brother Stanley, but usually it was Stan who was the stronger of the two, but only by the narrowest of margins, a few seconds. Stan Higginson took the competition record from Keeler late in 1951, lowering the time to just over 56 minutes.

British time trials of that era, and especially the shorter distances were always ridden using a fixed wheel. Usually 86 inch (48 x 15) Most riders trained on a 65 inch gear (48 x 20) or 68 inch (48 x 19) throughout the winter months.

A very popular early season event was a medium gear 25 mile time trial were the gear was restricted to 72 inches (48 x 18) All competitors used the same single fixed gear. This leveled the playing field, and the ones who had learned to pedal fast throughout the winter months would come out on top.

So it was on Sunday March 23rd in 1952 on a perfect day with little wind the best 25 milers in the country gathered for the Calleva RC 72 inch Medium Gear Event, held on a North London course. There was a full field, this being the first event of the year where the top London and Midland riders would do battle.

History was made that morning, when three riders finished under the hour. As I said at the beginning of this piece, it was an achievement in the early 1950s for any rider to beat the hour for 25 miles; to do so on a 72 inch gear was phenomenal.

Stan Higginson won the event in 59 minutes, 20 seconds. This meant he was pedaling at over 118 revolutions per minute for 25 miles. That is some serious spinning, or twiddling as it was known back then.

Stan’s twin brother Bernard came in second with a time of 59 min. 48 sec. and the former competition record holder Dave Keeler was third with a time of 59 min. 58 sec. Incidentally, Stan Higginson’s winning ride that day was only two seconds slower than the record for that particular course done on unrestricted gears.

I remember this moment in British cycling history well. Although I was not at the actual event, I remember these times were talked about all over the UK in the weeks that followed.

There is very little information out there on riders of this era, and I wonder if the Higginson twins are still with us. Quite possible as they would be in their early eighties now.

I found one article on this event, in which the writer speculated that Dave Keeler may have been the first to beat the hour on a 72 inch gear. He may well have been, as he would have started and finished before the Higginsons on that day. But as I remember, this was the day that the first sub hour 72 inch gear ride was ever recorded in the UK.

Another tidbit of information about the Higginson twins. I remember reading in a Cycling Magazine article, when the twins boasted that they never trained, saying they were too lazy. However, they did state that they both rode their bikes to and from work each day.

The seven mile commute from their home to the Birmingham factory where they both worked was treated like a race between the two. The first out to his bike in the morning, and again at night leaving work, after strapping on his saddle bag, leaped on his bike and took off. The other would chase.

To say they didn’t train was not strictly true. What they were doing was probably the best preparation they could have done for a 25 mile time trial.

Stan and Bernard also competed in pursuit races on the track, and I'm pretty sure Stan Higginson was National Pursuit Champion on more than one occasion. But I can find no record at this time to confirm.

 

 

Tuesday
Apr282009

Marketing

Marketing is always a tough nut for the artist. All he wants to do is create, but then there come a point where he must market what he creates in order to survive and continue creating.

It is tough when you have a product that you know is superior, but lose sales because some large corporation has more marketing clout.

This happened many times with me in the 1980s when customers would be on the brink of buying one of my bikes, then at the last moment opt for a Japanese Nishiki, on Centurion. Both fine bicycles of that era, but could never compare to a hand built frame made by an individual craftsman.

The only reason they did this was marketing. These large manufacturers could place full page color ads in Bicycling Magazine. But at $10,000 a month for a single page ad there was no way I could compete.

I had to rely on bicycle dealers to sell to a small group of hard core cyclists who could appreciate the difference between a limited production frame, and a factory mass produced item.

Today the Internet levels the playing field somewhat but only slightly. I write here on this blog, and by the comments I get, I seem to have somewhat of a following of people who are interested in what I have to say. By promoting myself, here and on other social networking sites, I am drawing attention to my creative works, like my novel and my music.

At the same time I feel it is a big mistake to be too pushy. I don’t know about you, but it turns me off when the only message people have is buy, buy, buy, whatever it is that I’m selling. I am a strong believer that it is better to give than receive, and if keep writing stuff that people want to read, my needs will always be met. Of course the marketing professionals will cringe at this.

I remember back in the 1980s having a conversation with someone about the way all our manufacturing jobs were starting to go overseas. He stated, “We will become a nation of people selling insurance to each other.”

I feel his prophesy is fast becoming true; we are becoming a nation of marketers. The problem is, because no one is creating or manufacturing anything, there is nothing to market. We have an awful lot of people at this moment selling ideas on how we should all market ourselves.

We have life coaches, investment coaches, and if I hear the word “monetize” much longer, I swear I will run, screaming, possibly naked down the road. It’s like a homeless man on the street begging for change, and being told, “Give me ten dollars and I’ll show you how to monetize your homelessness.”

The old cliché of “The rat race,” is never as true as it is now in these tough economic times as people scramble over each other to get ahead. Don’t push your fellow man down to get ahead, help him over the obstacle first, and he in turn will help you over.

Do something productive, I am mowing the lawn of the abandoned house next door. I don’t get paid for it but at least it stops the place looking like an abandoned house. And, if I can’t help someone, at least I don’t rip them off by selling them false hope, in the form of some get rich pyramid scheme that makes me richer and leaves them poorer.