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Thursday
Jan042007

The US Team Aero Bike Fiasco


Myself and Mike Melton (Right) building the aero frames.

Looking through an old scrapbook last evening I came across a story that Velo-News did in February 1980.

They did a pretty good piece of unbiased investigative reporting into some Aerodynamic frames I built for the US Team Time Trial riders for the 1979 World Championships. The whole episode turned into a huge fiasco, and after many people putting a great deal of effort and expense into the project the bikes were never used.

I came to work for Paris Sport in New Jersey in January 1979. At the time, Mike Fraysee co-owner of Paris Sport, was also President of the US Cycling Federation, the governing body of competitive cycling in the US.

The big new thing in bicycles at that time was aerodynamic frames, and it was suggested I build such frames for the US Team Time Trial squad. I had built a few aero frames in England the previous year by modifying round tubing to make it aero shape. No one was manufacturing proper tubes at the time.

I approached the English Reynolds Tube Company at the New York Bicycle Show in February 1979 and they agreed to produce the aero tubes. I had enjoyed a close working relationship with Reynolds, having been in from the start of their development of 753 tubing in the mid 1970s and built some early 753 test frames for them.

In March 1979 I flew back to England to meet with engineers at Reynolds and together we came up with design for an aero tube that was tear-drop shape in cross section. The tooling alone to draw these special tubes was made at a cost around $30,000. Remember this was 1979, thirty grand was a lot of money then.

The tubing took a few months to produce and when it arrived in New Jersey, time was running close to when the bikes would be needed. Because of this Mike Melton a top US framebuilder was brought in to help me build them. Mike and I burned the mid-night oil for a week without pay, I should add, to produce five frames. Four for the team and one spare.

The bikes were tried out by the team but were never used in competition and never even made it to the World Championship. One of the reasons the riders gave for their non use; the bikes handled badly.

You have to remember at the time I was a relatively unknown framebuilder in the US and you could say stuff like that. Obviously, the bikes were tested before they went out and they handled fine. Also at the same time Reynolds sent aero tubing to me, they sent some to French bicycle manufacturer, Gitane. They built a frame for Bernard Hinault who won a time trial stage in the Tour de France on it. He also went on to win the Tour that year.

The whole episode was a politically driven fiasco that I deeply regretted getting into, and it made me look bad with Reynolds; after all theirs was the biggest financial loss. The final kicker came later when the bikes were stripped and the Campagnolo parts were stolen. Riders and/or USCF officials were suspected.

A small consolation came later when a track bike version of the same aero tubing was ridden by an 18 year old Greg Lemond when he took the gold in the Junior World Pursuit Championship in 1979.

I scanned the article and you can read it as a PDF file. It goes into more detail than I have here. (You may want to print it, it is a little long to read on screen.) It is in three parts; there is my side of the story. The riders’ side, with comments by Mike Fraysee, and the story about the theft of parts. After reading the story again, I wondered what ever happened to the frames?

Either they ended up in a dumpster somewhere or if someone reading this has one in their garage, please send it to me. I would put it on eBay and recoup a little of my losses from all those years ago.

Sunday
Dec312006

Not down to the cardboard tube yet


Here we are at the end of 2006; where did this year go?

Proof to me that life is like a roll of toilet paper; the closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.

Not that I consider I am near the end of my life; I still have a number of perforated sheets before I reach the cardboard tube.

To take the toilet roll/life analogy one step further, there will always be some shit along the way. The trick is to make sure it is over and done with, deal with it quickly, and start with a clean sheet tomorrow. Don’t keep dealing with the same crap over and over, it is a waste of energy, time (and paper.)

Anyway enough of this toilet bowl philosophy except to say that writing a blog is sometimes like writing on a public restroom wall; you wonder does anyone read it?

However, I recently discovered Statcounter.com, a wonderful free little hit counter that tells how many people find and read a blog; it also gives an array of other useful stats. I was pleasantly surprised to find I get on average a hundred hits a day mostly from the US, but a fair number from just about every corner of the globe.

This blog has brought me many new friends and even hooked me up with some old ones. If my sometimes inane scribbling can entertain, enlighten, or give nourishment for your mind, then it is worthwhile. Your comments, questions, and suggestions are always welcome.

I wish you all a Very Happy New Year, and may 2007 bring you miles of smiles, joy, and abundance.

Friday
Dec292006

Will the real Dave Moulton please stand up

Have you ever done a Google search for Dave Moulton and noticed how many different people with that name come up?

There is a Dave Moulton, Sound Engineer who is a Grammy-nominated recording engineer, educator, musician and acoustician.

And Dave Moulton, Wine Maker who runs a winery out of an old schoolhouse south of San Francisco; between San Jose/Los Gatos and Santa Cruz.

Yet another Dave Moulton who is a radio sportscaster in Florida, and can be found lurking on this website. (Click on the “Line-up” tab.)

Dave Moulton is the name of a Jeep enthusiast who is responsible for innovative off-road modifications.

I’m not quite sure what this Dave Moulton does, but he is pictured here with Bill Clinton.

And this Dave Moulton it appears does nothing but has a webpage just in case he may do something in the future.

It is not surprising there are so many Dave Moultons; it is a pretty common English name. English names date way back in history and often describe what a person did for a living; Smith, Baker, and Miller are fairly obvious. Names like Fletcher, (He was the guy who stuck feathers on arrows.) and Cooper. (A person who makes wooden barrels.) are less obvious.

Other English names derive from the place where a person came from. There are at least five towns and villages in England named Moulton so it is no wonder the name is so common. Translated from the old English language it means simply: “A place where mules are kept.”

There are also towns in the US named Moulton, in Alabama, Iowa, and Texas.

In addition to Moultons with the first name Dave, there are many other variations. One that immediately springs to my mind, as he and I are always being confused with each other. He is Sir Alex Moulton, inventor of the small wheel bicycle. Some people do not know that he also invented the rubber suspension system for the original Mini Cooper cars. The suspension on the bicycle was a spin off from this. His contribution to British industry won him a Knighthood from the Queen.

There is Sarah Moulton, celebrity chef.

American Record Producer, Tom Moulton.

And a knife maker named Dusty Moulton.

I’m sure there are many more I have failed to list, but just one more I should mention: Dave Moulton, ex-bicycle framebuilder. If you are searching for this particular Dave Moulton, add the word "bicycle" to the name and you will weed me out from all the others.

Monday
Dec252006

A New Christmas Song


I truly live a double life. Here on my bike bike blog I am Dave Moulton, ex-bicycle framebuilder. In my life outside this blog I am E. David Moulton, writer and songwriter.

It was in this role last Monday I took my guitar to a Songwriters’ Night held every Monday at a local watering hole called The Sunfire Grill. My right hand was still bruised and pretty sore from my recent accident. I had to put some double-sided sticky tape on my guitar pick, just so I could hang on to it.

The reason I put myself through a certain amount of discomfort was because of a Christmas Song Contest being held that night. Having gone to the trouble of writing a new Christmas song, I was not about to pass up the one and only opportunity to be a part of this event.

Some 20 to 25 songwriters regularly attend the Songwriters’ Night; of that number, nine had written a New Christmas Song. This group is a pretty talented bunch and the standard of songwriting was high; I would not have wanted to be a judge that night.

I was delighted and surprized when my song got third place, because it is a little ‘tongue in cheek’ not too serious piece that I was just having fun with. The premise of my song deals with my dismay over all the political correctness controversy that now surrounds Christmas.

I sometimes feel we should scrap all the traditional religious holidays and replace it with one universal event that would offend no one. The song story scenario imagines Jesus getting together with Elvis to create such an event. The title is “The Jesus and Elvis Birthday Bash.” Here are the lyrics:

Jesus met Elvis in December
He said “I’ve a birthday coming soon.”
Elvis said, “I’ve got one two weeks later,
How about we combine the two.”

Jesus said to Elvis, “What a grand Idea,
I could turn some water into wine.”
Elvis said, “I’ll rustle up some corndogs, an’ a cake
Invite a few folks over, have a good time.”

CHORUS

We’ll call it Jesus and Elvis combined birthday bash
A brand new holiday to sweep the nation.
Jesus and Elvis combined birthday bash
It’s a universal celebration.
You don’t have to worry if you’re politically correct
Just reach out for your fellow man and somehow you’ll connect
And we’ll create a peace on Earth, one that’s gonna last,
With the Jesus and Elvis birthday bash

Jesus said, “We’ve got a lot in common, you an’ I
In our own right we are both the King.
Together maybe we’ll unite the people
Stop all this petty bickering

People are getting uptight over Christmas
In places they are banning Christmas trees.
But no one is offended by Elvis
It’s a brand new holiday that’s sure to please.”

CHORUS

We’ll call it Jesus and Elvis combined birthday bash
A brand new holiday to sweep the nation.
Jesus and Elvis combined birthday bash
It’s a universal celebration.
You don’t have to worry if you’re politically correct
Just reach out for your fellow man and somehow you’ll connect
And we’ll create a peace on Earth, one that’s gonna last,
With the Jesus and Elvis birthday bash


So with that I’ll wish you all a very Merry Christmas. I would like to thank everyone for the outpouring of support and well wishes after my recent accident. My spirits are still high as you can see from my recent posts; this is largely due to you. It gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling deep inside to know that so many people care.

Sunday
Dec242006

Why is my Front Brake Lever on the Right?

I have been asked that question since I started posting pictures of my bike on this blog.

It came up again when I posted a picture of my now wrecked bike last Thursday.

Why is my front brake lever on the right?

The simple answer is that I have always had my brakes set up that way since I started riding back in the 1950s, and it is what I am used to.

From the 1930s through the 1950s the most popular side-pull brake was the Swiss made Weinmann 500; the caliper arms were opposite to most current side-pulls today. The front brake caliper arms were on the left, so with the brake lever on the right the cables crossed.

You can see this in the picture of me, circa 1953.

I did not put the front brake on the right just so the cables would cross, but rather followed the style of the day and did what people with far more experience were doing.

As I remember, it had a lot to do with the fact that both front and rear derailleurs were shifted using the right hand, leaving only the left hand to operate a brake.

The front derailleur was operated by a lever whereby you reached down between your legs with your right hand. Now dubbed, suicide shifters, although I don’t recall this ever being a problem.

The picture on the right is of a Huret front derailleur that was very popular in the 1950s.

[Picture from The Racing Bicycle.com]

Campagnolo did not come out with a brake set until 1971; when they did, it was opposite to the Weinmann and most other side-pulls of that era. It had the front brake caliper arms on the right.

Campagnolo quickly became the brake of choice among racing cyclists and enthusiasts world wide, and as a result, other side-pull manufactures copied the Campagnolo style.

An observation I have made is that many people who like me started riding in England in the 1950s have their front brake lever on the right. Others who started later in the 1970s have the front brake lever on the left.

There is also a theory that the English, front brake on right set up, can be traced all the way back to the Ordinary (Penny Farthing) bicycle that had a single spoon brake on the front wheel only, operated by the right hand.

Early "Safety" bicycles had the same front brake only set up, so when rear brakes were added later, people were already used to having the front brake on the right.

Old English roadster bikes with roller brakes had the front brake on the right. The explanation for this could be as simple as the rod operating the rear brake went down the left side of the frame to keep it clear of the chain and chainwheel on the right side.

Some could argue a right and a wrong way to set up brake levers, but I only speak for myself when I say I continue to set mine up the way I always have. Simple as that.