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Update on 1940s American Framebuilder Mike Moulton

On April 6th last, I wrote about an California framebuilder named Mike Moulton in a piece named “1930s Moulton Special.”

Later I emailed Ted Ernst who raced at a national level in the US as early as the 1950s; here was what Ted was able to find out:

I got in touch with a few guys in regards to Mike Moulton; the memories are sketchy.

He didn't start to build until after the war, sometime like 1947 or so and only built for a few years. Framebuilding was more a hobby as he was a full time employee at Lockheed Aircraft. Guys raced on his bikes all around especially in those early years when the Burbank track was up and running around 1948/9.

From what was said he had no direct connection to the bike game, as far as club or business affiliation, but went out to the races watched, talked to the guys, enjoyed the mechanics of it all and started building and selling, probably for about 4-5 years until he dropped away.

They were nicely done and at the local level here had moderate success. Like so many others, a brief encounter and duration in the game. I'll keep ears open, and any old codger comes along, I'll try to get more info and relay to you.
Ted Ernst

[Ted Ernst, (Lower Right) competing in the National Board Track Championship in 1956. Picture from Wool Jersey.]

Last week I received a picture of an all chrome Mike Moulton frame built in 1949; still owned by the original owner Joe Cirone. Joe won the California State Championship on this bike in 1949, 50, and 51.

Here we have a known Mike Moulton frame; if you look closely at the picture at the top of the page, his name is stamped on the front of the fork crown. Looking at the distinct style of the head lugs and comparing them to the frame I wrote about on April 6th; my opinion is that the two frames are the work of the same builder.

The unknown frame (Left.) also had the name “Moulton Special” which was found under the many coats of paint applied over the years. As I previously stated, “How many framebuilders named Moulton can there be from that era?”

If the unknown frame was indeed built by Mike Moulton, then it was from the 1940s not 1930s as the owner had guessed it was. However, because of WWII, bicycles developed very little during those years and a 1940s frame will look pretty much the same as one built in the 1930s.

It appears that Mike Moulton built frames as a hobby, but even so they were very well crafted and were raced successfully in the 1940s, and a few of these frames still exist today. There would have been few American builders at that time; US framebuilding didn’t proliferate until the 1970s.

I find it interesting because we share the same last name, though not related as far as I know. This is a small but never-the-less important part of American cycling history and should be remembered and documented, even if it is only on a blog such as this. I am hoping that there will be more information forthcoming, maybe from family members and decendents of Mike Moulton.


When it comes to bike saddles, how level is level?

The general consensus among experts is that a bicycle saddle should be level. If the nose is pointed up, it will put pressure on the perineum and cause discomfort.

If the saddle is positioned sloping downwards, this will throw too much weight onto your arms. Weight should be balanced between your seat and your hands.

But, how level? I feel to get out the carpenter’s level is over kill. If the saddle appears to be level to the naked eye, and it feels comfortable, to me that is level.

There are also so many differing designs of saddles. On my bike (above) I have a Concor saddle that was popular in the 1980s. Its design is swept up at the back and if I were to place a level from front to back it would indicate the saddle pointing downward, because the back part is higher.

However, visually the part where I sit is level. Unless the top of the saddle is flat front to back, it can’t be level at all points. Bottom line is how does it feel? If the saddle is not obviously up or down at first glance, I would say you’re okay.

This last part is for men only; so ladies you can stop reading now...

If you get that burning sensation in your scrotum, it is probably because the skin is pinched between the perineum and the saddle. If you reach down in your shorts and lift your boys up clear of the saddle; a proper pair of cycling shorts will hold them in place and this usually takes care of the problem.

Ladies, if you are still reading, don’t you do anything you are told?


I went to the edge again

[Sunrise on the pier at Folly Beach.]

Three weeks ago, I rode to the Edge of America and back. (AKA Folly Beach.)

Yesterday I set out at 7 am. and did the same ride taking the exact same route. This time I did the ride in 2 hours and 50 minutes, ten minutes faster than last time.

What a difference three weeks makes.


Give up Lycra and my Helmet; not Bloody Likely

A British online magazine called City Cycling appears to be aimed at people commuting to work in large cities. It is encouraging that there are enough people doing this to show interest and support for such a website.

However, a recent article suggests that cyclists should abandon lycra and helmets. The author of this piece seems to think that cyclists dressed in such a style are seen as “not human” or are from another “tribe,” and consequently unworthy of attention.”

The idea is, dressed in street clothes, i.e. jeans and tee shirt or a suit and tie, other road users will see us as human beings just like them. As a result they will be a little more tolerant towards us. Somehow, I don’t think so.

If I ride down the middle of a traffic lane, take the lane so to speak, because I am attempting to turn left; the person behind me, delayed for a few seconds is not going to be any less pissed off if I look like I just stepped off the cover of GQ.

As for the idea that the driver doesn’t see me as human? He knows I’m human, otherwise he would run me down like a squirrel. I would like to think it is human decency that prevents him from doing so, but more than likely it is not wanting to deal with the consequences, that is the biggest deterrent.

In a few cases, I think it is the fact that they could run me down, but are not allowed to in a civilized society that makes them so mad. They will sit behind a farm tractor doing ten miles per hour for as long as it takes, and deal with it, but God forbid they should have to slow to fifteen or twenty miles per hour for a few seconds behind a cyclist.

When I go riding I put on my team jersey, not because I want to be seen as belonging to some other tribe; I just want to be seen, period. I choose a team jersey for its bright colors, not because I support that particular team.

The other reason I choose a genuine team jersey is the quality of the product. It is designed to give the wearer maximum comfort under extreme racing conditions. So I know during my modest exertions I can concentrate on riding my bike without being focused on how uncomfortable my clothes make me feel.

Designed to keep the wind off if it is a little chilly, or to keep me dry and comfortable if I am sweating like the proverbial pig. I can throw it in a cold wash when I’m through riding, and it is practically dry after the spin cycle.

Another quote from the article, “Normal people don't wear polystyrene hats.” Bicycle helmets don’t give total protection, and no one should be lulled into a false sense of security by wearing one.

I was wearing a helmet when I hit an SUV last December and still came away with a hairline skull fracture. But I was glad I had a little Styrofoam between my head and the very solid side of that vehicle, and I am sure without it I could have been injured more.

You don’t have to wear lycra and a helmet to enjoy cycling, and I am not advocating that everyone should dress thus. It is a sport that can give pleasure at any level. I just happen to be an ex-racing cyclist and still enjoy a road bike.

I cannot ride unless I am going balls out, as fast as I can. It is what I have done all my life; I try to maintain a level of fitness so I can continue to do so. I cannot ride in this fashion in a suit, or in blue jeans feeling like my nuts are in a tourniquet.

In spite of my earlier comments, when I’m on the road I try not to adopt an “us and them” attitude; it serves no useful purpose. Traffic is not going to get any lighter, so I must deal with it. However, I am going to exercise my right to ride on the public highway.

I try to be considerate and courteous at all times; if someone slows down and is cautious when passing, I will often give them a little thank you wave. My way of saying thank you for not passing at fifty miles an hour, missing me by inches.

Most road users don’t mind sharing the road with a cyclist if they are predictable and give clear signals of their intentions. They dislike cyclists who weave in an out of traffic for example.

If I wear lycra and a helmet at least I look like I know what I am doing. If I wear street clothes; I could be someone who just decided to “go green” the previous week, or someone who has just got their third DUI ticket.



[Picture from Cycling News.]

My last article on Fork Rake and Trail brought an email with the question:

“Why does bike designed for Motor Pace Racing have the fork raked backwards. Is it to increase trail?”

The Stayer bike as it is called, has a smaller front wheel, a steeper head angle, and reverse fork; all designed to get the rider closer to the motorcycle that is pacing him. There is a roller mounted behind the pace machine, set at a regulation distance. It is up to the rider to get as close to that roller as he can for maximum drafting effect.

If you look at the drawing on the left, you can visualize that a smaller wheel means less trail, a steeper head angle also means less trail, but the reverse fork increases trail to compensate. A stayer bike may have a little more trail than the average track bike, but not an excessive amount.

Another reason to have the fork reversed is that occasionally the rider will bump the roller on the back of the motorcycle. If he does the roller will spin and the fork will flex easier in the direction it is raked or bent, thus absorbing these slight bumps.