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Dave Moulton

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Pedal Float

A subject I often see discussed on the various bicycle forums is clipless pedals, and pedal float. This is more by way of an observation than to give advice because clipless pedals came on the market in the last few years I was in the bike business.

For many years, we all used toe clips and straps, and there was no float in the pedal cleats. Which leaves me to wonder who in their wisdom decided when designing clipless pedals, the foot needed to have sideways movement (float) on the pedal?

Was it demanded by the riders, or offered as a sales gimmick by the manufacturers as something that the “old tech” pedals didn’t have? Because like every piece of new technology that comes on the market, consumers soon find they can’t do without it.

I understand that now some pro riders are going back to fixed cleats on their clipless pedals, and the many riders who try to follow suit have all kinds of problems with their knee joints, etc.

When I started riding seriously in the early 1950s, cycling shoes had leather soles, and cleats were nailed on. They came in a little packet with 20 or 30 nails per cleat. Luckily, this was in a time before God created tennis shoes, and every household had basic shoe repair equipment.

This included a shoemaker’s last or iron foot that you put the shoe on to nail the cleats in place. Imagine doing this for the first time, staring at a flat leather sole, with absolutely no indication where the cleat should go.

You nailed them on, went out for a test ride. If they were wrong, you came home, and ripped the cleats off with a pair of pliers. Then you had to find some new nails and start over.

We soon learned where the cleats should be. If they were misaligned, guess what? We had knee problems, just like riders with clipless pedals today. It seems to me that the real problem is, not with the pedal having float, but with the correct alignment of the cleats.

I still use toe clips and straps, and my cleats are aligned as follows. With the shoes side by side, soles and heels touching, the slots in the cleats are in a straight line across both shoes. You could drop a straight edge in the slot.

This means when pedaling, the inside of my foot is parallel with the crank arm. In addition, when I place the two shoes with soles facing, the slots in the cleats line up.

As usual, my post contains a little bit of history. If we look back at how we got where we are today, often the problems we encountered in the past are a clue to solving the problems of today.


Running vs. Cycling

I’ve done both. In England during the 1970s I rode cyclo-cross October through to February. I trained by running 30 minutes each evening after work, and riding a cyclo-cross event at the weekend.

As a measure of cycling fitness level attained in this fashion, my cycling club always ran a 10 mile time trial the day after Christmas. (Boxing Day.) I would usually turn in a respectable 25 minute ride.

I always reckoned a one hour cyclo-cross race was the equivalent of 80 miles on the road. At least that was the effect it had on my legs when the event was over. The reason I chose running over cycling was mainly a time consideration. My framebuilding business took a great deal of my time, and I had a family to consider.

Thirty minutes of hard running was a pretty intense workout. To get out on the bike it would have taken me thirty minutes to get dressed and pump my tires up; then I would have to ride for an hour and a half or two hours. Plus, it was winter time; I could endure half an hour of running even if it was raining or snowing.

So running at that time suited my busy schedule. Years later when I left the bike business in 1993, I scaled down my lifestyle and moved into a tiny studio apartment. I sold off many of my possessions including my bike, and went back to running as my main form of exercise.

I kept this up until about three years ago when my hip started hurting and I realized I had to quit running. I switched to walking but that didn’t do it for me; I started to gain weight, even though I am not a person to overeat.

Last summer I started riding a bike again, and now I wonder why I didn’t start back sooner; now that time is not such an issue. Running was never a pleasure, it was a chore; something I would discipline myself to do.

Three hours of cycling is all pleasure, an hour of running would be purgatory. On a bike I can ride up a hill to the point of exhaustion, knowing that I will recover as I coast down the other side; running I had to constantly pace myself, and there is no such thing a coasting down hill.

Heat is less of a factor when cycling because you create your own cooling breeze as you ride, plus it is easy to carry two large bottles of water on a bike to keep hydrated.

Cycling for me started a love affair with the machine, with its looks and beauty. Once I started riding it became a love of being a part of the machine. At times, it is still an almost surreal experience and I marvel at how fast I can go, realizing that it is me alone driving the machine forward.

Out this weekend I rode over the Cooper River Bridge here in Charleston; on the bridge runners probably outnumbered bike riders by at least ten to one. This is what prompted me to write this piece.

Why is this? Is cycling so much of a well kept secret. Of course, there is the cost of equipment; a pair of running shoes is a lot cheaper than a bike, but I can’t believe that is the only factor. Maybe it is a time issue, as it was with me.

Physical fitness has always been important in my life; over the years, my level of fitness has varied but has never dropped below a certain level. If I start to feel discomfort in a simple act like putting on a pair of socks, it annoys me, and drives me back into an exercise regimen.

The older I get, the more important exercise is to me; the old adage of “You're gonna die anyway” is not the issue. It is about quality of life, having the energy to do all the other things I want to do, besides ride my bike.


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.