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Friday
Dec232005

The Mechanics of Steering.


(Or is it the Physics of Steering?)

Roll a wheel or for that matter any round flat object even something as small as a coin on a flat surface and it will roll in a circle. It will continue rolling in ever decreasing circles until it finally falls and settles in one spot. This is a demonstration of the law of gyroscopics. That a spinning wheel will remain upright as long as it keeps spinning.

Most people know that this is what keeps a bicycle upright while in motion and if you stop you fall over as all cyclists do at least once in their lifetime. Also a spinning wheel (Or rolling coin.) as it looses momentum and starts to fall it will turn in the direction it is falling, which is why it rolls in a circle.

This law of physics gives a bicycle a simple built-in self steering capability. You can demonstrate this to yourself by holding a wheel in both hands by the spindle and spinning it. The first thing you will notice is that the wheel wants to stay upright in the same plane, demonstrating the first law mentioned in the opening paragraph.

If you forcibly move the top of the wheel to the left or right as it is spinning it will also turn in the direction you are leaning it. Just as a rolling coin will turn in the direction it is falling. So as you lean a bicycle into a corner it will steer itself around the corner. Let’s not forget the rear wheel. Although it is in a fixed position within the frame and cannot turn, it is still spinning and leaning therefore assisting in steering the bike around the corner.

This also explains the importance of a frame being straight with both wheels in the exact same plane. If a frame is twisted one wheel is always leaning and therefore always steering the bike in that direction. In normal riding conditions you may not even notice this as you will automatically and subconsciously correct this by steering in the opposite direction. But try riding hands off and the bike will pull to the left or right. Make sure you are on a level surface as a camber in the road will also cause you to move in that direction.

There are some who argue if it is the gyroscopic motion of a spinning wheel that keeps a bicycle upright, how come it is possible to ride at a slow walking pace? The answer is that it is not all gyroscopics, it is balance. The law in balancing anything is that the center of gravity of the object be directly over the point of contact with whatever the object is balancing on. In theory it should be possible to balance a golf ball on a pin head.

Someone walking on a high wire, as they start to fall to the left will shift their body, therefore their center of gravity to the right. Balancing a broom on your hand is a relatively easy trick because you simply move your hand in the direction the broom starts to fall keeping your hand directly under the broom’s center of gravity.

Have you noticed also that it is easier to balance a broom on your hand with the head of the broom up, than it is to balance a lightweight stick on your hand? The center of gravity of the lightweight stick is somewhere in its center, whereas the upturned broom has a center of gravity near the top where the head is.

A bicycle and rider has a high center of gravity; the bike can be twenty pounds or less while the rider is a hundred pounds or more. Center of gravity is somewhere in the middle of the rider, three feet or more from the ground. And just like the high center of gravity of the upturned broom, this works in favor of the bicycle and rider when it comes to balancing.

When riding very slowly, as the bike and rider fall to the left the bike turns to the left. The rider corrects this by steering to the right, then back again as the rider starts to fall in the opposite direction.  What the rider is doing is moving the bike from left to right under them just like moving your hand under the upturned broom. And just like the simple broom balancing trick there is no conscious thought process to this, it is automatic.





Sunday
Dec042005

Perfectionism


Sometimes a person will say to me, “I am a perfectionist.” They say it with pride as if perfectionism is a virtue. Perfectionism is a curse that will bring nothing but misery to the perfectionist and those around them. It is a personality trait that goes hand in hand with low self esteem. Why? Because you can never achieve perfection, you are always a loser.

My own perfectionism led to my success as a frame builder but self hatred and anger as a person. My perfectionism was caused by abuse not only from my father but by the British school system; a system that beat down kids, and used sarcasm and ridicule as well as physical abuse. If you have seen the Pink Floyd movie “The Wall” you will know what I mean. That movie touched me deeply and helped me understand later what was going on.

I believe the reason all the great music came out of Britain in the 1960s was because of our childhood during WWII and the school system there. I was just another child of that era whose creativity went in a different direction. But for the fact my anger was directed towards myself I could have just as easily gone a different direction. Had my anger been directed towards others I could have become a violent criminal as many of my generation did. This forms the basis for my novel Prodigal Child It is a work of fiction, a story of what my life might have been had it taken a different turn early on.

As a child I was never given credit for doing well; only punished for doing wrong. As an adult I continued with the self punishment if I screwed up and I would not tolerate anything but perfection from myself. This led to success as an artist, but failure in every other aspect of my life. Many times in my early days as a framebuilder I would take a hammer and destroy a frame because of some minor flaw. Afterwards I would sit and cry like a child, then work all night to replace the frame. This was my punishment for screwing up.

By the late 1980s my second marriage failed and I realized I needed to change. I was not always a pleasant person to be around; the sheet rock on the walls of my frame shop was full of the impressions of tools I had thrown across the room in a temper tantrums. The anger was always directed at myself never others, but those around me had to witness and listen to this. I knew I had to change; for my own sake as well as others around me. I started to look deep within myself to see why I was the way I was.

By the early 1990s the bike business had also changed. Bicycle dealers almost overnight it seemed were switching from road bikes to mountain bikes. By 1993 I knew it was time to leave and there was one incident that I think pushed me over the edge. A customer called me saying his Fuso Lux frame he had bought had a tiny bubble in the Columbus decal. Columbus decals were always a pain because of the material they were made from caused them to bubble when the paint was being baked in the paint oven. This is why you don’t see a Columbus decal on a custom ‘dave moulton’ frame.

I told the customer to send the frame back. When it arrived the “bubble” in the Columbus decal was buried deep within the clear coats and was so tiny you almost needed a magnifying glass to see it. I stood there looking at it, seething with anger. I had finally come to terms with my own perfectionism, but still had to deal with the perfectionism of others. This customer expected me to repaint this frame and there was no guarantee if I did that the Columbus decal would be any different, and maybe it would be even worse.

The frame was in a vise held across the bottom bracket faces. If a fit of rage I grabbed the head tube and folded the frame in two with the head tube ending up next to the rear drop-outs. This time I did not cry; I did not stay up a night building a replacement. Instead I walked into my office and wrote the customer a check for the full retail value of the frame. I attached the check to the frame with scotch tape, threw it in the box and shipped it back. I never heard from him again.

As well as coming to terms with my perfectionism I realized that all creativity comes from the same source. It is not a right brain, left brain thing; it comes from deep within the artist, his soul or very being. The artist is simply a vehicle through which art appears. Because all art comes from the same source; all art is the same and if I had been successful in one art form, I could do so in another.This is why I was able to leave the bike business and take up writing and songwriting. If I screw up in writing unlike frame building it’s easily fixed in a rewrite.

Writing has been great therapy for me; better to get all this shit out than to hold it inside. Which is exactly what I am doing now so thank you for allowing me to indulge myself?


  

Thursday
Nov242005

27 years ago the National Enquirer promised to do a story on me. I’m still waiting.

1978 was drawing to a close and I was winding down my framebuilding business in Worcester, England. Finishing up a few remaining orders and preparing to emigrate to the United States in January 1979.

The phone rang one day and a voice on the other end told me the call was from the US. It was someone from the National Enquirer and went on to tell me they were the largest circulation newspaper in America. The part about having the largest circulation was probably correct, but where they were misleading me was in describing the publication as a newspaper. Newspaper implies a paper containing news. But as the National Enquirer does not reach the British supermarkets; in my ignorance I took the man’s word for it.

Why were they calling me? They had somehow found out that I built bicycles and they needed a very special bicycle. There was a family in South Africa, a husband and wife with sextuplets. Actually, these were the Rosenkowitz sextuplets, three boys, and three girls born January 11, 1974. They were the worlds first surviving sextuplets.

Apparently this family had a contract with the National Enquirer which allowed them to exclusively take and publish photos of the kids. They were soon to have their fifth birthday and someone at the National Enquirer thought it would be a neat idea to photograph Mum, Dad and their six offspring on a bicycle made for eight.

What a strange coincidence I thought. Here was I just about to emigrate to the United States where very few people knew who I was, and here was someone from “The largest circulating newspaper” in the US calling me. I had visions of becoming a household name in the US overnight. The next thing I knew I was agreeing to build this strange octi-velocipede (or maybe octdem) at my own expense in exchange for them doing a story about how this special bike was built by a famous builder of racing bicycles.

I drew up sketches of the proposed machine; they sent me measurements of the two adults and their six children and I set to work. The design would be very simple as time was short and as I was paying for it labor and materials had to be minimal. I bought a pair of used moped wheels with balloon tires. They also had drum brakes built into the hubs which made the braking system very simple. All I needed was two brakes levers and cables to connect. The front rider would operate the front brake and the rear rider the rear brake. These would be the two adults; the kids would ride in the middle.

Rectangular 3in. x 2in. box section steel tube would form the lower part of the frame. Eight holes were drilled through sides of the bottom box section and plain bottom bracket shells were welded into place. Eight seat tubes of varying lengths came up at the appropriate angle above each bottom bracket. A fabricated heavy duty front fork and a conventional rear triangle and the frame was complete.

I used inexpensive steel cottered cranks and chainwheels; adult size front and rear and kiddie size with short cranks for the six children. Chain tension was taken care of with little adjustable jockey wheels at the bottom of each chain. This simple design as it turned out made for a very stable and easy to ride machine, because the weight of the steel box section tube together with all these heavy steel cranksets attached was well below the wheel center making for a very low center of gravity.

The National Enquirer commissioned a local photographer to take pictures of myself with the half finished eight seater. The bike was completed in December 1978 and a truck came to pick it up. The National Enquirer arranged and paid for it to be packed and shipped to South Africa. And that was the last I heard from them.

In January 1979 I arrived in New Jersey to begin work with Paris Sport. Sometime in the summer of that year a local bike rider came in with a copy of the National Enquirer. Inside was a photo of the special bike I had built with the family of eight actually riding it. Mother was up front steering and Dad was acting stoker at the rear and the sextuplets, I seem to remember three boys and three girls, pedaling merrily away in the center seats.

In the short caption under the picture there was no mention of the framebuilder, famous or otherwise. The only reason it had caught the attention of the bike rider who brought it in to show me was because I had the foresight to have ‘dave moulton’ painted in three inch letters on the down tube.

All my effort and expense had been in vain. I let the matter drop because I realized that very few serious bike riders read the National Enquirer anyway. But if anyone from the National Enquirer reads this blog; you owe me an article. I have the original drawing and a letter of intent from NE to prove it.

Perhaps they could dig out the original 1979 picture from their archives or even find the bike. The sextuplets will be in their thirties by now so how about a then and now picture. But I am not going to hold my breath and anyway I no longer build bikes. I am a writer now with a published novel, but I doubt many National Enquirer readers are into literature either.

Monday
Nov212005

A very nice 59cm. Fuso Lux just sold on eBay.





This Campagnolo equipped anniversary model (1987) went for $879; in my opinion a fair price. In monitoring eBay sales recently it seems the going rate for an FR1 model (Complete bike.) is around $500, and for a Lux model $800.

The extra 79 bucks paid for this one was well justified because it seems to be in near perfect condition and it is a 30th Anniversary model which makes it a little more special. The new owner can rest assured that there are many years of riding left in this bike and they may even show a profit should they decide to sell in a few years.

Incidentally another 57cm. Fuso, an FRX, failed to reach the reserve price when the sale ended and the highest bid was at $510. My advice, for what it is worth, is as follows:

If you are selling and you can live with the prices mentioned above. If you no longer ride the bike, look on it as passing the bike on to someone who will ride it and cherish it. If you put a reserve price about the price mentioned above, your bike may not sell. But put a reserve $200 or $300 less than that and the bike will probably go for the price you want. If you want more for the bike then don’t sell yet. Hang on to it.

If you are buying a lot depends on the size you are looking for. I built just under 3,000 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993. Add to this about 200 John Howard frames, and about 150 Recherche frames. The most popular sizes and therefore the most built were 56, 57, 58, and 59. Sizes 53, 54, and 55 plus 60, 61, and 62 were the next most popular sizes. The sizes below 53cm. and above 62cm. there were even fewer built, but on the other hand there will be less people looking for these sizes.

If a bike comes up for sale in a popular size there are bound to be more than one person biding for it. But if you are not successful there will be others for sale probably quite soon. If you are on the look out for one of the least popular sizes, there may only be one or two bidding on it so you may get it for a bargain price. But if you really want that particular bike you might be prepared to bid a little higher because the chances of this particular size coming up for sale again soon is less likely.

I would like to stress that I have no financial interest in any bikes that sell anywhere. I do not own a single bike or frame that I built. But I am interested because I built them; I just don’t want to see anyone get screwed, be they buyer or seller.

Anyone buying or selling a frame I built can find more information on my website including frame number info and dates frames were built. You may also contact me if you have a specific question.

Monday
Nov142005

Not a highly sought after collectable. (Yet.)

“Not a highly sought after collectable.” Not my words but the opinion of several people talking about the Fuso on Classic Rendezvous open forum.

Actually I am fine with

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