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Would you buy it, strip it, dump the frame?

A Paris Sport tandem that I built in 1980 has been up for sale on SF Craigslist for a few weeks now. The price is right at $1,000 and there maybe several reasons why it hasn’t sold yet.

Craigslist doesn’t have the safeguards that eBay has so you really need to go look at something before you buy. That limits potential buyers to people within driving distance of Sacramento, where the tandem happens to be.

No one buys a bike unless it fits them; here you have a machine that has to fit two people. Therefore limiting potential buyers still further, unless someone buys it first then goes out to find a partner to fit the other half.

I am in no way connected to this sale, but I do happen to believe this sale is genuine. I have previously corresponded with the owners, who are the original owners. I also wrote about this one in a blog (July 2006)

This morning the sale was mentioned here, and I quote from the post: “I reckon someone might want it just for Phil Wood stuff...”

WTF. Has the value of my work sunk so low that someone would suggest buying it just to strip it of a few of the component parts?

Now you can call me over sensitive, or call me an egotistical MF, but when I read something like this, it is like a swift kick in the bollocks.


1981 Custom

Here is a very early California built custom ‘dave moulton.’ Built in January 1981 while I was working for Masi, having just moved there three months earlier.

My thanks to owner Ken Meyers for these pictures. Ken is the original owner, and this 56 cm. frame still has the original paint.

Built in Reynolds 531 tubing, this one definitely shows my English heritage. The contrasting color on the head tube and panels on the seat and down tubes was typical of English frames from the 1970s.

The World Championship rainbow bands that edge the panels were from a small supply I had brought with me when I moved to the US just two years earlier. The “Union Jack” British flag decals were cut from the Masi Gran Criterium decals that had flags of several nations.

The concave seat stay caps, made by brazing in place an off-cut of head tube would become typical of my custom frames. Also used on many frames that followed was the slim-line fork crown. Investment cast in Italy by Microfusioni, (The company that cast Cinelli crowns and BB shells.) and imported by the British company, Saba.

There is no engraving on the fork crown and bottom bracket of these 1981 custom frames, that started the following year in 1982 when I started building my own frames full time.

This frame was built with “Henry James” lugs, hand cut at the head tube to the shape you see here.


Head Angles and Steering

If the head angle of a bicycle was vertical (90 degrees.) when you turned the handlebars to round a corner, the front and rear hubs would remain in the same plane.

Because the steering tube on a road bike is angled forward, usually at an angle of 73 degrees, when the steering is turned, the fork blade that is on the inside of the turn drops and the other side raises. Therefore the front and rear hubs are not in the same plane.

Going through a turn the front wheel is leaning slightly more than the rear wheel. This adds to the stability of the bike because the front wheel is outside the centerline of the frame.

Because the front wheel is leaning slightly more than the rear wheel, it is turning at a slightly tighter turning radius, creating over steer. This is a good thing; centrifugal forces are pushing the bike wide on the corner, over steer is counteracting this.

Now try this demonstration. Hold your front wheel vertical with both hands while turning the wheel to the left or right. You will notice the bike will lean in the opposite direction to the turn. (Left.)

As stated in the second paragraph above, when the steering is turned, the fork blade on the inside drops. Only this time it cannot drop because you are physically holding the front wheel vertical. Instead of dropping, it pushes the bike in the opposite direction.

You have just demonstrated the action of counter steer. Widely taught and practiced in motorcycle riding, though not as essential in bicycle riding, counter steer can never the less be used very effectively.

Imagine you are riding your bike at speed in a straight line and you want to make a sharp right hand turn. Because you are riding straight the gyroscopic action of the spinning wheels, plus your own weight and momentum, is holding you vertical just as surely as if you were physically holding the front wheel.

When you reach the point where you wish to turn right, nudge your handlebars slightly to the left. (Hence, counter steer.) A good way to do this initially is to push the right side of your bars forward, thus steering left. The slightest touch is all it takes to immediately push the bike over into a right hand lean and the bike steers itself around the corner.

The reason the bike turns to the right the moment it leans to the right is that three different forces come into play.

1.) The law of gyroscopic action states; a spinning wheel will turn in the direction it is leaning. If you roll a coin on a flat surface, it will roll in a circle because it turns in the direction it is falling.

2.) Because the front fork is bent or raked forward, there is more of the wheel ahead of the steering axis than behind it, and its own weight will cause it to turn in the direction it leans. In addition, the weight of the handlebars is in front of the steering axis. You can demonstrate this by leaning a stationary bike, the front wheel will turn in the direction it is leaning

3.) If you draw a line through the steering axis (The center of the head tube.) and extend it to the ground; it will reach the ground at a point slightly ahead of the point where the wheel contacts the ground. This is known as “trail” and gives the steering a caster action that helps keep the bike straight, but also as the bike leans to the right, the head tube and the steering axis move to the right. The front wheel pivoting on its point of contact with the road will therefore turn to the right.

It has been established since at least the 1930s that the ideal head angle for a road bike is 73 degrees. (Give or take a degree either way.) Track bikes designed to be ridden on a banked track or velodrome are a different matter.

The banking of the track counteracts the centrifugal forces of turning. In theory the bike is at 90 degrees to the track surface when traveling at speed, and acts as if the bike were traveling in a straight line with no corners.

The only time a rider needs to deviate from a straight line is to go around an opponent. The rider needs to be able to physically steer around another rider without throwing the bike into a lean to the left or right. Steeper head angles of 75 or 76 degrees achieve this characteristic, along with less fork rake and less trail.

So how will a track bike handle on the street when it is designed for a banked velodrome? Not too badly actually. The steeper head angle is going to make the steering more sensitive, it may call for smooth pedaling to keep the bike going straight.

On the other hand the steeper more sensitive steering needs less trail to keep it straight. It may not corner as well as a bike designed for the road, but as long as a rider is experienced and considers this, there should be no problem.


1930s Moulton Special

About a year and a half ago, I received the following message:

Sir: I have a bike that was custom made for me by a Lockheed Engineer by the name of Mike Moulton, his name is stamped on the fork. He made this for me in 1949 and I raced it all over America as well as a member of the All American Team that toured Japan in 1951. I won three California State Championships on the bike, 49,50, 51. Are you any kin to Mike?----Joe Cirone.

I did not receive pictures of this bike, but Joe later described it as being all chrome. I replied that I was not related to this framebuilder, Moulton is a fairly common English name. This was the first time I had heard of Mike Moulton.

Recently I received pictures of a 1930s “Moulton Special.” The owner found the original decals, buried under many coats of paint, when he started sanding.

I am inclined to think that the same person built the two frames. They were built within a decade or so of each other, and how many framebuilders named Moulton can there be?

If there is anyone reading this who has heard of Mike Moulton or the “Moulton Special” please let me know. I would be interested, and so would the current owner of this bike.

You can view more pictures here.


The Recherche

The Recherche was a private label frame that I built for two brothers, Kent and Kyle Radford. They owned a specialist bicycle store in Rancho Bernardo, which is in San Diego County, California.

They sold the frame out of their own store and also marketed the frame to other dealers, primarily in Southern California. The frame was first built in 1985 up to late 1987 or 1988. There were a little over two hundred of them built.

I have been in touch with Kent Radford in the last year, he still owns the number one Recherche. The name and the decal design was the Radford brother’s creation. They always pronounced it Reh-shur-shay. I believe it means “to search” in French, (Please correct me if I am wrong on that.) and that is probably not the correct French pronunciation.

It was a “no frills” frame, painted in a single color with the white Mylar panel decals; at first available only in red; later it was offered in blue and black also. Although I describe the frame as “no frills” it was of course built by me to the same high standard as any frame from my shop.

The frame was the exact same geometry as the Fuso; in fact the production of the Recherche was grouped together with the Fuso on the same jig setting, and both brand names brazed in small batches at the same time.

The frame was built in the same Columbus tubing, with Campagnolo or Columbus front and rear dropouts. With a Cinelli investment cast bottom bracket shell. The Recherche lugs were also investment cast but a different style than the Fuso; the seat stay caps were also different.

Most Recherche’s had a distinct cast fork crown with two decorative grooves cast into the top. (See left.) Towards the end of production this crown became unavailable and a plain sloping crown was substituted.


The way the tubes were finished at the front and rear drop outs was distinctive. The tube ends were scalloped with a round file and the brass allowed to sink inside as the brazing cooled. I was imitating a style that is common to many French frame builders.

These small but unique features made the Recherche different in appearance, but because the design and workmanship was equal to other frames from my shop, the finished bike rides and handles the same as any other I built.

The red paint finish that the majority of Recherche frames had was achieved by painting a candy red over a bright orange base coat. Most red paint jobs appear orange, especially after they start to fade in bright sunlight. The candy red method I used was labor intense because of the extra steps in painting, but the end result was a truer longer lasting deep red.

My thanks to Lorin Youde, who lives in Southern California not far from my original San Marcos shop, for sending me these pictures. He picked up this 62 cm. Recherche last year, with original red paint and very few miles on it. It is number 201 so one of the last few built.

With so few of these built compared with close to 3,000 Fuso frames produced and with the small but unique differences I have described here; the Recherche could be a desirable frame to own should anyone be lucky enough to come across one.

Because so few were built the chances of finding one in any given size is slim, especially in the less popular very large or small sizes. If Recherche does indeed mean “to search” then maybe the name will become prophetic.