Dave Moulton

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Remembering Luton

I have led a somewhat nomadic life and prior to moving to South Carolina in 2001, I had never lived in one place longer than ten years. I have lived on both the East and West Coast of the United States since 1979 and even my native England seems like a foreign country to me now because I visit there so infrequently.

I often wonder where do I call home? I was born in Surrey, England but left there as a baby and have never been back, but there is one place where I lived between 1949 and 1959. I was 13 when I moved there and 23 when I left.

The town is Luton, about thirty miles roughly due north of London. This is where I spent my teen years, where I grew from a boy to a man. If I have a place I can call my home town it is Luton. This was the town where I was given a second chance. I had failed an exam at age eleven which would have enabled me to go for a higher education.

I failed because my schooling was disrupted when we moved three times that year because my father kept losing his job. But at aged fourteen I passed an exam to attend Luton Technical School, which later led to an apprenticeship in engineering.

Part of Luton Technical School was a Community College where older students would attend. Some of these students were racing cyclists and the school bike racks would be full of beautiful lightweight racing machines with names like Hetchins, Holdsworth and Hobbs od Barbican.

This is where the fascination with the bicycle began, I joined The Luton Arrow Cycling Club and started racing. I would later learn to build racing bicycle frames. A skill that eventually led to my moving to the US and a successful bicycle manufacturing business in Southern California through the 1980s.

I haven’t been back to Luton for many years. Online searches lead me to websites and message boards where ex Lutonians like me post messages from time to time. Sometimes people are unkind to Luton and I have seen it described as “The worst shit-hole in England.” What happened? As I remember it was a great town.

The 1960s came right after I left, the boom years when money was being made and was being spent just as fast. The Luton Town Council, the politicians, decided in their wisdom to tear down many of the beautiful old buildings and rebuild. A good example is the old library building right across from the Town Hall. (Pictured above.) This building was a gift to Luton donated in 1910 by Andrew Carnegie the American philanthropist.

It was a beautiful old building with great character where I would often stand on its steps and wait for a date to show up. We had no cell phones, few of us even had phones at home and we had no cars, we used public transport. if we made a date we would have to arrange to meet somewhere. The Town Council replaced the library with a soulless glass faced monstrosity.

Like the unscrupulous surgeon who will operate on you whether you need it or not, just to take your money, the Town Council in cahoots with the big developers ripped the heart out of Luton. They made it a less desirable place to live so people started moving out. And an immigrant population moved in.

Luton today has a huge Moslem population and I have even seen it featured on the TV news here in the US because of some links to the terrorist bombings in London. I’m sure the majority of Luton’s citizens today are law abiding but there always a few who drag down the reputation of a place. Not that I am suggesting you put Luton on your list of must-see places if you visit England.

Large Towns and Cities have a soul. It is I believe the collective souls of all the people who live there. New York City for example has a special energy that you feel when you are there. San Francisco and London have it also. Luton definitely had a soul when I lived there, and if it doesn’t have one now maybe it’s because the people who live there don’t have a sense of belonging there. They are nomads like me.

I will probably not go back to Luton, I prefer to remember it fondly as it once was, and for any ex-Lutonians out there, (It seems we are scattered all over the world.) take comfort in the fact that Luton is a very good place to be from.


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Facebook and Me

Last week I watched the Netflix documentary “The Great Hack,” which told the story of how a British company, Cambridge Anilitica, used online profiles of millions of people to manipulate not only the outcome of the 2016 US Presidential election, but the outcome of the UK’s Brexit vote.

The Great Hack didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already suspect, but it did bring home the enormity of the operation, and the lengths people will go, for the purpose of making money. Facebook was the main tool they used, and their strategy was alarmingly simple.

Through online profiles they sought out people who were undecided, and lived in key states and areas, and bombarded them with advertising, and fake news.

It has been obvious to me for some time now that if I buy something online, or even simply research something, I am immediately swamped with ads for that same item. It becomes clear that my online data is being collected by someone, or someone’s robot.

It is one thing however to have someone sell you a product that you may or may not want, but another to be able to buy the outcome of a democratic election. It is alarming to say the least.

The first knee jerk reaction is to say, screw Facebook, I’ll remove myself. But in my case that would hurt me more than it would them. I have spent many years building an online presence. This blog has been here since 2005, that represents hundreds of hours writing.

I left the bike business 26 years ago and at times it feels like I am still selling the bikes I built, and in a way I am. But not for the purpose of making money, don’t expect to. I do it for the personal satisfaction of knowing I built a worthwhile product that people still enjoy.

I would hate for this Facebook group to disappear, and If anyone does decide to leave, I hope they will still follow this blog and stay in touch. The Dave Moulton Bike FB page is an example what Facebook claims was their original intention. To bring people together.

The page does just that, there is never a political or a hateful comment, just people sharing a common interest.

Shame on you Mark Zuckerberg for allowing a wonderful idea to be used in this manner. I hope when you get to be my age you can say you left the World a better place than when you came into it.


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E-Bikes and Scooters

My last article about bicycle steering brought the following comment from Steve. I know Steve as a long-time reader of this blog, and often asks thought provoking questions.

“What do you think of the sudden fascination with scooters, which used to be considered a child's toy, now a legit, and preferred over bikes, transportation mode?

(Compare the irony of bicycles being seen as toys to scooters not viewed that way.)

Is a scooter's steering as safe as a bicycle?

Does leaning help or hinder steering and the stability of a scooter, with its geometry?

Do the companies that unloaded these onto the public know the physics of riding scooters? I know the people don't, they just ride them, which is the same with bicycles.

You don't need to know the physics behind riding a bike, because science only helps explain the act of riding. And riding well has nothing to do with knowing the science of riding a bike.”

The traditional child’s scooter is relatively safe and doesn’t even need brakes. It is kind of like running with one leg, and when you want to stop you simply stop running. The small wheels gather very little momentum, even downhill, and often it precedes a child’s first bicycle.

Add an electric motor and it worries me to see very young children riding these. A few years ago, right around Christmas, I witnessed a girl about 12 years old riding an electric scooter in the street outside my home.

She appeared to be traveling at about 15 mph. As I watched her ride up the street about 100 yards from my house, the scooter suddenly pitched forward, and she went down hard on her face. She lay motionless in the road. I was about to run out to assist her, when her parents came running out. Her father picked her up and carried her indoors. I never saw her ride that scooter again.

From what I witnessed, and the fact she was outside her own home, I surmise she turned the handlebars to steer into her driveway. She was probably going too fast and the front wheel flipped 90 degrees and sent her over the top landing on her face.

This can happen on a bicycle too, and usually causes the front fork blades to be bent sideways. In all my years framebuilding, I straightened many forks bent in this fashion. The difference is, the bike has to hit a serious pothole, or most often is the result of touching another rider’s back wheel.

The larger wheels on a bicycle give it stability, and it would be difficult to accidentally turn the front wheel 90 degrees, unless you hit some object.

If you put a child, or for that matter an inexperienced adult on a bicycle, they will be riding relatively slow to begin with, and should they fall, injuries will nothing more that a few scrapes and bruises.

By the time the rider has the ability to ride fast, he or she as gathered some bike handling skills along the way. Not so with e-bikes and electric scooters, you have the instant ability to ride fast without necessarily having the skills to ride at such speeds. Making this person a danger, not only to themselves, but everyone else they encounter.

My opinion is, if you add a motor, it no longer a bicycle, it is a motorcycle, and if you are going to ride a motorcycle, get a proper one, like a Harley-Davidson. You will at least get more respect from other road users.

As for Steve’s question about the scooter’s popularity. I can only surmise that people have no shame anymore. What next Electric Pogo Sticks?

Feel free to add your views for or against E-Bikes and Electric Scooters.


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Going around corners

Roll a wheel or for that matter any round flat object on a flat surface and it will roll in a circle. Even something as small as a coin. It will continue rolling in ever decreasing circles until it finally falls and settles in one spot. This is a demonstration of gyroscopic action, and the way it works.

That is, a spinning wheel will remain upright as long as it keeps spinning. When it loses 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 paragraph above.

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. 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 and cannot turn within the frame, it is still spinning and leaning therefore assisting in steering the bike as a whole around the corner. 

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. (See top picture.)

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. 

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.

Again, the law of physics states that a moving object will travel in a straight line until an opposing force causes it to change direction. These centrifugal we speak of are nothing more than momentum causing the bike and rider to continue straight while attempting to turn left or right.

We lean into the corner; the wheels steer us in the direction we need to go, and gravity counterbalances the forces that want us to keep us going straight.

At slow speeds this is an instinctive move, higher speeds require more skill. Lean too little and you will go wide and off the road on the outside. Lean too far and the bike will slide out from under you, and you will slide across the road in the direction momentum wanted to take you in the first place.

The design of the bike, in particular the frame will give the bike these desired steering qualities. Head angles, fork rake and wheelbase, even the weight distribution of the rider, all play a role. After that it is the skill of the rider. Done right it is a joy to execute, and a joy to watch others do properly.


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Dave’s Bread Pudding

When I started racing in the 1950s there were no protein bars, the food we carried in our jersey pockets while racing, or musette bags on long training rides, was prepared at home. One of my favorites was my mother’s bread pudding.

Many bread pudding recipes turn out so soft that you need a spoon to eat them, and too wet and sloppy to carry in your pocked and eat in your hand. This bread pudding could be cut in handy size pieces, wrapped in grease proof paper or aluminum foil, and would not fall apart in your pocket or your hand as you ate it.

However, it was moist like a pudding, rather than dry like a cake. Therefore, easy to chow down while riding. I can pretty much remember what went into it, having watched my mother make her bread pudding for many years, long before I even got into bike racing.

The main ingredient was left over stale bread, milk, eggs, butter, etc. like any cake or pudding, but what proportions for the ingredients?

There was only one way to find out, actually put one together, bake it and eat it. Maybe my mother was looking over my shoulder as I assembled it, because it turned out exactly as I remember.

The main difference was my mother always added cocoa or cooking chocolate. I used Dr. John Gray’s Protein shake mix. (Left.)

I used this because it is something I drink daily, and it was on hand. It is not cheap, so I don’t suggest you buy it just to make the occasional bread pudding. But if you have something similar on hand, use it, or substitute cocoa or cooking chocolate.


8 cups white bread, cut into ½ inch cubes. If you can crumble the bread further into breadcrumbs, even better.

3/4 cup raisins.

3/4 cup brown coconut sugar, (Substitute regular brown sugar.)

4 cups whole milk.

3 Large Eggs.

2  Tablespoons Coconut oil. (Substitute butter.)

4 Tablespoons Cholate Protein Mix. (Substitute Cocoa or cooking chocolate.)

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon


Mix the cubed or crumbled bread thoroughly with the raisins, then place in a greased dish, to fill the bottom of the dish to the halfway line. (Grease dish with additional coconut oil or butter.)

Place all the other 6 ingredients in a blender and blend. If you don’t have a blender mix thoroughly by hand.

Pour the liquid from the blender over the breadcrumbs to cover the bread completely, but not excessively. Use a little extra milk if it doesn’t.

I used a fairly large oven proof casserole dish, 10 in. x 10 in. x 2 ½ in. deep. It took 8 cups of bread (About 12 slices.) to half fill the dish. If you use a smaller dish, discover how much bread it will take to fill the dish to the halfway line, and scale back the other ingredients proportionately.

The pudding will rise slightly as it cooks, hence you only fill the dish halfway. But the dish needs to be deep enough that the uncooked pudding is at least one inch deep, or it may dry out in the center.

Place the open dish in the center of the oven and bake at 375 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a knife pushed in the center comes out clean. I baked mine for 55 minutes, a smaller dish may take less time.

Allow to cool, then refrigerate. The bread pudding should be hard and crisp on the outside but soft and moist on the inside. Cut into handy size pieces, and wrap in aluminum foil, or place in a zip-lock sandwich bag.

A good size piece like the one pictured above should be good for 50 miles. Your mileage may vary.


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