Dave Moulton

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Dying for Freedom

We are told that Freedom is not Free, that people die in order that we have freedom. When a soldier goes to war he volunteers and he accepts that he could possibly die, after all a war consists of people on both sides trying to kill each other.  

When a person climbs into their car to go shopping, or on a business trip, or another gets on their bicycle, they do not accept that they could possibly die. They are not volunteering to sacrifice their life in the cause of freedom.

Back in 2011 the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that all electronic devices be banned from use while driving. One would think he NTSB has some clout, this is the organization that looks into airplane and train crashes.

Read any article reporting the NTSB’s recommendation and look at the comments that follow. People are talking about “Big Brother Government,” etc. etc. There followed a huge outcry against a cell phone ban while driving. People were concerned that a freedom was being taken away from them.

People are in denial, they think they can dial, talk, and even text safely while driving. The NTSB’s recommendation came about because a report showed that 3,092 people died the previous year because of distracted driving.

Compare the 3,092 who died in one year because of distracted driving, with the 4500 who died in nine years fighting a war in Iraq. You could say the 3,092 also gave their lives for freedom. The freedom to use a cell phone while driving, but ask the family members of those who died if their loved ones are viewed as heroes, Many of those who died were the ones using the cell phone.

My main concern is the number of young people in their teens and early twenties texting and driving. These are the ones with the least amount of driving skills, engaging in the most dangerous form of cell phone use.

The annoying part I find is that most calls and text messages sent and received are not essential. These are not important business calls that drive commerce, these are idle, stupid chit-chat between friends and family. I saw one TV clip where a 19 year old boy stated, “I sent an insignificant text, ‘LOL’ and I killed a man.”

So how did the NYB getting involved play out? Were there any widespread new laws be passed, and are the police enforcing them? Do the courts hold people accountable for their actions, and hand down the appropriate penalties?

When a local cyclist was run down from behind and killed by a distracted driver, the driver paid a $113 ticket. The same week a friend of mine got a $1,000 ticket for playing loud music in his apartment. The law is totally cockeyed.

There used to be another freedom that was never really legal but was tolerated for many years. The freedom to get totally shit faced and then get behind the wheel of a car. Although some people still drink and drive it is no longer socially accepted.

Had the driver who hit this cyclist been drunk he would have almost certainly gone to prison, but the outcome makes little difference to this unfortunate bike rider. Either way, he is still dead, and the only freedom he died for was the one to ride his bike on the road.

However, he did not voluntarily give his life in the cause of freedom, and will not necessarily be viewed as a hero. Society does not grant that luxury to his friends and family, but society wants, and even expects the freedom to continue using cell phones while driving,


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1976 UK built custom

Just the last week on the Dave Moulton Bikes, Facebook group page, this custom frame showed up. Built in 1976, posted by its current owner Mark Awford. Mark inherited the bike from his uncle. and lives in Worcester, England, which is where the frame was built.

I still have my original frame numbers record book (See below.) This frame a 21 inch number M6178 along with the 22 ½ inch number M6177 above it, were sold to someone named O’Keefe and shipped to Alaska.  On the page it appears “Ontario” was written, then scribbled out and “Alaska” written in. 

I shipped a number of frames to Alaska during the 1970s. The customer’s that bought them were workers on the Alaskan Oil Pipeline, being constructed at that time. These men were earning large amounts of money and were in a remote area with nowhere to spend it. It all started when one of these workers wrote to me and ordered a complete bike. From that came orders from other pipeline workers.

If this bike was indeed shipped to Alaska, and I have no reason to doubt that it was, I find it a strange and almost bizarre coincidence that the bike should end up back in Worcester. All my Alaskan orders were for complete bikes, whereas most of my domestic orders were for frames only.

This one still has its original wheels. The rims have a “Built by Andy Thompson” sticker on them. (See below.) Andy, an excellent wheel builder, often worked for me in my shop, and it is his handwriting in my frame numbers book for this particular order.

A word about the finish, this frame has its original paint. The contrasting color head tube and bands around the seat tube were typical of English frames built in the 1970s, simply masked off with strips of one inch masking tape

However, the thin black lines and the precise lug lining, were the work of Les Schrivens, a local bike rider who with his father were sign writers by trade. These lines and stripes were all hand panted with a brush. Another Les Schrivens feature was the little motive he did on the seat-stay top eyes. Each one was unique and different for every frame. (See below.) It is a little feature that only the UK built frames have.


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Analyzing Depression

I came across this map of the world which shows, by country, the percentage of population diagnosed with depression.

The most depressed people it appears live in the United States, United Kingdom, Ukraine, and France. The fact that the top three all begin with the letter “U” does not go unnoticed, so it is best to avoid living in countries that begin with “U.”

Three of the top countries (USA, UK, and France.) may be the most depressed in the world, but at least they know where they are. As the depression rate drops, it seems people are less sure where in the world they belong on this map.

People in the Netherlands, for example, think they are in Iceland. Germany thinks it is in Shanghai, while Shanghai appears to be in New Zealand, and Beijing thinks it is in Iraq. People from Shanghai and Beijing are so NOT depressed that they think they are countries, when the last time I checked, they were cities.

Another country with a low depression rate is Italy, which thinks it is on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border. Could it be the people in these less depressed places have a subconscious desire to move to a more depressing place to tone down their feeling of joy. Japan, for example, thinks it is in the Persian Gulf. Maybe their desire is to be nearer the oil.

The least depressed place in the world, according to this map, is Nigeria, who, it appears, knows what continent it is on. However, it thinks it is several thousand miles away on the east coast of Africa. When last I checked it was on the west coast.

Mexico has a depression rate that is exactly half that of the United States, and it thinks it is in Brazil. It also proves my theory that less depressed people have a desire to move to places where they can be more depressed. It doesn’t matter how bad things get in America, we don’t see a mass exodus south from the US into Mexico.

We can learn a lot from maps like this, that psychologists are poor at geography for example. Of course it couldn’t be that America has the highest depression rate in the world because we have more doctors diagnosing people as depressed?

It doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that in the United States we are bombarded nightly with TV ads for anti-depressant medication. The result being that more people trot off to their doctor to sign up for said medication, when according to this map all they need to do is book a flight to Nigeria.

It also doesn’t go unnoticed that you can’t spell “Analyzing” without “Anal,” which may account for the fact that most analysts pull numbers out of their ass. It’s probably where they got their map references too.

I hope after reading this, you are now less depressed


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What if the Automobile had come first?

What if the bicycle had never been invented in the late 1800s, would engineers come up with a similar design today?  Even if they did, I doubt it would be taken seriously as a viable form of personal transport.

The bicycle came into being at a time when the only other form of personal transport was the horse. These animals were not only expensive to buy, they needed feeding and housing. Working class people could not afford horses.

However, once the bicycle had been invented, and a few years later mass production put this new machine within reach of the poorer classes it became a revolutionary form of personal transport. Many forget that the automobile came later and eventually replaced the horse as the wealthy person’s transport of choice.

I often wonder, what if the automobile had come first? The poorer working classes would have continued living in cities where they could get to work either on foot or by rail or other form of public transport.

The bicycle had less of an impact on America’s history, because in the US it was the automobile that became affordable due to mass production, and the luxury of plenty of space led to urban sprawl, and the suburbs.

In the UK and other smaller European countries, it became viable for a working class man to live in a rural area, and cycle 5 to 10 miles to work each day. The humble bike was the working man’s wheels all the way up to the late 1950s, early 1960s. 

Even though commuting to work by bicycle is a hard sell today for the majority, think how much harder it would be if engineers were only just developing the bicycle now. Almost everyone can at least ride a bicycle, and most households have at least one bike in their garage.

Would today’s engineers even think of a two-wheeled vehicle? If there were no bicycles there would be no motorcycles, only four wheel vehicles. There had always been four wheel horse drawn vehicles, so it was inevitable once steam and gasoline engines were invented the automobile would follow. Don’t forget the first autos were called “Horseless Carriages.”

Above: A German Draisine or Laufmaschine, circa 1820. Predecessor of the bicycle.

The bicycle’s predecessor, the Hobby Horse came on the scene in the early 1800s as a rich man’s whimsical plaything, it only needed two wheels because its rider kept his feet on the ground. No doubt it was soon discovered that its rider could lift his feet clear of the ground and remain balanced when coasting downhill. 

What has always amazed me is that it took until towards the end of the 1800s for someone to attach a simple foot crank to the front wheel and it became a bicycle.

I started out by mentioning that before the bicycle the only form of personal transport was the horse. I am sure ever since men rode horses, children pretended to ride horses astride a stick picked up from the ground.

When the wheel was invented, model horses with wheels were made as children’s toys, from this came the adult version in the 1800s. The Hobby Horse was a pretend horse, and from that came the bicycle. The bicycle evolved, rather than it was invented, it was certainly not invented by any one person. 

It is one of the simplest and most efficient machines that humankind has ever made. What I find surprising is that today almost 200 years later, engineers are still asking, “How does its rider balance, and how does it steer?” The bicycle still raises more questions than answers.

I for one doubt very much that today’s engineers, even knowing about gyroscopic precession, caster action and such, would even think of building a two-wheeled vehicle for personal transport. Even if they did, consumer agencies would no doubt deem it too dangerous and take steps to ban its use. I am glad that the bicycle came first and then the automobile, it may not have even happened the other way round.

What do you think? Just a little food for thought for you to munch on.


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How a single ride changed the face of British Time Trialing

In England, in 1953, the top British time trialist was a man named Ken Joy. (Left.)

The previous year he had ridden a 100 miles in 4 hours and 6 minutes, which at that time was phenomenal.

In the early 1950s, British riders racing against the clock invariably rode on a single fixed wheel.

48 x 15, or 48 x 16 (86.4 inch or 81 inch.) would be a typical gear ratio used for 100 miles. Courses would be selected over the flattest possible terrain.

At the end of 1952 Ken Joy turned professional and was sponsored by Hercules, a large manufacturer of roadster bikes, located in Birmingham, England. As British time trialing did not have a professional category, the only thing open for Ken Joy, was to ride solo and attack the many place to place records and distance records under the auspices of the Road Records Association.

So when Ken Joy was invited to ride in the Grand Prix des Nations in 1953 it created tremendous excitement for the average British Club Rider. This famous French event was after all considered to be the unofficial World Time Trial Championship of Professional Cycling.

Britain was somewhat cut off and isolated from the rest of Europe as far as cycling was concerned. We were in our own little world of time trialing, and the time trials held on the continent of Europe were odd distances, and held on courses that were not always flat, so how did you compare.

There was much speculation in the weeks leading up to the event as to how well Ken Joy would do. After all he had to be in with a chance, 100 miles in 4 hours 6 minutes is not exactly hanging around, by any standard.

I was 17 years old at the time and in my second year of racing, mostly time trialing; I was definitely caught up in all the excitement. The Grand Prix des Nations was to be run over a distance of 142 kilometers, which was just over 88 miles, a distance that would suit Joy.

The event was held on a weekend, and a few of the major British newspapers had the results in Monday’s morning edition. However we had to wait until the following Wednesday when the “Cycling” magazine came out to get the full impact of what had transpired.

The event was won by a then unknown 19 year old French rider named Jacques Anquetil. Not only did he beat Ken Joy, he started 16 minutes behind the British rider and caught and passed him. A nineteen year old kid, just two years older than me, had trounced the best that Britain had to offer.

There were two British professional riders in the 1953 event; the other was Bob Maitland whose previous riding was mostly in NCU Mass Start Circuit Races. I seem to remember Maitland finished with a better time than Joy, but both were well down the field. Later in 1955, Bob Maintland did become part of the first British team to ride the Tour de France.

I remember well the above picture of Anquetil, low, aerodynamic, with his hands curled around the slim Mafac brake hoods. His mechanic standing on the running board of the following car with a spare bike on his shoulder. This was a whole different world, a whole different level of bike racing.

This one ride changed the face of British time trialing. Anquetil used a five speed free-wheel, with 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 cogs. With a single 53 tooth chainwheel; it gave him a top gear of 102 inches. This was the highest ratio mechanically possible at that time. Soon after British time trialists would abandon fixed wheel and use five speed straight up 14 to 18, and later 13 to 17 free wheels.

Jacques Anquetil of course went on to become one of the great cyclists of all time. Winning the Grand Prix des Nations 9 times, and going on to become the first man to win the Tour de France five times.

The Grand Prix des Nations which started in 1932, and became one of the professional classics, was held annually until 2005 when it was abandoned after the UCI inaugurated an official World Time Trial Championship.


Footnote: If you haven't already done so, read this 3 part series: The History of British Cycle Racing. It tells of the ban on road racing in Britain that lasted 50 years, and how a handful of cyclists fought to get this ban lifted. Britain's current success in cycling is due in part to those who went before and dragged the sport out of the dark ages

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