Dave Moulton

More pictures of my past work can be viewed in the Photo Gallery on the Owner's Registry. A link is in the navigation bar at the top

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Museum Piece

1985 was a busy year for me. My San Marcos, California shop had been open for two years, I had attended the Interbike Trade show several years and as a result I was building a network of bicycle dealers throughout California, and across the USA.

My big seller was the Fuso. Introduced a year earlier in 1984, just one model that I now refer to as the 1st. Generation model. I built over 500 Fuso frames that year. I has a team of 5 employees who prepared materials for me, so I could just stand and braze frames all day.

With all this repartition I could braze cleanly enough that the frames needed only a minimum clean up to be ready for sand-blasting and paint. My employees did this clean up, and I also had a full time painter.

1985 was also the year the Recherché was introduced, and I built an unknown number of these too. I also built just a few custom ‘dave moulton’ frames that year, nine to be exact. Built one at a time and doing all the work myself, including the paint, these frames were somewhat disruptive to the work flow of everything else.   

However, these frames commanded a top dollar price tag, and it was satisfying to have the opportunity to build something special, like this one pictured here.

The order came from Daniel Boone Cycles, in Houston, Texas. It was built for an up and coming young attorney.

Most of these custom frames went to attorneys, doctors or others with the discretionary income to be able to afford the cost of all this extra work. Some five or six years later, this same attorney moved west to California, where he later became Los Angeles District Attorney.

Before he left Houston he sold the bike back to Daniel Boone Cycles. In 1993, which incidentally was the year I left the bike business, the bike was bought by Russell Rollins who wrote about the experience here.

Russell recently wrote on the “Dave Moulton Bikes Facebook Page:”

The bike is in The Houston Bicycle Museum where it belongs. I miss riding it but I felt it should be seen by others and Dave's story should be known. It is beautiful to see and even more beautiful to experience the ride. Dave told me he built the bikes to ride, not to be pieces of art. I understand his philosophy but life looks a little different from "our" point of view.

By “our point of view,” Russell means of course, the DM bike enthusiasts. My own POV has also changed slightly. Many of the bikes I built are being ridden, which brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. Others sit in garages and basements waiting to be discovered.

For something like this that I put so many hours labor into it, is rare enough that possibly it is where it should be. In the Houston Bicycle Museum.

The two things that determine the way the bike feels when riding it. The design, and the fact that the frame was built straight. All the beautiful paint and chrome is just aesthetics, a modest Fuso or Recherché will feel exactly the same to ride. And for a fraction of the price of this one.


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Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

I was recently driving on a busy street near my home. I was first in line at a red light, with a stream of traffic lined up behind me.  The light changed and I moved off. The area was residential with a 30 mph speed limit.

I had yet to reach that speed when up ahead a man with a dog on a leash, walked briskly across the street. Crossing from left to right, looking straight ahead, cell phone pressed to his right ear, deep in conversation, seemingly oblivious to me and the rest of the approaching traffic.

I could have laid on the car horn, but instead I slowed down, estimating that at our current respective speeds, he would be safely across the street by the time I drew level, and we could both be on our separate ways.

I was feeling good about myself. I was driving responsibly. Sure he was jay walking, this was not a pedestrian crossing. But, share the road with a fellow traveler, and all that good stuff. My slowing in the interest of his safety was the right thing to do.

But suddenly the man stopped and turned to face me, I had to brake hard and come to a complete stop. This was not a sudden realization “I am in danger,” stop. This was a deliberate.

Hands thrown outwards, palms out, eyes and mouth open with a fake dumb expression. The universal body language we all know to mean, “What the Fuck?” I wanted to say, "Hey, I'm the one paying attention. I'm the one not talking on my phone. Now suddenly, I'm the bad guy..... Really!"

He stood there for a moment, glaring at me through my windshield, long enough to make his point. (Whatever that was.) I couldn't see his dog's expression, he was out of view below dashboard level. Maybe he was doing a canine WTF too. I just threw my hands up and shook my head, as if to say, “I give up, I thought I was doing the right thing.”

On the rest of my drive home, I noticed almost every pedestrian I saw had a phone to their ear. What has become of our society that everyone has to be on the phone every waking moment, to the extent they can’t take it away from their ear for a brief moment to cross a busy street safely?


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My Paint Curing Oven

When I went to work for Masi at the end of 1980, I immediately found that the level of paint finish they achieved on their frames was at a far higher standard than I had previously seen.

I had painted my own frames in England for a number of years before coming to the US in 1979. I knew how to handle a paint gun.

What I had not been exposed to was applying multiple clear coats to the frame, then sanding the surface with wet and dry sandpaper, to an absolute overall smooth surface, before applying a final overall clear coat.

Masi had two essential pieces of equipment that were needed to achieve this level of paint finish. A totally enclosed dust free paint booth and a paint curing oven.

The paint booth was a scaled down automotive booth, with a large electric fan that exhausted through the roof of the building. Replaceable filters caught the paint over-spray, and on the air inlet side of the booth, were special “Sticky” filters that caught dust as the air came through. Both inlet and exhaust filters were replaced every month or so.

Masi’s paint curing oven was no doubt shipped over from Italy along with all the other specialist bicycle manufacturing equipment when the Masi facility opened sometime in the 1970s.

The Imron paint we used had a chemical hardener added to it, and so would air dry “dust-free” at room temperature in ten or fifteen minutes. However, in order for the paint to be hard enough to sand, it would take days, even weeks to cure. A paint curing oven was therefore essential to the process.

When I set up my own facility in 1982, I needed this same paint equipment if I was to produce paint work to this same high standard. The paint booth was no problem as these are made up of standard sheet steel panels that bolt together. One can order a paint booth in any size of configuration.

I ordered one from a company in nearby Los Angeles. It was 12 foot square, (3.63 m.)  and totally enclosed as previously described. It was divided into a 7 ft. (2.13 m.) room where the frames were sprayed, and a 5 ft. (1.52 m.) room where frames hung waiting to be painted, and where they also hung after painting, waiting to ‘flash off,’ and become dust free.

Air flowed from back to front through both these two sections, keeping overspray from the newly painted frames.

The Paint oven was a whole different matter. I doubt any such piece of equipment, specifically for bicycle frames, was even made in the US. However, I did find a used bakers oven that I figured I could adapt and make it work. It was about 7 ft. tall, 8 ft. wide, and about 4 ft. deep. (2.13 m. x 2.43 m. x 1.21 m.)

The front was enclosed except for a small door where the bread and cakes were put in, and taken out. It was made of sheet steel panels, insulated with glass-fiber in between. I cut the whole front off with a hammer and cold chisel.

Inside was a rotating conveyer that carried the baked goods around the over as they baked. I had to remove and discard all this, and make hooks to hang 10 frames and forks as I remember.

I constructed two doors that split in the center, using 3 inch angle iron for the frame, sheet steel outside and inside with fiber-glass insulation between. I made the heavy duty hinges, and a special cam operated bolt system, to hold the door closed tight against a heat proof sealing strip.

The oven had large electric heating elements in the bottom, and a control panel on one end.  The temperature this oven could attain far exceeded that needed to cure paint. I set the temperature at 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121 C.)  The oven would take about 15 minutes to reach 250 F. then would shut off automatically. It would then take another 30 minutes to cool down.

A 45 minute bake would cure the paint to a degree that would normally take weeks to air dry. Also I believe the reason the paint has held up so well, on some of my frames over 30 years old, the paint was hard and thoroughly cured when the left my shop.  Air dried paint usually chips in the first year when the paint is soft and vulnerable.

Above is the only picture I could find of the oven.


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1970s TT Bike

Fag paper clearances. (British slang for cigarette paper.) Meaning the rear wheel was so close to the seat tube that you could barely get a cigarette paper between the tire and the frame tube. See the picture above.

This was an extreme fashion fad in the UK during the mid-1970s especially on time trial bikes. It served no useful purpose except to make the chainstays shorter thereby saving a little weight, and making the rear triangle a little stiffer. The frames were usually built using vertical rear dropouts to achieve the close clearance.

When fads like this become fashion a framebuilder can do little but follow the latest trend, or lose business. I was no different. However, I did not follow the extremes of some framebuilders who built these frames with clearances so close you had to deflate the rear tire to get the wheel in and out. This bordered on the ridiculous. 

Some built frames with extremely steep head angles so the front wheel barely cleared the down tube. This was a part of the trend I refused to follow, as it made for some very “squirrelly” bikes. The last thing a rider needs is a squirrelly time trial bike, a TT bike needs to hold a straight line.

I remember one frame (not one of mine.) brought to me for repair. The down tube and top tube were bent. My first question was, “What did you hit?” The owner replied, “Nothing, I slowed to take a corner, and the frame collapsed under me.”

When I inspected the frame the first thing I noticed was a black rubber tire mark under the down tube right where the tube folded. It became clear to me what had happened. The front wheel was so close to the down tube that when the rider applied the front brake there was enough flex that the front wheel touched the down tube.

Maybe his headset was a little loose, whatever the cause, once the front wheel touched it would have stopped the bike very quickly and the forward momentum folded the frame. I replaced the top and down tubes, making sure to make the head angle a little shallower, making for a little more front wheel clearance.

The bike pictured at the top was one I built for John Patston, an international class rider who represented Great Britain on their national team. In the above picture, John Patston is leading, followed by Paul Carbutt, and Pete Hall. (All on ‘dave moulton’ frames.)

The forth rider Grant Thomas is obscured behind Patston. This was the British Team riding in the 1975 World Championship 100 km. Team Time Trial event.

John Patston was primarily a road rider, very strong and aggressive, often riding away from the opposition to win solo. If others stayed with him, he would usually win the finishing sprint. He was also an excellent time trialist. 

I received a great deal of publicity from this particular bike. It featured in the British “Cycling” magazine. (Affectionately known by cyclists throughout the UK, as “The Comic.”) 

I can’t remember whether the bike was built in Columbus or Reynolds tubing, but the complete bike built up with Campagnolo titanium components, weighed in a 19 lbs. Pretty light for 1977 when this was built.

The bike was also featured in “The Penguin Book of the Bicycle” published in 1978. (Left.) The same photo shown at the top was used for the title page as the book was opened. (See below.) 

My name on the frame's down tube was airbrushed from the picture, as were the spokes from the wheels to make room for the title text. However, the same picture appeared again later in the book on page 97, this time with my name intact.

The frame was painted black and had gold pin striping on the edges of the lugs. It also had John’s initials “JP” painted in gold on the seatstay caps.

Cycling magazine could not mention John Patston by name because of the strick ametuer status rules of that time. (Although most readers could figure out who JP was.) However, the magazine drew an interesting parallel, one that I had not realized when I chose that particular color scheme.

The British tobacco giant “John Player,” also with initials JP, sponsored a Grand Prix racing team at that time. The cars built by Lotus were painted black with gold lettering.


This article was first posted in March 2008

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I've got nothing

Sitting at the keyboard
Staring at the screen,
A case of bike blog writer’s block
The worst I’ve ever seen.

The bicycle so simple
You push one pedal down,
The other one comes up again
And the wheels go round and round.

Have I reached the limit?
Is there any more to say?
Will it all come back again
If I wait another day?

I go on to Bike Forums
To try to find ideas
But they’re asking “If I shave my legs,
Will my wife think I’m queer?” 

I struggle to find answers
To questions quite inane,
Like, "Do you still commute to work
If it looks like rain."

And on the vintage forum
Someone’s asking for advice,
On dating a Bottechia
I say, “Why not if she’s nice.”

Writing about nothing
And even make it rhyme,
Is really not that difficult
All it takes is time.

But to write exclusively about
A subject like a bike, 
And try to keep it interesting
The stuff that people like.

Is really not that easy
And like my Momma said,
There will always be days like these
When there’s nothing in my head.

If by chance you are still reading
Maybe I’ve entertained,
I’ve made something out of nothing
And my posting’s not in vain.

Please check back again, after this it can only get better.

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