Dave Moulton

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Monday
Mar122018

Passion

Cycling is a passion, or rather, it can become one. Many people ride a bike, not all of them can be described as passionate about it. Passion is one of those words that is not easy to explain, one has to experience passion to know what it truly is.

Cycling becomes a passion when someone rides a bike for no other reason than to experience the joy of riding a bike. If you have a passion for something in life, you are truly living. Without passion, a person is simply existing.

Sometimes the passion is in owning the bike, or collecting and owning more than one bike. Working on the bike, looking at and admiring the bike. Sometimes this passion goes hand in hand with riding the bike, but not necessarily so. The two passions can exist separately, and even one without the other.

There is a fine line between ownership as a passion, and simple materialism. The only way I can speculate the difference. If the object you own brings you joy, it is a passion.  If it is owning the object that brings joy, it is probably materialism.  

To put it another way few people have a passion for driving anymore. Few people go for a Sunday Drive, as one would go for a Sunday Bike Ride. Driving is for the purpose of reaching a destination. Owning a nice car, (The object,) brings joy, but roads are too congested to really enjoy driving the car, for driving itself to become a passion.

People who say, “Cyclists should not be on the road because it is dangerous,” just don’t get it. It is like telling a surfer it is dangerous to go into the ocean, the surfer who is passionate about surfing is not going to stop.

It is not that cyclists and surfers are crazy, foolhardy, with little regard for their life. In fact, the opposite is true. If one has a passion for life, the last thing that person wants is to end it. On the other hand, if one cannot engage in their passion, they are no longer living anyway. Life becomes a pointless existence. 

Passion can include anger, especially if someone suggests I should not pursue my passion, which happens to be riding my bike on the road. It is a road bike after all, and just as a surfer must surf in the ocean, a road bike must be ridden on the road. 

Some will say, “You have a local bike path, why don’t you ride there?” Yes I am fortunate to have a paved Walk and Bike Trail just two miles from my home. It is 7 miles long, so 14 miles out and home. But after riding it many times, the monotony has got me itching to get out on the open road, and actually go somewhere.

On weekends I pick quiet country roads to ride where there is very little motorized traffic, and actually I prefer to deal with a few cars and trucks over the dog walkers and runners on the shared path.

Of course, they have a right to be there too, so I am not complaining. Some of these runners and dog owners may be following their own passion. 

 

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Monday
Mar052018

Supply and Demand

 

This week a bike I built, (Pictured above.) a Fuso FRX model, is up for sale on eBay. The asking price is $2,500. That is more than twice what it would sell for if it were offered on open auction. More money than it cost new in 1990, when it was built. See this article here.

It is a nice one I will admit, in almost mint condition, it has obviously had little use, but I built 2,400 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993. They are not that rare. Maybe one of my custom ‘dave moulton’ bikes, if it were in this condition, might go for over $2,000, but I only built 216 of those. Big difference.

How about “Demand,” the other side of the equation? I have a Registry that has (At the time of writing.) 358 Fuso bikes listed. Some owners have more than one Fuso in their collection, so this is less than 358 owners. Not a large number considering there were over 2,400 built.

These are owners who care enough about the Fuso brand to email me with details so I can add their bike to the list. So let me ask this. Given the relatively small number of true Fuso enthusiasts, how many would be owners are waiting in the wings, on the lookout for a frame or bike to buy? Not many, and not at these outrageous prices.

The problem Is, the bikes on eBay offered at these high prices, rarely sell. They just sit there for weeks on end, then they disappear for a while, only to be relisted again at a later date, at the same high price. So when someone happens to inherit a Fuso, or they find one in a thrift store, or garage sale. (It does happen.) They see these greatly inflated prices on eBay, and think they have struck gold.

The “Supply and Demand” factor came into play when the frames were built. There were more of the mid sizes built, 56, 57, and 58 centimeters. These were in greater demand, because there are more cyclists that fall within these sizes. The next most popular were the sizes above and below these sizes, namely 59, 60, 61, and 53, 54, 55 centimeter.

There were fewer very large and very small sizes built because there were less people needing these sizes. The same supply and demand factor applies today. There will be more demand for the mid-size frames, however, there will be more of these coming up for sale, because there were more of the built.   

Conversely, the very large or very small frames are in less demand, but there were fewer built. This means if an extreme large or small frame comes up for sale, you may get it at a bargain price, because you are the only one needing that size. On the other hand if there are two or more bidders, the price will go higher.

The buyer then has to make a decision. Pay more, or wait for another to come along in this size, knowing it might be a while because of its comparative rarity. Whether you pay more or not, depends a lot on the frame’s condition. If, for example the paint is really nice, pay a little extra. If the paint is rough, let it go.

Educate yourself by following sales on eBay and Craig’s List. Join the “Dave Moulton Bikes” group on Facebook. Members there are always posting and discussing bikes for sale. I have no financial interest on any frames sold online, so I have no interest in influencing prices. I just hate to see anyone get ripped off, whether they are buyer or seller.

I try to maintain interest in the brands I built, John Howard, Fuso, Recherché, etc., with this blog, and my Registry. My loyalty is with the people who own and ride bikes I built, not those who wish to profit unfairly with over-inflated prices.

I will not be building any more frames, so the supply will never increase, but there are still plenty out there in people’s basements and garages, waiting to be discovered. When the list of Fuso owners on my Registry reaches a thousand, I will consider there is a demand.

 

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Monday
Feb262018

Bikes and Auto Insurance: Do they run on the same business model?

I am sometimes asked: “You were a frame builder, so you didn’t actually make complete bicycles?”

I explain that I built frames that either had the ‘dave moulton’ name on them, or Fuso, or Recherché. And when these frames were later built up into a bicycle, the assembled item became a ‘dave moulton, Fuso or Recherché bicycle.

I further explained that the bike business is not like the auto or motorcycle industry, where a company manufactures all the parts, and then assembles them into a car or motorcycle. When it comes to high end bicycles the components are either Shimano, Campagnolo, or Sram. And even the lower priced bikes are mostly built up with the lower priced Shimano groups.

Even the big three American companies, Trek, Cannondale and Specialized design and produce a frame with their company name on it, and that’s it. All three companies’ bikes are then built up with Shimano, Campagnolo, or Sram and the end consumer gets to decide which he/she wants.

Notice I said the Big Three “Produce” a frame. With a few exceptions they don’t actually make it. That is done in a factory in China or Taiwan, and it is possible that some of these different brands are made in the same factory. Frame design is pretty standard these days, same angles, tube lengths, fork rake, etc. No one is going out on a limb to make anything too radical.

So all three are basically selling the same item, each is no better, no worse than the other. This is why there is so much spent on marketing, the cost of which gets added to the cost of the bicycle, and passed on down to the end consumer. In most cases the consumer gladly pays this price because the marketing has convinced him that it should cost this much for the very best bike.

It occurred to me that this business model is not far removed from that of the large auto insurance companies. The Big Three bike companies assemble a bicycle with a frame that costs about the same as their competitors’ frame, with the same components that also have a fixed cost.

The Insurance companies assemble a package of insurance services that boil down to the same repairs carried out by independent body shops all over the US, at the same basic cost. The reason we see so much advertising on TV for auto insurance is because these companies are all going after the same consumer.

The one who spends the most on marketing, convinces the consumer that their insurance is the best, when if the truth be known, each is probably no better, no worse than the rest.

Part of bike marketing is supporting a professional team, which is a tremendous cost, Specialized does not support a team, but is an equipment supplier only. Cannondale used to have a team, but had to give up when costs got too high, and like Specialized stay in the sport as equipment supplier In other words, they are co-sponsors of teams.

This just leaves Trek with a fully sponsored factory team. So it will be interesting to see if they will continue to support a complete team. And if so, will their product cost more, and will it be perceived as better?

 

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Monday
Feb192018

On the road again

It’s been a cold winter. Not by standards of those living in the Northern United States, or some other parts of the world. But cold for South Carolina and certainly cold enough to keep me off my bike.

You can call me soft in my old age, but I’ve done my share of riding in below freezing temperatures over the years. However, those days are long gone, and now it has to be at least 55 F (12.7 C.)  or above to get me outside on a bike.

This last weekend was the first mild one, and the first opportunity I have had to ride since last November. Temperatures were in the low to mid 60s, (16 – 18 C.) warm enough for shorts even. Cloudy, and over-cast, with a fairly stiff breeze blowing, made it cold enough for a long sleeve, fleecy lined jersey.

My wife Kathy, and steadfast riding companion joined me, as we did an easy 22 miles on Saturday. We had both kept our weight steady through the winter, by weighing ourselves daily, and monitoring our food intake. I maintained 150 lbs., (68 kg.) and Kathy 116 lbs. (52.6 kg.)

Sunday was a repeat of Saturday’s weather, and we got in another 30 miles. A little harder this time, I felt it in my legs towards the end, and could tell I hadn’t been riding. My butt told me too, it was a little sore. But all in all, not too bad. Keeping the weight off, I felt, helped a lot.

After an almost three month layoff, I expected these first rides to be harder. I had done a daily two mile brisk walk, most days whenever the weather permitted. Even when it was down to freezing I wrapped up warm and went for a walk.

Walking is okay when it is the only exercise I can manage, but I can’t say I really enjoy it, especially when limited to local streets. In my book, you can’t beat a good bike ride, and actually going somewhere. Looking forward to warmer days and more riding.

 

Footnote: My bike is a modern FUSO built by Russ Denny, who was my former apprentice. A welded Columbus steel frame with a carbon fork. Kathy’s bike is a 49 cm. 1st. Generation FUSO that I built in 1985. Both bikes are built up using Campagnolo Athena Groups.

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Monday
Feb122018

Asleep at the Wheel

It is no secret that when I left the bike business in 1993 I fell on hard times financially. It was the reason I had to give up framebuilding. People stopped buying road bikes in favor of mountain bikes.

My car reflected my financial status. It was a piece of junk, 1975 Mercury Staton Wagon. Not the one pictured here, mine was in much worse condition and in need of repair. Not the kind of vehicle one would take pictures to save and show to their grandchildren.

It did however come with certain advantages, it gave me right of way for one. On those six and eight lane freeways they have in Southern California it is necessary to make several lane changes long before your exit. People are not too good at letting you do this, you are forced to just put on your turn signal on and ease on over.

I found with a car like a beat up 1975 Mercury Station Wagon people tended to give way real quick when I started to change lanes. He who has the least to loose, has right of way, it’s an unwritten law.

A big disadvantage with my old clunker, the air conditioning didn’t work, but in Southern California I could manage without it. Although the climate is hot, the air is dry and driving with all the windows down was actually quite pleasant.

My arm resting on the top edge of the door, my hand on the rear view mirror, the breeze blowing up my shirt sleeve keeping my body’s natural cooling system, namely my armpit, working efficiently.

The only problem with this form of nature’s air conditioning is that it broke down at any time I went below speeds of thirty miles per hour, which on LA’s freeways is most of the time.

Something I find hard to understand. Everyone knows how difficult it is to sleep in a room without air conditioning on a hot summer night. You can’t sleep because you’re hot and uncomfortable.

How is it then, under the exact same circumstances, driving a car on the freeway you can’t stay awake? Aren’t you even more uncomfortable than you are in bed without air conditioning? So why does the discomfort not work for you when you most need it to stay alert?

One time, the freeway I was on went through a steep canyon when traffic came to a standstill.

There was no exit, and I was in the fourth lane of a six lane freeway. I was stuck.

I could see traffic was stopped two or three miles ahead up a long gradient, it would be a while before we moved again.

It was late afternoon and I started to feel sleepy. I decided not to fight the urge to doze, I turned the engine off and lay down on the front bench seat. This was another advantage of these old cars, the front seat was like a sofa with no obstruction in the center. The person behind me would be sure to lay on the horn when we started moving again.

I have no idea how long I slept but I awoke to find traffic was moving by me on either side at about twenty-five or thirty miles per hour. The person behind me instead of alerting me when traffic started moving must have decided to go around me.

People following seeing no one in the driver’s seat (Because I was laying down.) assumed it was an abandoned vehicle and continued going around me.

I had just discovered another advantage of my chosen mode of transport. A person can lie down, take forty winks in the middle of a six lane freeway and people will let you rest and simply go around.

My unusual afternoon nap had refreshed me enough that I was now fully alert as I completed the final leg of my journey. Had I brought ‘Sleeping at the Wheel’ to a whole new level?

 

This article was first posted April 2012

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