Dave Moulton

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The significance of a decade ending in nine

I came to the United States in January 1979, exactly forty years ago. For me it was a life changing move, an act of truly starting over. It was sometime in the years that followed I realized there had been a significant, often life changing event that had occured in my life, every decade on the year ending in nine.

This could be traced back all the way to September 1939 when I was just three and a half years old. It was the month WWII started and my father left to go to war. I have absolutely no memory of this, but just two weeks later my mother gave birth to my sister, and my elder brother and I went to stay with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks.

I have a vivid memory of this visit, in spite of my age.  My uncle was a chauffeur for Lord Farringdon. He lived on the estate of Buscot Park, in Oxfordshire. He and my aunt lived in a flat (Apartment.) above the garages were the Rolls Royce’s were kept. The estate is now open to the public and the Garages are now the ticket office where visitors start their tour.

I never went inside Buscot House (Below.) but walked by the front steps and explored the whole park with my brother and cousin. We went fishing in the lake there, and I remember catching a small fish. I remember a rose garden that sloped down to the lake, with a sundial in the center.

When WWII ended in 1945 and my father returned, he had a hard time keeping a steady job, and we moved every year. This played havoc with my schooling. In 1946, 1947, and 1948 we lived in different places often hundreds of miles apart.

Dave 1949By 1949 I was 13 years old and we moved to Luton, an industrial town just 30 miles north of London. My mother finally said she was through moving and we settled there. I caught up with my education, got a scholarship to an Engineering Technical School, which lead to an engineering apprenticeship.

Luton was also where I started cycling. Joined a club and started racing at 16 years old. It was where I met Pop Hodge and started dabbling in framebuilding, and look where that lead. Luton was definitely a life changing move.

In 1959, now 23 years old, an adult and able to make my own choices. On a quite sudden whim while in between jobs, I decided to move north the Nottingham. It was there I later married in 1964, and we had two daughters. 

In 1969, still unaware of this ten year itch thing I had going, we upped and moved to Worcester. My original intentions were to find a simpler lifestyle in rural Worcestershire. A better environment to raise two small daughters.

As it happened Worcester was in the West Midlands, just south of Birmingham, and a hot bed of British cycle racing. This got me heavily involved in cycling and framebuilding again. Once again a life changing move.

Dave 1979In 1979 aged 43 I moved to America. My marriage had ended and it was a good time to make a complete break.

I later remarried.  Nothing happened in 1989, except my second wife left, so I guess that is significant, but not altogether life changing. Anyway I was aware if this ten year cycle thing by now.

I left the bike biz in 1993, moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1994. Met my wife Kathy there and married in October, 1998. Now I could have waited a few months and married in 1999, but you can’t manipulate fate, and for what other reason would I do that?

We moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 2001. We are still here and nothing significant happened in 2009. However, here we are on the dawn of 2019 and we are considering moving inland. Charleston is a beautiful area and we love it here, but the secret is out and there are getting to be too many people. Traffic is horrendous, and it will only get worse.

We are looking at rural areas near Greenville, South Carolina. Listed as a bicycle friendly city by the League of American Wheelmen. It could happen this year, but not be to fulfil some prophecy, but because the time is right. It will just be a coincidence that it happened on a year ending in nine, which is how I feel it has always been. An interesting coincidence.


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Gear Table

Bike stores used to give away gear tables as promotional or advertising material, it seems I hardly ever see them anymore. If I talk to a newbie bike rider about gears in inches they have no idea what I am talking about.

So in writing this I am not sure if I am dealing with a subject that most of my readership will already be aware of, or do those who don’t know even care? I’ll assume you do care and there may be some little snippet of information you will find interesting or useful.

Why do we talk of gears in “Inches?” For that you have to go all the way back to the Penny Farthing, or High Wheeler.

It was the diameter of the big wheel. A 60 inch or in other words 5 feet diameter wheel was a 60 inch gear.

This only became widely used when the chain driven bicycle came on the scene.

It became necessary to advertise these as having a similar 60 inch gearing, or higher or lower. A new buyer could compare that with what he was already used to.

The formula for calculating any gear is simple. Divide the diameter of the rear wheel by number of teeth on the rear sprocket.

Then multiply this by the number of teeth on your chainwheel. Assume the rear wheel is 27 inch for a road bike, this is not a precise measurement, but rather a comparison.

For example if you are using 50 chainring, with 18 tooth sprocket, you are in a 75.0 inch gear. (27 divide by 18, times 50 equals 75.) If you drop down to your 36 ring using a 13 tooth sprocket you are in a 74.8 inch gear. Close enough to be the same gear.

Back in the day we used to train on gears in the 60s or 70s, and race on gears in the 80s and 90s. Today on level terrain I ride around 69 or 70 inch. It allows me to pedal at around 72 to 75 rpm.

We used to spend hours studying gear tables, trying to find the ideal gear range. Possibly today’s bikes with 10, 11, and now even 12 sprockets on the rear hub, you are pretty much covered in any situation. Whereas, we only had 5 or 6 cogs on a freewheel, and it was necessary to choose each sprocket carefully depending on the terrain you planned to ride.

For a leisure rider today he has the luxury of more gears than he needs at the top or bottom of the range, and a rev counter to tell his cadence, so it really doesn’t matter what gear he is using. I think I have just answered my own question as to why the gear table is obsolete.

Hope you enjoyed the history aspect. May I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year? Be safe and stay healthy. A special thanks to my regular readers who have sent donations. These have helped tremendously to offset the cost of maintaining this blog and my Registry. Your kind help is much appreciated.


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Christmas 1941

I came across this Christmas Greetings message sent to me by my father in 1941.  It depicts a cartoon Santa, on a camel. With a “V” for Victory on the camel’s side. Mailed from somewhere in the Sahara Desert, North Africa. It is amazing this scrap of paper has survived all these years, still in its original envelope, addressed to "Master D. Moulton," as was customary.

Christmas 1941 was a historic date in time as America had just entered the war after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th. Britain and the rest of Europe had been at war with Germany since September 1939.

It was within a week or two of the declaration of war that my father had left. He went straight to North Africa where he remained fighting with the British 8th Army, and finally defeating Rommel's German army. A campaign that lasted almost five years. He came home briefly, early in 1944, before leaving again for France during the Normandy Invasion.

I was only 3 ½ years old when my father left in 1939 so I remember little of him before that date. This Christmas Greeting measuring 5 x 4 inches, appears to be a photo copy of a much larger sheet. The hand written message is so tiny, a magnifying glass is required the read it. The message said:

“From your loving father, to my ever loved son David. Merry Christmas, and may God keep you safe until I return home.”

His concern must have been genuine in those early dark days of WWII. Germany had overrun the whole continent of Europe, and was poised on the coast of France just 25 miles away across the English Channel. The threat of Britain also being invaded was very real.

My father, Edward (Ned) Moulton 1941 I was nine years old when the war ended. Sadly the promise of a loving relationship that this Christmas message conveyed, did not materialize.

My father must have gone through six years of absolute hell. He never spoke of it.

When he was in a good mood, he was extremely generous. He gave out cash in lieu of affection.

He bought me a lightweight racing bike that must have cost him a month’s wages. If it hadn’t been for him I never would have got into racing.

This of course led eventually to framebuilding. My father defined who I am today more than any other, and for that I am grateful.    

May I wish you a Joyous Christmas, or whatever it is you celebrate this time of year. 


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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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