Dave Moulton

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Monday
Mar112019

1976 Track Frame

 

When I was building frames in England back in the mid-1970s I recorded frame numbers in a little hardcover note book. I still have that book.

It contains little information, just a customer name and a number. It is a miracle the book has survived to this day. The only reason for keeping it in the first place was to keep track of how many frames I built, and to make sure the serial numbers stayed in sequence and I didn’t miss any.

At the time as I stamped a number on a newly built frame and wrote it down in my little book, probably the last thought in my mind was that I would be corresponding with people about these very same frames 43 years later. I don’t think anyone living at that time could have envisioned the Internet and email.

 

A couple of weeks ago I got an email from Rob Rix who lives in Lancashire, England. He wrote about a frame I built for him back in 1976. He gave me the frame number M6110, I opened up my numbers book and sure enough there is Rob’s last name, Rix.

In his email Rob wrote:

“Many years ago you built a frame for me and I still have it in my possession. The serial number is M6110. Back then we had to rely on letters and telephone calls to place the order. This bike has been all I ever wanted from a track iron - stiff and ultra-responsive.

The best place I had on it during my racing career was Nation Silver medal for the 1000m sprint. Well done Dave you did a great job for me and the proof is in the length of time I have had the bike, I really would not part with it.  

The front forks were bare tub clearance and originally undrilled however the fork crown was drilled some years later when I used the bike in Hill Climb events.

The only slight damage on the frame is from the inevitable track crash where the handlebars hit the top tube and put a fair dent in it. The frame was originally finished in bright yellow with red head and seat tube contrast panels.

After a couple of seasons racing I had it chromed for durability and it has remained chrome ever since. I have always been satisfied with the bike and you did a first class job for me.  Many thanks for such a good product.”

Rob Rix.

The frames I built in the UK were racing bikes that were used for racing. They did not have the finish and aesthetics of those I would later build in the USA. It is nice to hear a story of a frame that was used for the purpose it was built, and has served its owner well.

 

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Monday
Mar042019

Education or Enforcement

 

There are two ways to apply cycling laws, education or enforcement.

Going to school in the UK at least twice a year there would be a special lesson on the Highway Code.

A little Highway Code book would be given to us to take home and keep.

It not only had all the rules and laws as applied to driving a car, it laid out those that applied to riding a bicycle and pedestrians.

It was drummed into us, when you cross the street, stop, look right, look left, look right again, (Traffic came from the right in the UK.) if the road is clear then cross.

This was war time Britain of the 1940s and due to petrol rationing there were few cars on the road, especially in the rural area I lived at the time. Never-the-less when we crossed the street we went through this ritual of look right, look left.

There were cycling proficiency tests too, where we would bring our bikes to school and the local police constable would come in and instruct us on how to ride our bike both safely and in compliance with the law.

The result was when I started cycling seriously in the 1950s, I never rode on the pavement, (Sidewalk.) I never rode through red lights, and my bike always had a front and rear light when riding after dark. As for riding a bike on the wrong side of the road, toward traffic, that would be so crazy it would not even be considered.

It was somewhat of a culture shock when I came to the US in 1979 and went for a ride with the local club. The first red light we came to I stopped and everyone else kept going.

It would not be unusual to find a cyclist riding towards me on my side of the road. This led to the quandary, do I pull out in the traffic lane and let him pass on the inside, or hold my course and hope he goes around me? I usually took the initiative and went for the first option.

I remember reading of a case in New Jersey where two cyclists riding at night without lights hit head on because one was on the wrong side. Their heads hit, neither was wearing a helmet. One died instantly, the other had serious head injuries.

Young kids on BMX bikes would jump from the sidewalk to the center of the road, and then wait for a gap in opposing traffic before hopping over to the opposite sidewalk. It was a free for all, with no rules being observed or enforced. Today, from what I read, it is no better in the UK, it seems the Highway Code is no longer taught in schools.

Stuff drummed into me as a kid has stayed with me to this day, so believe me I understand why some cyclists ride through red lights. It is what they have always done since they were a kid, no one said they shouldn't do it.

“If I stop for a red light, even if there is no other traffic in sight, it is not because I am somehow better than the cyclist who just rides on through. It is because not to stop feels uncomfortable, and goes against a lifetime habit.”

Habits, even lifetime habits can be changed with a little conscious effort. Getting in the habit of obeying traffic laws while riding a bike would be a good thing for all cyclists to do right now. I am reading of a ticket writing blitz going on in New York, it will not surprise me if this happens in other cities in the US as cycling becomes more popular and more and more cyclists take to the streets.

Recently a cyclist was killed by a hit and run driver in NY City. As usual the culprit was never found, but as a result, police started issuing more tickets to cyclists. Critics are saying it is unfair to clamp down on cyclists in this manner. I am inclined to agree to a certain extent. It is unfair that a cyclist should pay the same fine for running a red light that a motorist has to pay.

However, it is quite simple to avoid getting one of these tickets, don't run red lights. Also, whoever said life is fair? It is unfair that I am forced to take my shoes off at the airport, because one idiot tried to blow up a plane with a bomb in his shoe.

One Brooklyn cyclist got three tickets. One for riding his bike on the sidewalk, another riding against the flow of traffic, and a third for mouthing off to the cop who was giving him the ticket. All three of these tickets could have been avoided, had this particular cyclist not become accustomed to riding his bike where ever and however he please.

Laws regarding cyclists running red lights and other infractions are in place everywhere right now, so too are fines set. Because the police have not enforced these laws in the past, it may seem unfair when they suddenly start issuing tickets.

There are ways to get people to follow the rules. You educate, preferably at an early age as happened with me, it then becomes a lifetime habit. Or you start fining people as a deterrent. 

I find obeying the law as I ride my bike, does not affect my cycling pleasure, it does not slow me down all that much either. And if my local law enforcement starts issuing tickets to cyclists, it will not affect me.

Those who get tickets will no doubt continue to say how unfair it is, and how they’ve always ridden on the sidewalk or went through red lights. I may sympathize, but I doubt I will be offering to pay their fine.

 

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Monday
Feb252019

In the best shape of my life

Some say that the time for reminiscing about when we were in the best physical shape of our lives, is for when we are done riding. When that time comes for me, I already know when that was, 1970 and 1971. It started literarily by accident. 

I was living in England, it was early in the 1970 season. I was out training alone after dark and was rounding a bend on a relatively quiet country road when a motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction, took the same bend on the wrong side of the road, and met me head on.

The motor cycle, ridden by a sixteen year old with no driver’s license or insurance, with a youth of similar age riding on the back. These kids were on a big ol’ British Norton Dominator and were racing some others who were following also on motorcycles. Because they did not see a light from an approaching car assumed it was safe to take this particular corner on the inside. 

All I remember of the impact was a huge headlight coming straight for me, the next moment I was lying on my back in the road. What actually happened was that the motorcycle passed slightly to my right, the handlebars of the motorcycle passed over my bike but hit my right forearm. Remember this was England so I was riding on the left side of the road.

The impact threw me up in the air, doing a complete summersault, and I landed on my back in the road. Rather like a wrestler, doing a move called “The Irish Whip.” It happed so fast I do not remember that part, but know that is what happened because the back of my head was slightly grazed, (We didn’t wear helmets back then.) and the back was ripped out of my sweatshirt.

The motorcycle also went down and the two youths picked up some road rash as they slid across the road and ended up against a wooden barn on the opposite side. Apart from this they were uninjured. I was not so lucky. My right forearm was shattered, broken in three places. My bike on the other hand was completely untouched, not even a scratch in the paint.

I experienced the worst pain in my life that night lying in a hospital with my arm a temporary sling hung by my bed. The next morning they operated, and had to put a stainless steel plate in my arm to hold it all together. The plate is still there today, and I wouldn’t know it except for a six inch operation scar to remind me. 

They put my arm in a cast from my hand to my armpit, with my elbow held at 90 degrees. This cast was on for five months. I could drive a car and do a few other things but couldn’t work. I decided to keep riding my bike and rigged it up with a single fixed gear and a brake lever in the center of the handlebars so I could ride with one hand.

I rode every day as much as 60 to 80 miles. Weekends I would ride with the other guys in my cycling club. They cut me no slack and would drop me on the first hill we came to. I was riding with my left hand only so had to sit down on the hills, and could not get out of the saddle to climb. I would chase the group for miles, sometimes catching up, other times I never saw them again.

Weekdays I would sometimes ride with an older retired guy. He was probably in his late sixties, where as I was 34 at the time. He kicked my butt, and told me months later that I had the same effect on him. He kept telling himself that he couldn’t let a cripple with one arm beat him, while I was thinking ‘I can’t let this old man beat me.’

When the cast came off after five months, the doctors were amazed, my right arm had muscle in it. My left arm got a hell of a work out and I have heard that if you work one arm or leg it will affect the other. So riding my bike was probably the best thing I could have done for my recovery.

The end of that year and the one that followed was my best season ever. The five months that my arm was in a cast I had been doing over 400 miles a week, and doing it all on a single 69 inch fixed gear. (46 x 18.) I could spin and was as strong as a horse on the hills. There is no doubt in my mind when I was in the best shape of my life.

 

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Monday
Feb182019

What does the length of your forearm and the price of fish have to do with stem length?

This method of determining handlebar stem length has been around forever. My cycling experience dates back over 67 years and it was practiced then, and many years prior. Actually it is not a bad guide and works for most people.

Of course in an age of computerized bike fitting, this may seem to be bordering on an old wife’s tale, but believe it or not, back in the day before computers people figured shit out using only the power of their mind, and the wisdom of old wives.

Place your elbow against the nose of your saddle and if your fingertips do not fit behind the handle bars as shown above, then your stem is probably too short. If the bars are more than 2cm. away from the finger tips your stem maybe too long.

When I was racing I used a stem that placed my fingertips one centimeter from the bars. Now as a mild concession to my aging body I’m using a stem a centimeter shorter. If you are wondering as I did for many years what the length of a person’s forearm has to do with stem length? I will explain.

When I am determining frame size I take into account three body measurements.
1. Inside leg length (Often referred to as inseam.) measured crotch to floor without shoes.
2. Overall height.
3. Shoe size. (Length of foot.)
I do not require body length because I have overall height minus inseam. I do not require arm length because this is relevant to leg length and foot length combined.

Human bodies although all different do generally follow certain rules of nature. We have the same basic design and structure as most other animals on this planet except we walk on our hind legs while most others walk on all four. So it follows a person with long legs will also have long arms; short legs, short arms.

Four legged animals generally walk on their toes (and finger tips) whereas we stand and walk on our heels. So some people have a long body, but short legs and it is not unusual for a person with this build to have longer feet, and also longer arms. The long arms are not out of proportion if you consider the leg length is a combination of inseam plus the length of foot.

When pedaling a bicycle the toe is pointing downward at the bottom of the pedal stroke so the foot becomes an extension of the leg, which is why it has to be taken into consideration when determining frame size. The person with short legs, long feet needs a larger frame than their inseam alone would suggest. The larger frame with its proportionally longer top tube will also accommodate this rider’s longer body and arms

The length of the forearm is proportionate in length to the length of the foot. Take one of your shoes and hold it against your forearm and you will see it is the same length as the distance from your elbow to your wrist. In other words the big bones in your forearm are the same length as your foot.

So assuming you are on the right size frame and your seat is set at the correct height, then chances are if you have very long feet then you will have a short inseam and a long body.

Because you have long feet you also have a long forearm and if you do this little elbow against the saddle trick it will show you need a long handlebar stem which will be right for your long body and arms.

A person with very long legs for their height will also have long arms but will have a short body and small feet relative to their height. Small feet mean short forearm and a shorter stem which will be right for their short body. Because this rider has long legs his saddle will be set high making a greater distance from the seat to the bars. This will accommodate his long arms.

There is another method for determining stem length which states: “A rider seated with their hands on the drops of the bars, will have the front hub obscured from view by the handlebars.” This works in the same way, longer body calls for a longer stem and vice-versa.

The only thing is that this method could be affected by the head angle of the frame and the length of fork rake. I prefer the length of forearm method because it is simpler. It works for most people but there is a small percentage that it will not. I always say if you are comfortable and happy with your current position, don’t change it. Go by the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.

And what does all this have to do with the price of fish? Nothing at all, but it got your attention.

 

This is a rewrite of a post from the very early days of the Bike Blog. At the time it was shot down by a reader as “Utter Rubbish.” I repost it today for the reasons I did the first time. Not to get people to rush out and buy new handlebar stems, but rather to explain that before the days of high tech bike fitting, people managed to get by. I hope also I have explained why this method did have some merit, and the reasons why.

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Monday
Feb112019

A cyclist must be passed

The late and great George Carlin said:

"If I am driving at a given speed, anyone who passes me is a Maniac, and anyone driving slower than me is a Moron."

The only reason this is funny is because it is the truth, a trait in human nature that we can all relate.

I recall the day I observed a guy on an old beat up moped. The engine was screaming, black smoke billowed from the exhaust, and he was driving at about 20 mph in the center of the lane on a busy main street.

There was no doubt from the sound of the engine, that this was the top speed this aging two wheeled clunker was capable of.

Cars were just following along behind him in a slow procession, no one was honking at him. Traffic was backed up at least a mile, and drivers positioned six cars back or more were oblivious to the cause of the hold up anyway.

They were all just calmly following this guy on a moped, and I wondered, what if that were a cyclist riding down the center of the lane at 20 mph. There would be a medley of car horns blowing, people would be screaming abuse from their open car windows.

Human nature would kick in, a cyclist is someone who must be passed. It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing close to 25 mph in a 25 mph speed zone.

It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing 50 mph, plus, down a winding mountain pass. Where it is not safe for a car to travel at above fifty, a cyclist must be passed.

On the other hand, put a motor on the bicycle, electric or gasoline, just as long as it doesn’t have pedals, and it has some magical calming effect on following drivers.

The actual speed at which the moped or scooter is traveling has no bearing on the situation. Human nature and human behavior is indeed strange.

 

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