Dave Moulton

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A New Cycling Hazard

There is a new hazard for cyclists that has been brought to my attention. 

The chances of anyone experiencing this is remote, but never the less it would be remiss of me if I didn’t pass on this information. 

It is a strange phenomenon known as Spontaneous Cyclo Combustion. (SCC.) It is similar to Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC.) but is relatively new. 

The first recorded case took place in Southern Italy in 1985, whereas SHC has been around for hundreds of years.

Since the late 1990s there has been a rapid increase in the reported cases, in the last two years there were four incidents in the US alone. Two in Arizona, one in Nevada, and one Southern California. SCC seems to be more prevalent in hot, dry climates.

Prior to last year, in all known cases, the victims of SCC for some unknown reason, had all been riding alone. In each case the cyclist’s charred remains were found, usually a short distance from their bicycle, as if they had dropped their bike and tried to run from the source of heat before being totally consumed by fire.

However, in one of the Arizona incidents last year there was a witness. Two cyclists, let’s call them Tom and Brad. Tom is deceased, Brad wishes to have his name withheld for reasons that will become apparent. The two were riding in the desert somewhere north of Scottsdale, when Tom the stronger rider dropped Brad on a long climb.

By the top of the hill, Tom was some 300 yards ahead. Brad looked up and saw a bright glow ahead. At first he thought it was a trick of the sun on the hot asphalt, but then he heard cries for help from his friend. By the time Brad reached his friend, his bike lay by the roadside and Tom was fully engulfed in flames some thirty feet away.

Brad grabbed his water bottle and ran to help his friend. However, the heat was so intense he could only get within ten feet of the fire, and in less than a minute all that remained of Tom was a heap of smoldering black ash.

Brad called 911 and while he waited for the police and EMS he took pictures with his cell phone. When the police arrived Brad was promptly arrested on suspicion of murdering his friend. He was held for several days then interviewed by the FBI. After the interview, he was allowed to go home but never told that he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Which is why Brad wishes to remain anonymous.

On arriving home he discovered the pictures he took had been erased from his cell phone. It appears in such cases where some strange phenomenon occurs, our government becomes secretive, and suppresses information. 

In the California incident, also last year, it is believed a cyclist who spontaneously combusted accidentally started one of the more serious wild fires that plagued that state. California fire investigators denied it, in what appears to be an official cover up. However, they did say if anyone should catch fire, to resist the urge to run into the surrounding chaparral. 

So why the increase in cases of SCC in recent years? Scientists believe it is directly related to carbon fiber frames. It is believed that it is triggered by a buildup of static electricity caused by the friction between the plastic saddle, and the polyester fibers in the shorts. 

The padding in the shorts is usually highly flammable which adds to the problem, and may even be the primary key in this whole SCC issue. It is like the cyclist is sitting on a fuse to a potential incendiary bomb.

With the cyclist firmly seated in the saddle, the heat quickly travels from the source, straight up through the core of the cyclist's body and the combustion spreads from the inside. A frightening prospect.
With the old steel frames this static electricity was constantly dispersed throughout the frame. A spokesman for Brooks Saddles in England said, " We have known about this for years, but were afraid to make it public because.......well......we might have appeared a little cuckoo." 

He added, "It's the reason we increased the size of the copper rivets in our saddles. (Picture right.) Copper, as you know, is an excellent conductor of electricity and it directs the static electricity away from the danger zone."

So what can a cyclist do to avoid this slight but definite hazard, besides riding a steel frame with a Brooks saddle. Well help is on the way, manufacturers of plastic saddles and shorts are getting together to find which materials do not cause static build up. 

It will be necessary to buy the correct shorts to go with a certain saddle. Each will have a warning label, and a code letter. (A, B, or C.) A type “A” saddle must be used with type “A” shorts, and it is not recommended that you mix code letters, or you may be actually be placing yourself at an increased risk.

These new saddles and shorts will not be available probably until early 2020. So what can a concerned cyclist do in the mean time? The incidents are so rare that I am not suggesting cyclists should become paranoid to the extent of carrying a fire extinguisher.

However, there are any number of proprietary flame retardant materials available, that you can use to treat the padding, and make your shorts fire proof. Or, you can simply keep the padding damp throughout your ride with water from your bottle.

There is a website with more information at BlazingSaddles.org


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Every generation has its ruination

In my teens and early twenties I was told, Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll would be the ruin of us all. Looking at the state of the world today, maybe it was true.

A female friend and successful business woman, recently hired her teenage niece as a part time receptionist.

She said she was concerned for her niece as she was terribly shy and lacked social skills. She felt this would be a huge handicap when it was time for her to go out in the world and make a living.

She hoped by making her a receptionist the teen would be forced to interact with people. She added that her niece spent all day texting her friends, she had boasted to her one evening that she had not spoken to anyone all day, but had communicated entirely by text.

In my view this is hardly something to boast about, it is extremely sad. It made me wonder how many other teens are there like this young girl. There is now a whole generation who have known nothing else but cell phones and the internet.

Another friend who was retiring as a University Professor was taken out to dinner by a group of his students, he said they were texting each other across the table. One would type something and across the table another would look down at his cell phone and smile, and type a reply that would get a brief verbal response or simply eye contact with a nod or a return smile.

Call me old fashioned (And you probably will.) but isn’t the whole purpose of a social gathering like a large group dinner one where everyone interacts with each other as a group? If someone has a joke or something interesting to say, then share it with everyone, not text it to one or two people, then giggle amongst yourselves.

I can see a real danger in this trend, humans are social creatures, we can’t live in isolation. These young people will have to form face to face relationships at some point in their lives, if nothing else in a job setting with their bosses and co-workers.

In a love relationship too, like all of life’s lessons we learn by failure. The only way to learn how to have a meaningful relationship is to get dumped many times until we figure out what we are doing wrong, and stop doing that.

“You have 5,000 friends on Facebook and you are bragging about it. Translation: You have no friends.”

Rudeness is rampant on the Internet. I have often heard the quote that, “Rudeness is a weak person’s show of strength.” Rudeness is born out of anger and it is so easy to be rude under the cloak of anonymity that the Internet provides. 

Fear and Anger are two human emotions that I believe are closely linked. Fear triggers a base emotion that translates to “Fight or Flight." In order to fight, our anger level raises, but there is also an underlying fear that if we get angry with someone we will alienate them socially.

This is why we come across certain passive/aggressive personalities in our day to day lives. They are angry at us, but at the same time afraid to piss us off. We are all aware of the fake smile and the “Wet Fish” handshake, or the “Compliment” that leaves us wondering if it was really a compliment or an insult.

People can express rudeness and anger on the Internet without fear of reprisal, but is this a good thing? Anger and rudeness leaves no one feeling good, neither the one being rude nor the recipient. There are few rules on the Internet, it is up to each individual to decide what is right or wrong. A simple rule for anyone to follow is:

Don’t say anything online that you would not say to the person face to face.

Every generation has its ruination and there is always an older generation like me, observing this and pointing out where this new generation is going wrong. No one listens, (I certainly didn’t.) history repeats itself and every time it does, the price goes up.


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10 useful tips for car drivers

1.)    If you see a cyclist ahead and you can’t pass because of opposing traffic, resist the urge to run over him, even though you can. You know what a mess it can make of your car if you hit a deer. A cyclist will probably do even more damage.

2.)    Don’t throw stuff at cyclists. In some states there is a $250 fine for this, plus there is a $1,000 fine for littering, it can add up. If you feel you must throw something at a cyclist, think of the environment, throw something that is biodegradable.

3.)    Don’t waste time thinking of clever things to yell at cyclists as you drive by at 50mph. Just shout, "Garble, garble, garble, fucking road." It is all they will hear anyway

4.)    If you are approaching a right turn, slow and wait behind the cyclist ahead of you. If you can’t do this at least be consistent and race ahead of other cars, then cut them off by turning right in front of them.

5.)    Use the buddy system. If you can’t resist the urge to text while driving have a buddy ride along to look out for cyclists.

6.)    Pedestrians can also be annoying, they will not stay on one side of the road and are likely to interrupt your texting by crossing over to the other side at some point.

7.)    Resist the urge to lay on the horn. If you can’t do this consider fitting a second horn inside the car a few feet from your head. This will give you a realistic feel of how incredibly fucking loud your car horn is.

8.)    Watch your blind spot. Looking in store windows or at pretty girls as you drive by creates a huge blind spot ahead of you. Cyclists have an annoying habit of riding in this blind spot.

9.)    If a cyclist is riding in the middle of the lane, it could be because he will not ride within five feet of a parked car. (The door zone.) If you expect cyclists to ride within inches of parked cars, set an example by driving within inches of parked cars.

If more cars did this and removed a few car doors, and grazed a few knuckles as a result, it would help by reminding people to look before opening a car door. At the present time cyclists hitting car doors does not have the same impact.

10.)  Avoid hitting cyclists by simply going around them. If you should hit one because he happened to be there when you were applying makeup, don’t say “He swerved in front of me.” Simply tell the police officer, “I didn’t see him.”

This is becoming the more widely accepted defense; after all it is the truth and a driver can’t be expected to see everything. (Don’t try the “I didn’t see it” defense if you run a stop sign. For some strange reason this does not work.)  


First posted in 2011

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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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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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