Dave Moulton

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Ride the Long White Cloud

The indigenous Maori people of New Zealand named their island Aotearoa, which translated means “Long White Cloud.” New Zealand is actually made up of two main islands with a short 15 mile ferry ride between the North and South Islands.

The above video shows how one man, Cameron Nicholls rode the entire length of New Zealand from top to bottom, a distance of 1,451 miles (2,336 km.) Cameron completed the ride in 13 days. People have ridden the distance in much less time, but this was a ride taken at a pace that would be a challenge, but still allow the rider to enjoy the spectacular scenery on the way.

To make the ride even more challenging, it was completed in winter. “Why do that?” was my first thought, but then remembered some of my own winter rides in England, in atrocious weather conditions.  I suffered horribly at the time, but those are the rides I remember more vividly as time passes. Another plus was that the scenery in winter is even more spectacular.

Cameron has a 13 year old cousin undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, so the ride was also to raise money for the sister charities CanTeen New Zealand and CanTeen Australia. Thus raising funds and awareness for these organizations, who deal specifically with supporting young people affected by cancer.

The six and a half minute video is produced and edited extremely well, with a well-chosen musical soundtrack. Before you view, I suggest you click on the 4 arrows, bottom right next to the word “Vimeo.” This will take you to full screen mode, then start the video, and make sure your sound is on.

Enjoy, as I certainly did.


You can read Cameron Nicholls full account of the ride here.

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Riding my bike: Then and now

It’s taken me the best years of my life to reach the best years of my life. That statement is certainly true of cycling.

I find nearly all forms of exercise a chore, with the exception of riding my bike. Although I will agree that even that is not a pleasure when I am below a certain level of fitness. It becomes a pleasure when my level of fitness allows me to ride at a level where I am happy.

I remember in the 1980s living in Southern California, great weather, wonderful terrain, hills etc. However, I didn’t enjoy riding because the pressure of my business, didn’t allow me enough time to ever get fit enough to ride at the level I wanted to ride at that time.

It had not been many years since I had quit racing, and I still expected to ride at that level. Hammer up the hills is what was in my psyche told me, but my mind was making a promise that my body couldn’t keep. The result, I suffered horribly. It became a chore.

I still had that racing mentality, it wasn't about just enjoying a bike ride, it was all about how hard could I push my body. The competitiveness of beating, or even just hanging on to the wheel of someone at a level of fitness way above mine.

When I was racing the bike was simply a tool, a piece of equipment necessary to participate. Even training rides with others were unofficial races, always trying to be first to the top of a hill, or always having my front wheel ahead of the rider next to me. (Known as Half-Wheeling.)

Today, I have reached an age where I have nothing left to prove to myself or anyone else. Just to get out and ride two or three hours is an achievement in itself. I am content to ride without pushing myself to the point of exhaustion.

Speed is less important, just the distance I can cover. More miles equate to more time on the bike, and more cycling pleasure. I now remember what it was like to ride in my early teen years before I started racing.

For me cycling started out as a means of escape from my dysfunctional home life. I would stay out and ride for hours, and on weekends I would even cover close to a hundred miles at the age of thirteen or fourteen. All this on a Hercules Roadster with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub gear, the bike must have weighed around forty pounds.

Mostly I rode alone because none of my friends were willing to cover the distances I did. I grew used to, and even enjoyed riding alone. This still is the case today. Now, a ride on my bike is almost sacred. I enjoy social situations, and good conversations, but not while I’m riding.

Riding is still often my "alone time," I have few thoughts and it becomes a form of meditation. I am at one with the elements, the temperature, the wind, even the rain on occasions. I am at one with the terrain, up or downhill, the road surface, smooth or rough.

Lastly, I am at one with my bike, it becomes an extension of my body. The closest thing to human flight without actually leaving the ground.

It is still not about the bike, it is about riding the bike and all that goes with it.


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Capillary Action

David R. Ball Photo

Capillary Action is one of those laws of physics that most people know exists but don’t think about too much. It is the reason a paper towel or a sponge will soak up water. It is the reason a wick in an oil lamp draws the oil upwards, defying gravity, to the flame where it burns.

However, it is not just soft fibrous materials that have these properties, a clay flower pot or a clay brick will soak up moisture because it is porous. It occurs in any situation where there are tiny gaps or fissures between otherwise solid materials, any liquid will be naturally drawn through that gap.

When a framebuilder is brazing a lugged joint on a bicycle frame, it is capillary action that draws the liquid molten brass through the gap between the tube and the lug. If the tubes are mitered correctly, in other words the end of one tube is cut to precisely fit the curvature of the tube it butts up against, it too leaves another tiny gap between the two separate pieces of metal.

The molten brass will also be drawn between this gap to actually braze one tube to the other inside the lug. The final result is a strong joint, but one that spreads the stresses over an area.

When joining metal, in this case steel tubing, there is a need for the tubing and the finished joint to be of somewhat equal strength. If the joint is much stronger than the tube, the tube may fail adjacent to the joint. Conversely, if the joint is weaker than the tubes, the joint will fail.

The above picture is me brazing the main triangle of a frame together. In particular, I am brazing the head lugs. I am using an oxy-acetylene torch as my heat source. I used a fairy small but very hot flame, which allowed me to pin-point the heat where it was needed.

Metal when heated becomes red hot. A dark cherry red first. This is the temperature silver solder melts. I used brass for all brazing of the main joints so this melted at an orange red color. Temperature was controlled by constantly moving the torch on and off the part I was working on, and the color of the hot metal was my temperature guide.

In my right hand is the brazing torch, and a small hammer. I am not actually using the hammer, although at first glance it might appear that I am. It is just there in readiness should I need it. In my left hand is the brass filler rod. I am heating the top head lug and the top tube, and when it reaches the desired temperature, I feed in the brass.

As I feed in the brass, I watch for it to flow through the lug to appear on the head tube. You will notice the head tube extends beyond the head lugs by an inch or so. When the lug is full of brass, (I know it is because I saw the brass flow from one side to the other.) I flow out all the lug edges and any surplus brass is flowed out on the head tube where it extends beyond the lug.

This will later be cut off as scrap. Working in this fashion there is very little excess brass to clean up after. There is a similar situation at the seat lug where the seat tube is left sticking through the seat lug, to be cut off later. Again, excess brass is flowed out onto the scrap portion.

Brazing different thicknesses of steel together can create a problem. For example, the front and rear drop outs. These are of course much thicker than the tube it is slotted into, and if you come in with the flame at the point you need to braze, the tube will almost immediately glow red hot, whereas the drop out itself is still relatively cold.

The trick is to heat the dropout away from the tube, wait for it to turn red, then move towards the tube, which will quickly glow red to match the pre-heated drop out. When the first drop of brass melts and forms a bridge across the two separate parts, it magically becomes one piece of metal and all glows evenly at the desired orange-red color.

One cannot see how much brass is flowing inside the tube where the tang of the dropout reaches beyond the slot, unlike the lugged joint where the framebuilder can see the brass flow from one edge of a lug to the other. However, the builder gets a feel for how much filler rod is going into the joint to know whether it is full or not.

Finally, what is that little hammer for? Well, lugs usually come in standard angles of 73 degrees. But not every frame I built was those exact same angles. So when I assembled the frame and pulled the lugs to the desired angle it left a little gap on one side.

As soon as the lug was heated it relieved any stress, but there was still a little gap to contend with. A quick switch of hands, moving the brazing torch to my left hand, keeping the joint heated and a quick tap-tap with the little hammer in my right hand closed the gap in the lug. Then switching back to as I was, I continued brazing. No loss of heat or time while I searched for my little hammer.

A little refined blacksmithing if you like.


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Bayliss-Wiley Unit Hub: Ahead of its time

I got my first serious lightweight bike in 1950. It was a modest Dawes made of Reynolds 531 tubing. It had a cottered steel crank with a single chainring, and a Simplex derailleur with 3 x 1/8 inch sprockets.

The rear hub was a Bayliss-Wiley “Unit” hub as it was known. (Pictured above.) Freewheels had always been a separate item that screwed to the hub, this one had the freewheel built into the hub as a single unit, hence its name.

Today we call this a cassette hub and is the standard equipment on most high end and even moderate lightweight bikes.

The Bayliss-Wiley Unit hub was introduced in 1938, and was produced until 1957. Not particularly lightweight it was never considered to be racing equipment, but was used by club cyclists, tourists, and young kids like me who were just starting out.

Looking back it was really ahead of its time and it would be 30 years later that the Japanese company Suntour introduced another, and failed. It wasn’t until the top two manufacturers, Shimano and Campagnolo introduced their cassette hubs that people took them seriously.

The freewheel was always considered an item that would wear out long before the hub, therefore at the time the logic was to have it be a separate component that could be unscrewed from the hub and replaced. But if one thinks about it, it is the sprockets that wear out, not the free wheel. So a cassette also makes sense.

It wasn’t until freewheels went beyond six sprockets to 7, 8, 9, and 10, that an all in one unit or cassette hub was considered practical.

The Bayliss-Wiley Company was located in Tyseley, Birmingham, England and was founded by Cecil Bayliss and Arthur Wiley in 1919.

The company had what we would call today a niche market. They produced inexpensive but high quality bicycle components. Bayliss-Wiley kept the British working man on the road, back in the day when the bicycle was often the only form of transport for the working class.

They primarily made hubs, single speed freewheels, and bottom brackets, the parts that wore out and needed regular replacement. The company thrived through the 1920s, 30s and 40s, but not surprisingly declined in the late 1950s, when the British working man abandoned the bicycle and started buying cars for the first time. 

Taken over by Reynold Chains Ltd., the Bayliss-Wiley name finally disappeared in 1969. One of the most recognizable brand names when I started cycling in the 1950s, but not too many of today's generation will have heard of Bayliss-Wiley, even in the UK.

You can read more on Ebykr.com


This article was originally posted in April 2011

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Retro-Mod: Pickin’ n’ Choosin’

Going Retro-Mod has its advantages. Vintage lugged steel frames (Sometimes in mint condition.)  can be picked up at bargain prices, and the ride quality is often far superior to that of a modern CF or aluminum frame. So there is the money saving incentive, along with value for your buck.

A few ounces heavier maybe, but often that doesn’t concern the cyclist riding for exercise and pleasure only. Why not ride a bike that is a pleasure to ride? Going retro-mod you have the best of both worlds. The ride quality and handling characteristics of the vintage frame, with the wider gear range, and fingertip shifting, together with better stopping power the modern brakes offer.

Outside of vintage frame and modern component group, one can pick and choose, which saddle, bars and stem, and pedals. New or old school. Longtime friend and regular commenter on this blog, Steve Farner, emailed me this week to say he had switched back from clipless pedals to toe clips and straps, and also tubular tires.

Steve raced back in the 1980s when toe clips and straps were the only option. When Steve went retro-mod back in 2014, he didn’t actually start with a vintage frame, but rather had Russ Denny build him a brand new retro style Fuso frame, with a level top tube, standard 1 inch and 1 1/8 inch tubes. The only exception was the frame had a plain steerer and a threadless headset. (See above.)

On his switch back to toe-clips, Steve said, “I have found getting into and out of toe clips almost silent. I get into the pedal quicker than clipless, and as a bonus, if you miss positioning, you just push on the other side of the pedal, without your foot slipping off as it does with carbon shoe bottoms and carbon or plastic pedals. Just keep pedaling and flip the pedal later.

I am riding Giro Empire shoes, which use laces and fit like a glove. The slotted cleats I use are Yoshida Champ Cleats. Keirin (NJS) approved, modern cleats used by Japanese Track racers. They fit on Look Three-Bolt modern shoes, using only two of the bolt holes. I also kept my old Vittoria shoes from my racing days, the 80's, and have cleats for them, and sometimes use those shoes, which still work fine, just not as stiff.

But the Giro Empires get into and out of clips just as well as the old shoes, and being modern are stiffer soles and good to know you can buy them today. 

The pedals I bought are MKS Supreme Track pedals. (Above.) Again they are Keirin, or NJS, approved and are quite striking in appearance. I have kept Christophe Steel Toe Clips all these years, which don't break as easily as the aluminum variety. I also have kept my Alfredo Binda Laminated White (Bianchi) Toe Straps, which I think I paid $25 for in 1980, but sell for over $100 used on Ebay today!

I like them because they don't stretch, don't need the twist in the pedals to stay in place, and do not flop while in use. I use the Cinelli toe strap buttons, chrome in this case to match the pedals and clips, which I like better than others because you can pull the straps all the way through to set wherever you like on the strap.”

The other switch Steve made was back to tubular tyres. He said:

“The wheels I am now riding are DT Swiss 190 Ceramic Bearing hubs, DT Swiss S.S. round spokes, and Mavic Reflex Rims, 32-Hole. These are a nice, light, low-drag set that match the steel frame and set-up much better than the Mavic Ksyrium SL Limited I had on.

The ride is quite impressive! Kind of like the difference between driving a sports car and a Prius. No comparison. No wonder tubulars are still preferred by pros. You just have to know how to care for them, and fix flats. 

All together I like how the bike looks. I think if Russ presented this appearance to customers, they would be enthused to own, and most importantly, ride one! Because it is the ride that stays with the owner long after the B.S. sales pitch of modern bikes and equipment.”

Unusually, Steve’s bike is all new. Rather than go Retro-Mod he has actually gone Modern-Retro. 



Here is another related article on aligning slotted cleats.

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