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Tuesday
Mar042014

What’s going on?

If anyone is wondering why my articles here have been a little sparse of late, it just seems that I have so much going on. Just last week I had a whole backlog of new entries of frames to be listed on my bike registry, along with photos that people had sent to be added to the Gallery Page.

A simple task that should not have taken too long, but I accidentally deleted some of the Java script code on the web page, and as a result the pictures did not display exactly as they should. I made myself two days’ worth of extra work that I could have done without.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining. This all voluntary work that I take on gladly and enjoy. However, the very nature of what I started here is bound to grow and entail more work. This blog is going into its ninth year, and I have built up a healthy following. I started the Dave Moulton Registry in 2010, and it continues to grow by each week, as more and more people discover its existence.

Believe it or not, I have a separate life outside of bicycles and what goes on here. I have a wonderful group of songwriter friends, and we meet once a week for a songwriters’ open mic. This also requires that I spend time practicing, and working on new material. I also belong to a creative writing group that meets once a month.

Then I need time to ride my bike, and when the weather is nice I’ll be out for a three hour ride. Riding my bike is my number one priority. Everything else depends on it. If my physical health fails I will not have the strength and energy to do all the other stuff.

I had another birthday last month, it was my 78th, I am getting awfully close to my eighties and with it comes the realization of my own mortality. I am perfectly comfortable with that, and my goal is to always stay active, and keep my mind sharp. Pete Seeger died at the end of January aged 94, a week before his death he was chopping fire wood. That’s how I want to be, active right to the end.

I am constantly teaching myself new stuff on the computer, it keeps my mind sharp. I build websites for people, I am helping a friend prepare the layout of a book in readiness for publishing.

I will keep posting new stuff here as often as I can, I hope those of you who are regular readers will continue to check back. The purpose of this post is not to complain about how busy I am, I have no problem with being busy. It is simply to let you all know what is going on.

 

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Friday
Feb142014

Before there were Gays

I spent my teen years in London, England and the surrounding areas, it was the 1950s. The word “Gay” was often used in song lyrics, poetry and other writings. It meant, “To be happy,” and had nothing to do with a person’s sexual orientation or preference.

Even the term “Making love” had no sexual overtones, Frank Sinatra sang that dancing, was “Making Love to Music.” For that was all it was. Making love was nothing more than the initial stages of a relationship, flirting, holding someone’s hand, kissing.

I think the first time I heard the term “Making Love” used to mean sex was around 1958. A young prostitute plying her trade on a London street, asked if I would like to take her home, and “Make Love” to her. I remember being surprised, even slightly shocked.

The term “Making Love” was never quite the same after that and when Frank Sinatra sang about it I felt slightly uncomfortable. I have no idea why, I was by no means a prude. Looking back I was a working class kid, “Of the Streets” so to speak. Not a criminal, but living on the fringes of a culture that included criminals.

We called homosexual men, “Queers,” or “Queens.” Not in a nasty or degrading way, it was just a name or term. Like I said, “Gay” was not in general use back then. My friends and I never felt threatened by queers, and we were friendly towards each other. They were as funny as hell, and to hang out with a bunch of them was a riot.

They had their own language or slang and would refer to a particularly masculine male as a “Great Butch Homey.” They would even call to each other “Queers or Queens,” and when talking of one of their own group in a third party manner, it would always be as “She or Her.” They often described each other as “Camp,” and talked of “Trolling” down the road. (Walking in an effeminate way.)

If I, or one of my straight friends made a joke about their sexuality, it was usually met with a loud group. “Oooooooo, ain’t he bold.” Always accompanied by a typical limp wrist gesture, and riotous laughter by everyone, queer and straight.

“Never beat up a queer,” was a mantra we lived by. “That is like beating up a woman.” Although many queers I knew, under the effeminate exterior, were “Hard Cases,” and one would do well not to pick a fight with them.

I never knew any lesbians when I was young. Although looking back I must have known many without realizing. I loved girls and probably spent as much time hanging out with them as I did with my male friends. I often think about the girls I knew who hung out in pairs, and come to think of it, neither had boyfriends, ever. They may or may not have been lesbians, it didn’t matter to me.

I always preferred the company of females, most of my male friends were heavy drinkers, and I was not. My strategy with girls was to never come on strong, just be friendly and non-threatening.  As a result, I had a large circle of “Girl” friends, and there were always a few who were “Interested” in me.

By having no word like “Gay” back then, we didn’t refer to ourselves as “Straight.” An interesting word choice because I remember that gays were sometimes referred to as being "Bent." Bent was also used instead of crooked. As in "Bent Copper," a corrupt policeman.

I had certain friends who sometimes spoke of having sex with a queer. I was never shocked or repulsed by this, or saw them as different. It was just a young guy bragging about having sex. I didn’t look on that person as “Queer,” he was not effeminate, he didn’t look queer.

Today those same friends would be considered “Gay,” and if they were labeled a such when I was a teen I may not have considered them my friend. Not having the maturity I do now, I might have been afraid of being labeled as “Gay” myself. I would missed out on those friendships I had back then. Friendships that shaped my life,

Those truly were more innocent times and I’m glad I came of age then, and not now.

 

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Thursday
Feb062014

Prices then and now

Above is a retail price list for my bikes in 1990. The most expensive is the Fuso Lux which was custom built to order, with chrome plating, and retailed at $3,150 equipped with Campagnolo C Record components. This was probably the most you would pay for any top of the line racing bicycle.

I say this because my competition back then were the Italian imports like Colnago and Pinerello. You would pay a something over $3,000 for one of these lugged steel Italian bikes equipped with the same Campagnolo C Record group.

My production was only a fraction of these much larger companies, they probably each produced far more frames in a month than I did in a year. But I was able to compete because I had a much lower overhead, and I did not need a distributor to sell my frames in the US. It was the shipping and middle man cost that the Italian companies had to deal with that allowed me to compete.

I attended the big bicycle trade shows each year, and gradually built up a network of bicycle dealers all over the US. I could then sell and ship direct to them. My competition, the Italian bike builders, could not do this. The shipping costs alone on individual bikes or frames would have been prohibitive.

They had to ship frames over by the container load to a distributor, who would then market and sell to the individual American bike dealers just as I did. The Italian import frames were mostly built on a system made by a company called “Marchetti and Lange.” This was a conveyer track system, where the frames were completely assembled, front and rear triangle, and “Pinned” together, then placed on the conveyer.

Gas jets pre-heated first the bottom bracket area, the conveyer then moved on, with the bottom bracket and tubes glowing red hot from the pre-heating, and an operator quickly hand brazed the bottom bracket. While this was happening, gas jets were pre-heating the head lugs. Then the conveyor moved on to a second operator who would then braze the already pre-heated head lugs, and so on until a completed frame came off the other end.

By comparison I brazed together batches of 5 frames at a time, using a hand held oxy-acetylene torch with no pre-heating. This meant less heat went into the tubes, so the Columbus tubing retained more of its inherent strength. I don’t mean that the Italian frames were over-heated, but just a larger area of the tube beyond the lugs was heated, due to the use of pre-heaters.

The Italian frames came off the Marchetti and Lange track, were cleaned up and went to be chromed and painted. They mostly left the factory, with the bottom bracket threads not cleaned out, the BB and head tube were un-faced, and the frames were unchecked for alignment.

This work was done after the frames arrived in the US, either by the distributor, but most often by the bicycle shop. Any top of the line bike shop in the 1980s or 1990s had a full Campagnolo tool kit in a wooden case.

By comparison, I would braze 5 bottom brackets, check for alignment. Braze 5 head tubes, check the alignment, and so on. Every frame had the BB thread tapped and faced, and the head tube was reamed and faced ready to accept the head bearings. The seat tube was reamed, so the seat post would slide right in. All this was done before painting, along with a final check for alignment. When a dealer got the frame it was ready for assembly.

What I find interesting is the price comparison from 1990 to now. The most you would pay for a top of the line race bike was a little over $3,000. You might go to $4,000 for something special like Columbus Max tubing. (Picture above.) However, this would be an excaption. Today a top of the line carbon fiber Colnago or Pinerello will set you back $14,000 and up.

The average income in 1990 was $29,000, today it is around $44,300, a 52% increase. A Ford Mustang convertible cost $14,250 in 1990, today it would be not quite twice as much at $27,500. So the cost of a CF bicycle today would buy you a Ford Mustang in 1990.

Back when I built frames, as a small individual builder, I could compete with the larger import companies and still make a fair profit. Today, top of the line bikes are made by large corporations, and prices are not based on what it costs to produce, but rather by what the market will stand. With a consumer, it seems, who would rather pay more, if only for the bragging rights.

 

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Tuesday
Jan282014

The Story of a 1985 Criterium

The following piece used to be on my now defunct Prodigal Child website. Written by Russell Rollins, about a bike that I built, and he owns. A well written essay, which after re-reading I thought I would share it once again here, with pictures:

"It seemed a small moment in life. One of those passing coincidental events that would come and go then cataloged in the back of the mind. In the beginning I failed to see how much it would mean to me over the next few days.

He built a bicycle in 1985, I bought it in 1993. "He" was Dave Moulton. It's important for me to tell you that I am not a "cyclist", nor am I an athlete, nor am I a sportsman - I am not competitive. If there is a stereotype of the kind of person who would own a bike like this, I am the opposite.

It was during the mid-1970's that I bought a bike from Beach Bike in Galveston. I paid something around $200 for it, which was half my monthly income. The bike was a Motobecane Grand Record. The frame was black with red graphics and gold pin striping. I was drawn to the bike because of the lugs. The lugs were the pieces of metal that joined the tubes of the frame together.

Normally, these are round or flat edged and provide strength while holding the tubes in alignment. The Motobecane was different, the lugs were sculpted.

Carved scrolls of hand cut steel forming intricate lace at the ends of the tubes. It was art and the artist highlighted the shapes with gold pinstripes.

I held on to that modest bike until 1993 when it was stolen from my garage. It broke my heart to have lost that unique piece of craftsmanship. I immediately began searching for a replacement. The new hi-tech models of the early 90's were impressive. New materials and components were light-years ahead of my old bike.

But there was something missing, something that couldn't be found in mass produced frames and over the counter components. Campagnolo was nowhere to be found, replaced by Japanese manufacturers. These were just clones to me. They all looked alike, at least they did in my mind.

One day I was strolling through Daniel Boone Cycles talking to Joy Boone about my old bike and how much I loved its "art" over its technical appeal. Hanging on the wall at the back of the shop I saw the "lugs". Chrome, sculpted, brilliant, the light was startling. It appeared to bend and intensify as it reflected. The entire bike stood apart as a Lamborghini would in a showroom of Fords.

Moving closer toward the bike the white pearl paint sent out laser beams of color so subtle it was more of an experience than a physical presence. The cobalt blue "dave moulton" lettering was understated and elegant.

And the chrome, it was a flawless mirror finish that reflected and refracted light and image from every angle.

The components were not simply parts bolted to the frame, they were born to the frame.

On the brakes were small jewels, blue round semiprecious stones that captured light and threw it back in lightning bolts.

The frame reached out and held them, a mother and her children. Each piece carefully matched for form, function and of course beauty.  It was timeless.

This bike was not built, it was created. As God creates men, men imitate God by creating machines. The soul of a man's creation begins in his heart and passes through his hands.  If he is right, if he is passionate, the creation will bear his soul. If you don't believe me it is only because you haven't touched this creation.

I spent the next few years riding the bike and absorbing its charisma and personality. I didn't ride for competition, I didn't ride in "packs". The experience for me was more ethereal. I wanted to be alone, I wanted to be hypnotized by the cadence and constant rhythm.

It didn't matter if it was in the city or in the countryside, the release was the same. There is a harmonic balance to the ride. The gyroscopic motion of the wheels and the sonic music of the spokes singing in the wind travels from wheels to frame. The steel frame of the Dave Moulton has its own musical note, a tuning not found in other types of material. Composites and aluminum do not harmonize.

It is the blended steel frame that has a musical note, each bike having a unique sound depending on the size and metal. You won't "hear" it on other bikes, only those that are perfectly tuned like a musical instrument. The "note" enters the body of the rider and soothes the soul with music. It is an addiction.

                                                                                                                As I rode I would think about the bike and its creator. I knew little about him. He was a man I knew had sat across the table from champions. His bikes were bred as magnificently as a horse in the Kentucky Derby, and I'm riding one!

Over the years I began searching the internet for anything I could discover about Dave Moulton. At one point I found a website for Dave's shop in California. At Last! But the phone number was disconnected. Another dead end.

Then about a year ago I was able to gather some information from the Classic Rendezvous website. They had a short bio on Dave and some grainy photos of a figure hulking over a frame with a welding torch. It said something about his music career, but gave no contacts or forwarding information. It added to his mystique and elusiveness. I had more questions than answers.

Two weeks ago I came across Russ Denny's site and his mentorship with Dave. Russ and I emailed a few times and he posted the pictures of my bike on his site.

The following Monday morning my jaw dropped to my knees when I saw an email in my inbox - "From: Dave Moulton". It was an extra-terrestrial contact. He existed and he was alive and he was here... in my Inbox.

The following emails were short. He shared with me small details of his life past. I learned from his website that he quit frame building the year I bought the bike. Since then he pursued his creative energy through music and writing.

Today I am looking at the bike with the same wonderment I had that day in Boone Cycles. Before this chance encounter with Dave I was ready to let the bike go to someone else to be appreciated all over again. I wanted someone else to take up the search. Now I am certain it will stay with me forever.

The colors still dance in the light. It is still a chameleon that changes with the light and mood. It is a time machine, a timeless machine. Like art, time only enhances its beauty. Of all its qualities that I admire, it is its ability to create dreams that is most remarkable. After all, it's only a bike, a mere child's toy."

Russell Rollins. May 13, 2004

 

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Tuesday
Jan212014

Rights and Privileges

As cycling becomes more and more popular, more people choose to ride a bike to work each day rather than drive. We start to hear calls for cyclists to be licensed, or a tax imposed, in the same way automobile drivers are licensed and taxed.

The idea of licensing cyclists usually comes from city governments rather than on a state or national level. The argument is usually along the lines that bike lanes and other facilities cost money, and it only seems fair that cyclists should pay some of this cost.

However, in practical terms any attempt to tax or license cyclists in the past has always turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It always costs more to implement such a plan than the income generated. Plus law enforcement and the court system has to then impose fines on those not having a license.

Sidewalks have been in place in cities everywhere since before the beginning of the last century, and no one has ever suggested that pedestrians should pay for sidewalks. Sidewalks make it safer to walk, bike lanes make it safer to ride a bicycle. And anyway revenues from drivers’ licenses or even road taxes do not pay for roads. So really that should be the end of that argument.      

When automobiles first appeared there were no laws or regulations, you could simply buy a car, jump in and drive it. Pretty much in the same way as we can buy a bicycle today and ride it anywhere.

Later because of wholesale carnage on the roads, laws were passed and licenses issued to drivers. As a result, driving is a privilege, one that can be taken away, whereas cycling like walking is a right. Although cyclists and pedestrians are still subject to the laws of the road. It appears no one can be prevented from walking or riding a bike, even if they break the law.

So what is a right? There are so called God given rights, but as people have the right to choose whether they believe in God or not, how does that work? If you don't believe in God, do you not have any God given rights? Are you obliged to respect other people's God given rights? As it is, the only God given right I can think of is our right to live.

If you look at The Bill of Rights there are very few actual rights. I don’t see a right to ride a bicycle mentioned. There is the right to bear arms, the right to practice a religion of your choice, etc.

After that it appears the function of government (In theory anyway.) is to leave us alone, and we are free to do as we please as long as we follow certain laws wherever they apply. It appears to me that rights are rarely granted, they are simply taken for granted. Is riding a bicycle on the highway is a prime example this?

I know to even suggest such a thing will cause outrage among a great many cyclists, but before we all get our anti-bacterial padded shorts in a twist, let’s think about this. In recent years cell phones have become available and some assume it is their right to own one and talk and send text messages whenever they please, including while driving.

It turns out this is not such a good idea so in some places this practice is being outlawed. Have people lost a right, or was it just an assumed right in the first place? 

A few years ago, people had the right to smoke just about anywhere they pleased. However, that right infringed on everyone else’s right not to breathe secondhand smoke. So, now that right has gradually been taken away, and smokers are now privileged to smoke in fewer and fewer places.

Because riding a bicycle on public roads is for the most part not a danger to other road users, it is doubtful than anyone will stop us doing it. Cycling is a good idea. It cuts down on congestion in our cities, it is better for the environment, and it should be encouraged because it is good for the physical and mental well-being of the participant.

My question is, are there any true rights or privileges? Or is this just an ongoing daily debate among millions of people, on the streets, on the talk shows and in the courtrooms? We all have certain rights, and we get to keep them as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. If they do we may lose those rights, it is happening all the time.

In which case there is little difference between rights and privileges; either can be taken away. We should all remember this and in particular those cyclists who blatantly and regularly flout the laws of the road.

 

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