Dave Moulton

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Marcella: My number one painter

I learned a lot in the fifteen months I worked for Masi, from October 1980 until December 1981. I was hired to assemble and braze frames, and I found by building these in batches of 5 or 10 all the same size, I could build 10 frames a week, 40 a month, quite comfortably.

Other people did the file and finish work, and Masi employed a full time painter. I knew if I opened my own shop I would need to operate in a similar manner. There is a limit to the amount one man can produce, no matter how many hours he may work.

I knew finding a skilled Bicycle painter was not going to be easy. I was actually surrounded by painters, they had all learned their skills working for Masi, People like Brian Baylis, Jim Cunningham, and Jim Alan, but they all had their own established businesses, and would rather have had me subcontract with them to paint my frames.

However, I had always done my own paint, and felt I needed to have my own paint facility, and have complete control over the process. Plus a large chunk of the profit in framebuilding is lost when using a sub-contract painter. I decided I would train my own painter, to do the job the way I preferred, and I could take up the slack during the training process.

I didn’t have to look very far as it happened, the ideal candidate was right under my nose. Marcella Welch was a young girl who delivered the Imron paint to me. She worked for a local Paint Supply Company, drove a little red pickup truck and I would see her almost on a daily basis. If she wasn’t bringing my paint, she would be dropping off supplies for the other above mentioned painters, all working out of the same shop.

Marcella always showed an interest in what we were doing, and one day in quite casual conversation, mentioned that she would “Love to learn a skill like this.” I told her I would be opening my own shop in San Marcos in a few weeks, and there would be a job if she was interested. That is how Marcella Welch became my first full time painter.

The picture at the top of the page was a posed simulation of painting a frame. In reality there was a special device that slid inside the seat tube like a seat post, but with an expanding rubber sleeve to hold it in place. There was a ring on the top were the frame hung securely from the ceiling of the paint booth.

A piece of tube placed though the bottom bracket shell acted as a handle so the frame could be maneuvered with the left hand, while holding the paint gun in the right hand. The painter could rotate the frame, and at the same time twist it in any direction to paint all around every tube.

Painting bicycle frames requires a special set of skills. You can’t paint one side of the frame, the turn it around and paint the other side. The paint where you started would be dry and would not flow out smoothly. Each tube has to be painted separately. This can cause problems as it is easy to get a buildup of paint where the tubes meet at the lugs.

A beginning painter would start by spaying the primer coat. This dries to a matt finish, and has to be sanded anyway before the color coats are applied. Marcella started in 1983 when the new shop opened. The John Howard’s were the frames she would learn on.

The Howard frame had chrome plating to be masked off before the frame is sandblasted and immediately prime coated. The color coat was a single color, then dry fix (Rub on.) decals applied. Followed by eight clear coats over the decals, and after the paint was cured in the paint oven, the clear coats over decals was sanded smooth.

All the steps outlined in the previous paragraph are all procedures that a beginning painter would soon carry out. The final finish clear coat is the most difficult. A wet coat applied quickly so the clear coat flows out smooth with no dry spots. But at the same time not so wet that the paint runs.

With some 300 Howard frames produced in less than a year, Marcella, learned quickly, and within three months was handling all the John Howard painting, including the all-important final clear coat.

Marcella was my number one painter, in that she was the first, in the years 1983 to 1986 when production was at its highest. 300 John Howards, plus all the 1st. Generation Fuso frames, which is probably another 1,000 frames. Add to that the first year’s production of the Recherché.   

I recently spoke to Marcella on the phone and we reminisced some. She said it was a lot of fun. She remembered going to the trade shows and seeing people like Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx in person.

However, I got the impression that she didn’t grasp the importance, or the lasting value of the work she did. The frames she painted are still out there. Most with the original paint, many still being ridden and enjoyed by their owners to this day.

In 1986 I moved my business the Temecula, sixty mile north of San Marcos. Marcella didn’t care for the daily commute, and left before the end of 1986. She went to work for Cyclart, and painted a number of Greg LeMond frames.

Jay Denny, who is the younger brother of Russ Denny, my former apprentice, took over as painter. He also had no previous experience, but I trained him. Like Marcella, Jay learned quickly and did some fine work. He left around 1990 to pursue other career goals.

My final painter was Morgan Carlton, who unlike his predecessors, had worked for Cyclart and was already a skilled painter. When I left the business in 1993, Russ Denny took over the shop and Morgan stayed on for a while as a freelance painter.


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Giro d’Inhalers

Picture from Steephill TV

What did I just witness this weekend in the Giro d’Italia? One of the greatest rides in the history of cycling, or a total fraud. On Friday Simon Yates was in the lead, and although he had lost a few seconds that day and was looking a little tired, it was still his race to loose.

And loose he would in spectacular fashion. He blew up completely and lost 35 minutes. While Chris Froome who had struggled in the early stages, took off solo with 80 kilometers remaining, and held a 3 minute lead against a strong group made up of all the other leading contenders.

He leapfrogged over Tom Dumoulin to end the day in Pink. Going from 4th. to 1st. place. If this were anyone else but Froome I would be marveling at this performance, but I just can’t trust him anymore. Much less I trust the whole rotten Sky team organization.

Twists and turns in a plot are great for movies and novels, but the reason sports are popular we don’t know the outcome, or we are not supposed to. This was a great race when it was between Yates and Dumoulin. But then Froomey enters the picture, and the whole event gets a “Too good to be true” feeling.

If I give Froome the benefit of the doubt, I could say he found his form during the race, it does happen. But with Froome’s Salbutamol case hanging over him, should he have been riding in the Giro in the first place? And now the UCI is saying the issue may not be resolved before the Tour de France.

If he is found guilty in his Salbutamol trial, I understand his Giro win will stand, but it will however cast a huge shadow over the validity of the result. If he is found not guilty, everyone will cry cover up. He is in a no win situation, and it is hard to show sympathy when the whole situation is of the Sky Team’s making.

What annoys me about Team Sky is, a few years back they put out this “Ride Clean” statement, implying they were all squeaky clean, but “Jiffy-bag Scandals,” and Parliamentary Enquiries have proved that to be total BS.

What about “Being Innocent until proved guilty,” some will say. Sorry, but I drank the Pharmstrong Coolade for a decade, and stayed on the fence when doubts crept in. Only to have Lance go on TV and say, “Yea I doped.” I am not about to do the same this time only to have Froome write his biography when he retires, admitting he doped too.

I would have more admiration for Froome if he had voluntarily withdrawn from racing until his Salbuamol case is heard, and an acquittal would have been easier to accept. As it is if he rides the Tour de France, I may not waste my time watching it. I’ll start out by checking the results, if it is all Froomey, then I definitely won’t follow the race.  

This is just the opinion of one old guy who has been a fan of bike racing since 1950.  That is 68 years, starting back in the days of Coppi and Bartali. Before the days of race radios when the peloton often had no idea how far a break was up the road. Solo wins of 14 or 15 minutes were not unknown.

And yes the pros doped back then, they took amphetamines, but it was an open secret. Not the lies, deceit, and skepticism there is today. The problem is I have been fooled too many times in the last quarter of a century to believe that what I just witnessed was an epic ride like those of yesteryear. What is your view, agree or disagree?


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Back from the Classic Rendezvous Weekend

It was such a joy to attend the Classic Rendezvous Weekend event in Greensboro, North Carolina.  I always look to these events as an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones. I did plenty of that.

It was also great to be reunited with many examples of my past work, and to talk with the owners. Most had corresponded via email for years, but this was the first time we had met face to face, and to actually shake hands.

For example, a 1983 custom Criterium bike, #9832. Built for the Interbike Show that year. I had corresponded with at least three different owners for the last 15 years, but last weekend got to meet the current owner John Ames. (Picture above.) Also this was the first time I had laid eyes or hands on this bike since it was picked up by one of my dealers after the Interbike Show some 35 years ago.

John has done a fine job of restoring this bike to its former glory, while keeping the original paint finish. Skillfully mixing paint and touching in the tiny chips with a brush. The result is the bike has character, a story to tell, (Read here.) but still retaining its original beauty.

Contrastingly, 1st. Generation Fuso #171, built in San Marcos, CA. in the first six months of production. Now owned by John Majors, (Above.) who bought the frame with paint and decals in as pristine condition as the day it left my shop. Like going back in time and buying a brand new frame. Makes me wonder, how many more unused gems are still out there waiting to be found.

I had met John Majors and his wife a few years ago when they  visited Charleston. It was nice to reunite with them both again.

Peter Stock (Above.) had traveled from his home in Toronto, Canada, He brought his built in 1989 Fuso FRX #1643. His bike it appears is even more traveled, it has a French Bike Shop sticker on it. This is one of two Fuso bikes owned by Peter. This one he has owned since 2010, the other he picked up in 2013. We had corresponded before, but met for the first time at the CR Weekend.

Thanks to Dale Brown, of Cycles De Oro, Wayne Bingham, and others who make this event happen.


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Track Bike

The Fuso track bike above was built 30 years ago in 1988. It is still owned by the original owner, Dave Watring, and is pictured at the Los Angeles Velo Sports Center where it is still being ridden three times a week.

I built only a few of these specialist track frames over the years, there was little call for them at the time. They were not yet a fashion fad to be used on the streets. They were only ordered by someone who actually had access to a track or velodrome.

The track bike is as simple and as basic as one can get, which is part of their appeal. A single fixed sprocket screwed directly to the rear hub, and no brakes. What, no brakes? The uninitiated will ask. Isn’t that dangerous?

No, actually when used as intended, on a banked velodrome, brakes would be more dangerous than “No Brakes.” Everyone is riding counter-clockwise around the track, there is no need to stop, and the last thing one needs would be someone slamming on their brakes when riding only inches from the rider in front.

If someone falls, and it happens, the riders are so close and going so fast that there would be no time to stop even with brakes. The best defense is to steer around the fallen rider. For this reason, track bikes are designed with a steeper head angle to steer quickly.

On a road bike, to go around a corner, the rider leans in the direction he is turning and the bike steers itself around the bend. On a banked velodrome, when the bike and rider are traveling at speed, the bike is leaning, and in theory is at 90 degrees to the track surface at all times. It is as if they were traveling in a straight line.

The time to deviate from that straight line, is to go around an opponent, or a fallen rider. The track rider learns a whole different skill set. He steers the bike by turning the handlebars. Something a road rider rarely does.

Watching a track meet, one can always pick out the inexperienced road riders. In the event of a crash, the first thing they do is try to stop pedaling, and reach for brake levers that aren’t there.

Track bikes I built had a 74 degree head angle, and 1 1/8 inch (30 mm.) fork rake. Less trail than my road bikes which were 73 head angle, 1 3/8 in. (35 mm.) More trail for self-steering qualities, less trail for track bikes meant to be physically steered.



I am late with my blog posting this week partly because I am preparing to attend the Classic Rendezvous Weekend event in Greensboro, North Carolina, May 18-20. I will probably be late next week for the same reason. I hope to meet up with a few of you there.

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Museum Piece

1985 was a busy year for me. My San Marcos, California shop had been open for two years, I had attended the Interbike Trade show several years and as a result I was building a network of bicycle dealers throughout California, and across the USA.

My big seller was the Fuso. Introduced a year earlier in 1984, just one model that I now refer to as the 1st. Generation model. I built over 500 Fuso frames that year. I has a team of 5 employees who prepared materials for me, so I could just stand and braze frames all day.

With all this repartition I could braze cleanly enough that the frames needed only a minimum clean up to be ready for sand-blasting and paint. My employees did this clean up, and I also had a full time painter.

1985 was also the year the Recherché was introduced, and I built an unknown number of these too. I also built just a few custom ‘dave moulton’ frames that year, nine to be exact. Built one at a time and doing all the work myself, including the paint, these frames were somewhat disruptive to the work flow of everything else.   

However, these frames commanded a top dollar price tag, and it was satisfying to have the opportunity to build something special, like this one pictured here.

The order came from Daniel Boone Cycles, in Houston, Texas. It was built for an up and coming young attorney.

Most of these custom frames went to attorneys, doctors or others with the discretionary income to be able to afford the cost of all this extra work. Some five or six years later, this same attorney moved west to California, where he later became Los Angeles District Attorney.

Before he left Houston he sold the bike back to Daniel Boone Cycles. In 1993, which incidentally was the year I left the bike business, the bike was bought by Russell Rollins who wrote about the experience here.

Russell recently wrote on the “Dave Moulton Bikes Facebook Page:”

The bike is in The Houston Bicycle Museum where it belongs. I miss riding it but I felt it should be seen by others and Dave's story should be known. It is beautiful to see and even more beautiful to experience the ride. Dave told me he built the bikes to ride, not to be pieces of art. I understand his philosophy but life looks a little different from "our" point of view.

By “our point of view,” Russell means of course, the DM bike enthusiasts. My own POV has also changed slightly. Many of the bikes I built are being ridden, which brings me a great deal of joy and satisfaction. Others sit in garages and basements waiting to be discovered.

For something like this that I put so many hours labor into it, is rare enough that possibly it is where it should be. In the Houston Bicycle Museum.

The two things that determine the way the bike feels when riding it. The design, and the fact that the frame was built straight. All the beautiful paint and chrome is just aesthetics, a modest Fuso or Recherché will feel exactly the same to ride. And for a fraction of the price of this one.


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