Dave Moulton

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If you own a frame or bike built by Dave Moulton, email details to list it on the registry website at www.davemoultonregistry.com

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Monday
Apr022018

Success and Fate

Looking back on the United States part of my framebuilding career, although some of my success I created, fate also played a large role.

For example in 1980 I went for a job interview with Trek, in Wisconsin. I didn’t get the position, but later that same year I landed a job with Masi in Southern California.

When I eventually started my own business I was definitely in the right place. California, and in particular the southern part of that state, has a climate where one can ride a bike year round. Had I opened my own framebuilding shop in Wisconsin, business would have definitely been seasonal.

Also when Masi laid me off at the end of 1981 it was due to an overstock of unsold frames coinciding with a recession. It was not because of anything I had done, and it was not necessarily Masi’s doing either.

They were only too pleased to rent me space in their shop to build my own frames, as they also had a drop in income. This got me started back in my own business again, and I was able to resume building custom frames. Something I had not done since leaving England in 1979.

Then when John Howard, ex-Olympic rider and winner of the first Ironman Triathlon approached me in 1983 to build frames under his own name, it gave me a contract to build five frames a week.

This brought in a steady income to supplement what I was already making from my custom frames. It enabled me to open my own framebuilding facility, along with my own paint shop.

The John Howard frame was a short lived project that only lasted a year. Again due to circumstances largely outside of my control, and of which I have outlined in a previous article.

This left me scrambling to find a replacement to fill the void in my production capabilities. Once again fate had played a hand and out of that the Fuso was conceived.

The John Howard frame was always underpriced and profit margins were small. It was competing head on with the Masi and Italian import frames, but was not an established brand at that time, so we had to produce and sell it for less.

With lessons learned from the John Howard frame, the Fuso came into being in 1984. The extreme luxuries like chrome plating were dispensed with, and the Fuso was a well designed, well built product with nice paint and graphics.

No longer having to split profits with a middle man, I now had a frame that was a reasonable price and would compete favorably with the import frames.

The Fuso had a good run for almost ten years, when once again fate took a hand in the form of the Mountain Bike. People stopped buying road bikes. However, this time I did not rise to the challenge and re-invent myself or my business.

Maybe I had been knocked down one too many times. I was thoroughly burned out with the bike business, and no longer wanted to be a part of it.

If someone had offered me a job in the bike business, I would have considered it. But to run my own business again, subject to all the whims of the market and the consumer. No, thank you very much

Looking back I have no regrets, but can't help but wonder what if I had landed that job with Trek back in 1980. Would they have treated me well enough that I stayed?

I might be retired by now with a large pension from some executive position. On the other hand I doubt if it would have been as satisfying as what I did do.

And is money the only consideration when a person looks back on what they have achieved? At some point we die and money has little bearing on anything

 

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Monday
Mar262018

Autonomous Cars

People do such a lousy job of driving cars they killed some 40,000 people in the US last year. (109 every day.) One answer it seems is technology, self-driving cars that take over the responsibility for driving safely, by refraining from running into other people.

The only problem is the technology is still in the development stages and cannot be trusted on public roads. The robotics in these autonomous vehicles cannot be fully relied on to avoid each and every pedestrian or cyclist. The answer is to put a driver behind the wheel to override the robot should an emergency arise.

Last week the inevitable happened in Tempe, Arizona, when a 49 year-old woman, wheeling her bicycle across the street was struck and killed by an autonomous Uber car. It was not a “Driverless” car as it had a backup driver behind the wheel. Both car and driver failed to “See” the unfortunate lady, and stop.

Technology is not the answer, it is the problem.


Modern cars have become so easy to drive, with automatic transmissions, cruse controls, etc., that there is less and less for a driver to do. Is it any wonder people become distracted?

 I am not excusing distracted driving, it is wrong and the crux of the whole problem. But it is human nature, we are not robots, our minds don’t work that way. Most cannot sit still and do nothing, even if ‘nothing’ includes keeping one’s eyes and mind on the road ahead.

So by putting a driver in a driverless car, and take away the last thing he has to do, namely steer the car and work the stop and go pedals with his feet, then expect him to have his eyes on the road constantly? I can see where that might not work too well.

Cars used to be manual transmission, (Stick shift.) I grew up in the UK with cars like these. We needed two hands and two feet to drive. You could not eat, or drink coffee, or do anything else while driving because you needed at least one hand to steer, while shifting gears with the other. Simultaneously working the clutch, brake, and gas pedal with your feet.

Driving in city traffic was constantly shifting up through the gears to speed up, then shifting down again as you slowed down. It was almost impossible to be distracted. Driving occupied your mind fully from the moment you started the engine, until you reached your destination and parked.

I am not suggesting we all go back to stick shift, although it would be a good thing if people learned to drive that way. Do you want to keep your teenager off the cell phone? Make their first car a stick shift. And why not use technology to make it so a cell phone won’t work while the car is in motion?

Instead of cruise control set by the driver, how about one that limits the top speed to the speed limit controlled from outside the vehicle. And a control device that limits how close you drive behind another vehicle for any given speed?

How about cyclists and pedestrians have a micro-chip implant that would warn autonomous cars of their presence. I am being facetious of course, that would trample on our human rights. But sadly the lady from Tempe, AZ, who ironically was both pedestrian and cyclist, lost the ultimate human right. Namely, the right to live.   

 

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Monday
Mar192018

Life’s lessons I learned from my bicycle

Life is a journey. A bike ride if you like, and the joy is in the ride, not the destination.

Each morning I awake is like starting out on a fresh ride, I have a rough idea of what is in store for me on today’s ride.

However, when I actually get out on the road, I know there will be variables. Weather, traffic, mechanical problems, maybe a flat tire.

I do not set out expecting the worst, but I should not be surprised when little setbacks occur. Life is a stream of surprises. The things we like we call "Natural," what we dislike we call "Accidental." In reality it is all natural, all part of life's journey.

I may be riding in rush hour traffic, some are driving in an orderly manner, and others are in a hurry, driving erratically, cutting in front of people. Add to this, hordes of pedestrians on the sidewalk and crossing the street.

It all seems like chaos, when in fact everyone has a destination, they all have individual plans and know where they are going. Life too appears chaotic, but beneath the surface it is not.

The road I travel is the one I choose, although I may need to steer a course around a few obstacles. I have to remind myself, every moment is as it should be.

 

Attitude is like a bicycle. A good one will make the ride easier and more pleasurable.

When riding my bike it is best that I simply to pay attention observe what is happening and react to situations as they happen. In life bad things happen, there is crime, the economy, various mishaps and misfortunes.

There is no point in dwelling on the negative, because it will only spoil the enjoyment of my ride. It is best that I just ride my bike, observe what is happening, and deal with the problems as they occur.

Like a flat tire, it is not very pleasant at the moment I am dealing with it, however, once fixed I am back enjoying the ride again. Expect the best, but deal with the less than perfect situation as it happens.

 

Running a business is like a bike race. Or for that matter dealing with a day to day household budget.

My level of fitness is the experience and knowledge I have accumulated over the years. Mistakes I made in the past are like those hard training miles I put in.

The amount of money I have in the bank, or as income, is like the amount of energy I have. Unless I use it wisely I will not last the distance. If I have no plan and I chase every breakaway that goes up the road my energy (Money.) will soon run out.

Riding along in the pack is like being financially comfortable, I am conserving my energy and I am not being wasteful. However, if I want to get ahead I will have expend some of my energy.

Waiting for the right break and seeing that there are other good riders there, is like waiting for the right business opportunity at the right moment.

I make a big effort, spend some of my energy. I may have team members who will help me. These are like valued employees or good friends. If I am successful I will come out ahead and will get my reward.

If I fail I may get caught by the pack and I am at least no worse off than I was before. On the other hand, I may have expended so much energy that I get dropped by the pack and I am now playing catch up.

I am now in debt and the only way to catch up is to put in a super human effort. If I don’t, out here riding alone I am spending more energy than when I was in the pack, just to stay level and possibly falling further behind in spite of it.

The speed, at which I catch up, depends on the effort I put in and whether I have people who drop back to help me catch up.

However, unlike a bike race life is ongoing and the effort I put in while I was “Off the back,” was good training for the future.

I’m sure there are plenty more analogies of life and my bike, they will have to wait for another day as I think of them. In the meantime, perhaps you can expand on mine, or think of new ones.

 

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Monday
Mar122018

Passion

Cycling is a passion, or rather, it can become one. Many people ride a bike, not all of them can be described as passionate about it. Passion is one of those words that is not easy to explain, one has to experience passion to know what it truly is.

Cycling becomes a passion when someone rides a bike for no other reason than to experience the joy of riding a bike. If you have a passion for something in life, you are truly living. Without passion, a person is simply existing.

Sometimes the passion is in owning the bike, or collecting and owning more than one bike. Working on the bike, looking at and admiring the bike. Sometimes this passion goes hand in hand with riding the bike, but not necessarily so. The two passions can exist separately, and even one without the other.

There is a fine line between ownership as a passion, and simple materialism. The only way I can speculate the difference. If the object you own brings you joy, it is a passion.  If it is owning the object that brings joy, it is probably materialism.  

To put it another way few people have a passion for driving anymore. Few people go for a Sunday Drive, as one would go for a Sunday Bike Ride. Driving is for the purpose of reaching a destination. Owning a nice car, (The object,) brings joy, but roads are too congested to really enjoy driving the car, for driving itself to become a passion.

People who say, “Cyclists should not be on the road because it is dangerous,” just don’t get it. It is like telling a surfer it is dangerous to go into the ocean, the surfer who is passionate about surfing is not going to stop.

It is not that cyclists and surfers are crazy, foolhardy, with little regard for their life. In fact, the opposite is true. If one has a passion for life, the last thing that person wants is to end it. On the other hand, if one cannot engage in their passion, they are no longer living anyway. Life becomes a pointless existence. 

Passion can include anger, especially if someone suggests I should not pursue my passion, which happens to be riding my bike on the road. It is a road bike after all, and just as a surfer must surf in the ocean, a road bike must be ridden on the road. 

Some will say, “You have a local bike path, why don’t you ride there?” Yes I am fortunate to have a paved Walk and Bike Trail just two miles from my home. It is 7 miles long, so 14 miles out and home. But after riding it many times, the monotony has got me itching to get out on the open road, and actually go somewhere.

On weekends I pick quiet country roads to ride where there is very little motorized traffic, and actually I prefer to deal with a few cars and trucks over the dog walkers and runners on the shared path.

Of course, they have a right to be there too, so I am not complaining. Some of these runners and dog owners may be following their own passion. 

 

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Monday
Mar052018

Supply and Demand

 

This week a bike I built, (Pictured above.) a Fuso FRX model, is up for sale on eBay. The asking price is $2,500. That is more than twice what it would sell for if it were offered on open auction. More money than it cost new in 1990, when it was built. See this article here.

It is a nice one I will admit, in almost mint condition, it has obviously had little use, but I built 2,400 Fuso frames between 1984 and 1993. They are not that rare. Maybe one of my custom ‘dave moulton’ bikes, if it were in this condition, might go for over $2,000, but I only built 216 of those. Big difference.

How about “Demand,” the other side of the equation? I have a Registry that has (At the time of writing.) 358 Fuso bikes listed. Some owners have more than one Fuso in their collection, so this is less than 358 owners. Not a large number considering there were over 2,400 built.

These are owners who care enough about the Fuso brand to email me with details so I can add their bike to the list. So let me ask this. Given the relatively small number of true Fuso enthusiasts, how many would be owners are waiting in the wings, on the lookout for a frame or bike to buy? Not many, and not at these outrageous prices.

The problem Is, the bikes on eBay offered at these high prices, rarely sell. They just sit there for weeks on end, then they disappear for a while, only to be relisted again at a later date, at the same high price. So when someone happens to inherit a Fuso, or they find one in a thrift store, or garage sale. (It does happen.) They see these greatly inflated prices on eBay, and think they have struck gold.

The “Supply and Demand” factor came into play when the frames were built. There were more of the mid sizes built, 56, 57, and 58 centimeters. These were in greater demand, because there are more cyclists that fall within these sizes. The next most popular were the sizes above and below these sizes, namely 59, 60, 61, and 53, 54, 55 centimeter.

There were fewer very large and very small sizes built because there were less people needing these sizes. The same supply and demand factor applies today. There will be more demand for the mid-size frames, however, there will be more of these coming up for sale, because there were more of the built.   

Conversely, the very large or very small frames are in less demand, but there were fewer built. This means if an extreme large or small frame comes up for sale, you may get it at a bargain price, because you are the only one needing that size. On the other hand if there are two or more bidders, the price will go higher.

The buyer then has to make a decision. Pay more, or wait for another to come along in this size, knowing it might be a while because of its comparative rarity. Whether you pay more or not, depends a lot on the frame’s condition. If, for example the paint is really nice, pay a little extra. If the paint is rough, let it go.

Educate yourself by following sales on eBay and Craig’s List. Join the “Dave Moulton Bikes” group on Facebook. Members there are always posting and discussing bikes for sale. I have no financial interest on any frames sold online, so I have no interest in influencing prices. I just hate to see anyone get ripped off, whether they are buyer or seller.

I try to maintain interest in the brands I built, John Howard, Fuso, Recherché, etc., with this blog, and my Registry. My loyalty is with the people who own and ride bikes I built, not those who wish to profit unfairly with over-inflated prices.

I will not be building any more frames, so the supply will never increase, but there are still plenty out there in people’s basements and garages, waiting to be discovered. When the list of Fuso owners on my Registry reaches a thousand, I will consider there is a demand.

 

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