Dave Moulton

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Monday
Feb042019

The Paris Galibier

 

In 1950 as a 14 year old, I attended Luton Technical School, some 30 miles north of London, England. Adjacent to that school was a Technical College for older engineering students. Many of these students were racing cyclists and would leave their bikes in the bicycle rack in the school yard. 

Lunch time would find me scrutinizing every fine detail of these bikes; it was the beginning of love affair with the bicycle that ultimately shaped my life, and lead to a career as a framebuilder.

One of the most unusual and eye-catching bikes was the Paris “Galibier” model. Paris was the brand name of London framebuilder, Harry “Spanner” Rensch.

His last name sounded like Wrench, hence the nickname “Spanner.” During WWII Rensch was an oxy-acetylene welder in London’s shipyards.

Paris Cycles started during the war in 1943. Harry probably chose the name Paris rather than use his own German sounding name, because of obvious wartime anti-German feeling, especially after the London Blitz.

He used a “Bi-laminated” construction for his frames that is a sleeve brazed over the ends of the tubes, and the actual joint then filet brazed. Referred to as “Bronze Welding” in the Paris literature.

Beside the Galibier model, Harry Rensch also built conventionally designed frames. The most popular of which was the “Tour de France” model.  (Above.)

Paris frames often sported very flashy paint jobs, especially for that time. I remember red, white, and blue fade paint for example. There was a large Eiffel Tower decal on the seat tube, and the Paris name was stenciled on the down tube. 

Ever since the introduction of the Galibier, and to this day, many a fierce argument has been held over this style guru’s dream machine. Is it just a style gimmick or is there real merit in this design? 

I never rode a Galibier, but I will say this, a bicycle frame twists as it is being ridden, about a line from the head tube to the rear dropout. So placing a single large tube along this line, (Or there abouts.) does have merit. The seat tube is also split to form an interesting cantilever design.

One thing cannot be denied is the superb craftsmanship of Harry Rensch. Like many artists before and since, Rensch was not a good businessman. Paris Cycles was always plagued with financial problems, and lasted just 10 years, closing their doors in 1953. Harry Rensch never returned to the bicycle business and died in 1984. The Galibier is his legacy. 

In recent years Condor Cycles in London bought the rights to the Paris name and are reproducing the Galibier model. (Picture above.)


Pictures from Classic Lightweights, UK

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Monday
Jan282019

How many Fuso Lux Frames?

Like most frame builders, I stamped a serial number on my frames. Most products of any value have a serial number.  It is an identification mark on an often otherwise identical product. My custom frames were stamped with a number that represented the date it was built.

When I started to build the non-custom frames like the John Howard and the Fuso, these would hang in stock unpainted, sometimes for months, waiting for a customer who needed a particular size.  To stamp the frame with the date it was built, and the customer would perceive it was old stock.

It was practical to simply stamp these in sequence starting at number 001, which I did. It also served as a record of how many frames I was building. Beyond that I could have kept records of frame sizes, the color they were painted, and who they were sold to.

I kept no such records, I could see no useful purpose in doing so at the time. The reason, back in the 1980s when I built these frames, I could never envisage the Internet, and corresponding with people 30 years later about these very same frames.

However, since I started my Dave Moulton Bike Registry in 2010, and owners are sending me details of their frames, I am able to fill in some of the missing information. For example in 1986 I introduced the Fuso “LUX” model.

The Fuso Lux had a chrome plated right chainstay and dropout faces.

People had often lamented the passing of the John Howard frame with its chrome plating and superior finish with decals buried under eight clear coats, then sanded smooth before applying the final clear coat for a super smooth, ripple free finish.

The LUX (Luxury.) frame had these niceties. These frames were built to order, in other words an order preceded the frame being built. Other than that it was built on the same jig setting as the other Fuso frames. In a batch of five frames, one might be a special order LUX model.

But, when I stamped the batch of frames in sequence following the previous batch, I kept no record of which number was allocated to the LUX frame. As a result I have no idea how many Lux frames I built over the years. There is no point in counting the LUX frames on the registry, as even after nine years it only lists a fraction of the total frames built.

However, back in 2015 I wrote a piece about “One Thousand Fuso Crowns.”  In 1985 I ordered 1,000 Cinelli fork crowns with the Fuso name cast in them. (See picture left) Just this week a blog reader emailed me to point out there was a Fuso frame for sale on eBay #303 with a FUSO crown. This is a lower number than I previously had known.

So at the time of writing this, it has been established that FUSO frames numbered in the range of 303 to 1511, built in the five year period from 1985 to 1990, had the FUSO name fork crown. This is a total of 1208 frames.

As there were only 1,000 FUSO crowns, the excess 208 frames must have been the LUX model, as the LUX had an integral aero crown, without the FUSO name. (See right.)

This is the most accurate estimate I have so far. There will be a few more built after 1990, and as we discover more FUSO crown frames outside the current 303 to 1511 range, it will increase the Fuso LUX count.

So be on the lookout for FUSO crown frames with serial numbers below 303, or above 1511. If yours is within that range, it is already counted.

 

Read more about the Fuso LUX here.

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Monday
Jan212019

Update on Fast Eddie Williams' track bike

Ever since the untimely passing in August 2016, of New York’s Legendary Bike Messenger, Fast Eddie Williams, I had wondered what had happened to his bike. Not having direct contact with Eddie’s family, I had no way of knowing.

So imagine my delight when David Perry, one of Eddie’s mechanics since the late 1990s, emailed me to say the bike was in his keeping, being safely held until Eddie’s immediate family decided what to do with it.

Last fall, a curator for the Museum of the City of New York came by inquiring about objects to loan for an upcoming exhibition: “Cycling in the City—A 200-Year History,” from March 14 to October 6, 2019. The museum has chosen to exhibit Eddie’s bike.

Since David Perry is not the bike’s owner, he had to get written approval from Eddie’s family to loan the bike to the museum. That happened this weekend, and David was kind enough to pass the news on to me.

I hope this bike will remain safe in the future, never refinished but left as is, a working bike. Possibly find a permanent museum home, where all can see it as a memorial to Fast Eddie.

 

Click here, then scroll down to read previous articles about “Fast Eddie”

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Monday
Jan142019

They called me Don Dave

When I left my bicycle business in 1993 I went to work for a company that manufactured bowling equipment. The company was located in the City of Orange just south of Los Angeles in Southern California. The workforce of about 100 was almost entirely Mexican.

The following year the owner of the company decided to move the business to Springfield, Oregon. The State of Oregon, along with the City of Springfield gave him large tax breaks, low rent, and other incentives to move there because of Oregon’s high unemployment rate.

All employees were given the opportunity to move with the company but only about 15 of the original workforce including myself decided to move. When we arrived in Oregon we immediately started hiring. My position with the company was Welding Production Manager so I did some of the hiring. 

We were not necessarily looking for skilled workers, we were prepared to train people. We didn’t drug test anyone which may have been a big mistake, most of the people we hired it seemed had been unemployed for so long, they had lost any desire to work. One man I remember started work at 8:00 a.m. I showed him how to do a simple assembly job with a wrench. He worked until 10:00 a.m. when we took a break, he left and we never saw him again.

Another man I hired lived near me and I gave him a ride to work each day because he had no car. He quit after two weeks and stole a box of bronze bushes from the company worth several hundred dollars and sold it for ten dollars to a local scrap metal dealer. How do I know this? I found the bill of sale from the scrap dealer in my car some days later. As fast as we could hire these local workers, they quit. We didn’t fire them, they quit. We may be found two or three workers we could hang on to.

In desperation the owner contacted some of his original Mexican workers from Southern California and offered them a job. A few of them came and soon the word spread and others followed and by the end of that first year in Oregon our entire workforce was once again almost all Mexican. The company had really tried to give locals the jobs but had failed through no fault of our own.

I found these Mexican workers a joy to work with. You could take someone who had never welded in his life before, spend about half an hour showing him how, and by the end of the day he was welding with the speed and quality of someone who had been doing it for years. The Mexican has a work ethic like you wouldn’t believe having been taught to work hard from a very early age. In their own country they don’t work just to get by, they have to work hard in order to survive.

If one of their group was not pulling his weight for example the others would say to me, “Juan is lazy.” Not behind his back but to his face. Juan would become embarrassed and we would all have a laugh. He had been shamed into working harder by his fellow countrymen.

They called me “Don Dave,” in a somewhat lighthearted manner, but never-the-less a mark of respect they didn’t even extend to the owner of the company. Being an immigrant myself helped, but I believe I got that respect because I treated them with respect. I treated them as I treat everyone, as an equal, neither above me nor beneath me. I learned a few words in Spanish, enough to instruct them on their daily task. They made me look good with the company, because of the quality and quantity of work they produced.

Mexicans would not cross the border each day in their thousands if there were no jobs. People hire them not because the Mexican National is cheap labor, but because they work hard, do a good job and often an employer can’t find others to do the work they do.

 

This article was first posted in 2016. Immigration is a topic that is now even more current, not only in America, but in the UK too. It is one of the reasons for the mess known as Brexit. Often a thinly veiled form of racism. When the company was raided by the Immigration and Naturalization Service. (INS.) in 1997, only those of Hispanic appearance were  questioned and deported. I was not asked to show my Green Card. (Even though I have one.) Several white Mexicans of European appearance, and one black Mexican (Of African heritage.) were also not questioned, or deported.

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Monday
Jan072019

The significance of a decade ending in nine

I came to the United States in January 1979, exactly forty years ago. For me it was a life changing move, an act of truly starting over. It was sometime in the years that followed I realized there had been a significant, often life changing event that had occured in my life, every decade on the year ending in nine.

This could be traced back all the way to September 1939 when I was just three and a half years old. It was the month WWII started and my father left to go to war. I have absolutely no memory of this, but just two weeks later my mother gave birth to my sister, and my elder brother and I went to stay with my aunt and uncle for a couple of weeks.

I have a vivid memory of this visit, in spite of my age.  My uncle was a chauffeur for Lord Farringdon. He lived on the estate of Buscot Park, in Oxfordshire. He and my aunt lived in a flat (Apartment.) above the garages were the Rolls Royce’s were kept. The estate is now open to the public and the Garages are now the ticket office where visitors start their tour.

I never went inside Buscot House (Below.) but walked by the front steps and explored the whole park with my brother and cousin. We went fishing in the lake there, and I remember catching a small fish. I remember a rose garden that sloped down to the lake, with a sundial in the center.

When WWII ended in 1945 and my father returned, he had a hard time keeping a steady job, and we moved every year. This played havoc with my schooling. In 1946, 1947, and 1948 we lived in different places often hundreds of miles apart.

Dave 1949By 1949 I was 13 years old and we moved to Luton, an industrial town just 30 miles north of London. My mother finally said she was through moving and we settled there. I caught up with my education, got a scholarship to an Engineering Technical School, which lead to an engineering apprenticeship.

Luton was also where I started cycling. Joined a club and started racing at 16 years old. It was where I met Pop Hodge and started dabbling in framebuilding, and look where that lead. Luton was definitely a life changing move.

In 1959, now 23 years old, an adult and able to make my own choices. On a quite sudden whim while in between jobs, I decided to move north the Nottingham. It was there I later married in 1964, and we had two daughters. 

In 1969, still unaware of this ten year itch thing I had going, we upped and moved to Worcester. My original intentions were to find a simpler lifestyle in rural Worcestershire. A better environment to raise two small daughters.

As it happened Worcester was in the West Midlands, just south of Birmingham, and a hot bed of British cycle racing. This got me heavily involved in cycling and framebuilding again. Once again a life changing move.

Dave 1979In 1979 aged 43 I moved to America. My marriage had ended and it was a good time to make a complete break.

I later remarried.  Nothing happened in 1989, except my second wife left, so I guess that is significant, but not altogether life changing. Anyway I was aware if this ten year cycle thing by now.

I left the bike biz in 1993, moved to Eugene, Oregon in 1994. Met my wife Kathy there and married in October, 1998. Now I could have waited a few months and married in 1999, but you can’t manipulate fate, and for what other reason would I do that?

We moved to Charleston, South Carolina in 2001. We are still here and nothing significant happened in 2009. However, here we are on the dawn of 2019 and we are considering moving inland. Charleston is a beautiful area and we love it here, but the secret is out and there are getting to be too many people. Traffic is horrendous, and it will only get worse.

We are looking at rural areas near Greenville, South Carolina. Listed as a bicycle friendly city by the League of American Wheelmen. It could happen this year, but not be to fulfil some prophecy, but because the time is right. It will just be a coincidence that it happened on a year ending in nine, which is how I feel it has always been. An interesting coincidence.

 

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