Dave Moulton

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Childhood memories on this Memorial Day

The picture on the left is of me aged five with my Uncle David, he was my father’s younger brother. I was named after him.

It was 1941 during the early days of WWII, in the background of the picture you can see tents.

This was a British Army camp, and I have clear memories of watching a drill sergeant marching the new recruits up and down the road outside my house.

One day leaving home with my mother, the soldiers were lined up on the road three deep, standing to attention. As we walked by I said in a loud voice as kids often do,

“Mum, you see the one with the beard under his nose. (The drill sergeant had a mustache.) He’s the one who does all the shouting.”

There was audible laughter from some of the soldiers and as my mother hurried me away, I could hear the drill sergeant screaming at the men to be quiet.

We were living in a rural area in Southern England, having moved there in 1940 to escape the bombing in London. The war was something I didn’t understand at the time, but it was all I knew. My father was gone, fighting somewhere in Sahara Desert of North Africa.

Another clear memory I have is of early 1944 when the American soldiers arrived in preparation for the Normandy Invasion. They were everywhere, camped on every spare piece of land, including the same camp behind my house.

I was now eight years old and although they seemed like grown-ups to me, I realize today that most of these young army recruits were barely ten or twelve years older than I was at the time. 

I remember they were always happy, laughing and constantly goofing around as teenagers will do.

They were so good to us kids, giving us candy and chewing gum every time the saw us. This was a huge deal as sugar was rationed and we had to get by on an allowance of only 2 oz. of candy a month.

We became used to the American soldiers being there, jeeps, trucks and even Sherman Tanks driving by all the time. Then one day, the first week of June 1944 the soldiers were gone. I went to school in the morning and they were there, I came home from school that afternoon and they were all gone.

It was a surreal experience that I didn’t understand at the time, any more than I understood anything else that went on during that period of my life.

Later when I became an adult, it had a profound effect on me. Because even to this day I can still see the faces of those young American boys, (Because that is what many of them were.) laughing, and goofing around.

Only now I realize that those same kids died in their thousands on the Beaches of Normandy and beyond.

I will never forget the sacrifice they made. A sacrifice not of their choosing. But one they made none the less so I would never have to do the same.


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Vintage brake cable routing

If you own a vintage steel frame, chances are the rear brake cable is routed through braze-on cable guides along the top tube.

Every time the rear brake is applied the cable housing moves slightly. If it drags across the top tube, or touches the seat-stay caps, eventually it will wear through the paint.

To avoid this, route the cable so it is slightly above the seat lug, clear of the paint, and the cable housing rests against the aluminum seat post, as shown in the top picture.

Try not to have too big of a loop in the cable housing, or it will push the side pull brake off center.

To hold the cable housing in this position, place a small rubber “O” ring just behind the last cable guide.

Cut a groove in the plastic sheathing of the cable housing, with a sharp knife, so the “O” ring will drop in this groove and stay in place. See the close up detail shot above.

Use a # 60 “O” ring (¼” O.D. x 1/8” I.D.) These can be found in the plumbing section of your local hardware store. It's a good idea to buy a few spare to add to your tool-box, as they are inexpensive. The rubber deteriates in the sunlight, and they need replacing from time to time.


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Everyone's a Photographer

Everyone has a camera in their pocket, their cell phone. But just because you can take a picture of just about anything at any time, doesn’t mean you should. Just because you are in a Starbucks and you have a camera, doesn’t mean you should take a picture of your cup of coffee and post it online somewhere.

Such behavior twenty years ago would warrant incarceration in a mental institution, today it is common place. At the Giro d’Italia a few years ago, German sprinter Marcel Kittel won a stage, and briefly collapsed at the roadside, to catch his breath. A young fan took it upon himself to take a “Selfie” with the temporarily incapacitated Kittel. (See above picture.)

I doubt he asked permission first, and even if he had, did Marcel Kittel have the breath, or fully functioning brain to even grasp what was happening? And what is the purpose of this exercise? Does taking one’s picture with a famous person, somehow cause that person’s fame to rub off on the picture taker.

The other point that seems to be missed, is while everyone is so busy filming or taking pictures they are missing out on the actual event that is taking place. We have always had a “Camera” with us, it is called a memory.

I can remember 1951, a long time ago. I was 15 years old and had my first lightweight racing bike. I rode with a friend some 50 miles to watch the first Tour of Britain bike race. The memory of waiting by the roadside for the race to come by, and seeing the actual riders in the flesh, rather than black and white pictures in a paper, is still fresh in my mind today.

A 15 year old today going out to watch a similar race, will probably whip out his cell phone and record the race as it goes by. He will miss seeing his heroes in the flesh because he will be staring at an image on a tiny screen a few inches across.

Will today’s 15 year old fan have the same vivid memory of the event 68 years from now? I doubt it, and the pictures or video he took will be long gone, lost or deleted along with all the countless other pictures of cups of coffee, and bowls of guacamole. 


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Hand Magic

In the mid-1990s I met a Native American from the Coquille Indian Tribe in Oregon. He told me about “Hand Magic.”

Native Americans view themselves as a part of Nature, not separate from it. Their belief is that there is but one creative source, and man is just the vehicle through which art appears. In much the same way as a bird builds a nest, or ants build an ant hill.

When it comes to humans the Native American calls this “Hand Magic,” The Great Spirit guiding the artist’s hand through the mind and creating a piece of pottery, a blanket or some other object.

In the Middle Ages in England as in the rest of Europe men built houses with the minimum of planning or measuring. Just as there is very little planning or measuring in a piece of Indian pottery or weaving.

Today these old crooked thatched roofed cottages still stand and the blend perfectly into the surrounding landscape. They actually add to the beauty of the English countryside.

I have come to realize only man is capable of creating ugliness. A man builds a barn in a field and paints it red, it is ugly, a blight on the environment. But as Nature takes over and the barn becomes derelict it becomes a thing of beauty. People come to photograph it, and artists paint it on canvas. (Above.)

Everything in Nature is beautiful, and if the artist is connected to this Spirit within as he/she creates, the art cannot help but be beautiful.

I have not always subscribed to this thinking, but over the years as I built bicycle frames it became an automatic process, second nature, so to speak.

Metal expands and contracts when it is heated then cools again. In time, through repetition, I knew which way the frame would distort and would actually start brazing with the frame out of alignment so it would be in alignment after it cooled.

The amount the frame was out of line at the start of the process was not a measured amount, it was an amount determined by eye, a feeling if you will.

After a frame was brazed and had cooled it was checked on a surface table and measured with a dial indicator. The frames were always within ten or fifteen thousandth of an inch and therefore required a minimum of cold setting to achieve the final alignment.

In my early years as a frame builder I had also made ornamental iron work, and had painted pictures in oils. When I left the bike business, I was aware that whatever it was within my makeup that allowed me to successfully build bicycle frames, would allow me to embark on other creative endeavors.

Meeting that old Coquille Indian in Oregon confirmed what I had begun to figure out for myself. Now as a writer and songwriter, I believe as many other songwriters do that songs are already written and songwriters just pick them out of the air as they float by.

Some reading this will dismiss it as “New Age” bullshit, and that is okay because thirty or forty years ago I would have done the same.


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I first got into bike racing at the age of 16, in 1952. To the present day as I write, that is 67 years of racing bikes, studying and writing about bikes, and designing and building bikes. Looking back over this period, there were very few technological changes in the first thirty years from the 1950s to the 1980s.

Frames were brass brazed, lugged steel, built by craftsmen. With standard size steel tubes as they had been for fifty years prior to that. All had level top tubes, it was the framebuilder’s point of reference. An individual could establish his frame size, and after that could buy any make of frame in that size, and it would fit.

There were subtle changes in racing frame geometry, but not so much that all but the most avid bike enthusiast would even know about, and apart from that we went from 5 speed to 6 speed and that was it.

However, in the next thirty or more years that followed, from the 1980s to the present day, the bicycle has changed at an alarming rate, as has technology in general. The mountain bike, indexed gear shifting, which lead to 7, 8, 9, 10, and 11 speed, clipless pedals and Carbon fiber frames.

For more than thirty years all professional cyclists and almost all amateur cyclists used Christophe steel toe clips and Binda toe straps. It was a common standard of excellence. Then in the late 1980s clipless or clip in pedals appeared and in a few short years toe clips and straps were obsolete.

That is progress, and yes I will agree it is an improvement, but imagine how the owners of Christophe and Binda must have felt seeing their lucrative business as the major suppliers of toe clips and straps for the entire world, disappear in a very short period of time.

What has changed is not only the bicycle itself, but the whole structure of the bicycle industry. Individual craftsmen are now obsolete. Racing bicycles are produced by a few large corporations worldwide. Individual craftsmen were content to make a good living wage, which probably accounts for the lack of progress in the first thirty years I speak of.

This can be viewed as a good or bad thing, but bicycle racing is a simple sport and requires a simple machine to participate. Individual builders like myself in the UK and the rest of Europe catered almost exclusively to amateur racing cyclists. Everyone wanted to emulate the professional cyclists, and use whatever they were riding.

Everything changed in the 1970s with the “Bike Boom” in America. A few die hard enthusiasts wanted what the pros rode. But to the general American public, the race bike was over geared and very uncomfortable to ride. This is why the Mountain Bike became a huge hit in the 1990s, more comfortable, and easier to ride.

It used to be, “What the Pros rode” that drove the market. Today it is the American leisure market that drives the Industry, and the pros ride what the corporations who sponsor them, tell them to ride. A wider range of gears, is probably the single most technological improvement that has benefited professional cycling.

Disc brakes being forced on the pros is a prime example of unwanted and unnecessary technology that complicates a fast wheel change that is vital in pro cycling. However, for the corporations it creates built in obsolescence so necessary to create continued sales.

Professional Cycling is harder and more demanding than many other sports, and in many cases less rewarding financially. What makes the sport unique is the fact that one rider can draft behind another, making the cycle racing highly tactical as well as physical. It is what makes the sport unpredictable, and exciting to watch. No amount of technology will ever change this.


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