Dave Moulton

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In the best shape of my life

Some say that the time for reminiscing about when we were in the best physical shape of our lives, is for when we are done riding. When that time comes for me, I already know when that was, 1970 and 1971. It started literarily by accident. 

I was living in England, it was early in the 1970 season. I was out training alone after dark and was rounding a bend on a relatively quiet country road when a motorcycle traveling in the opposite direction, took the same bend on the wrong side of the road, and met me head on.

The motor cycle, ridden by a sixteen year old with no driver’s license or insurance, with a youth of similar age riding on the back. These kids were on a big ol’ British Norton Dominator and were racing some others who were following also on motorcycles. Because they did not see a light from an approaching car assumed it was safe to take this particular corner on the inside. 

All I remember of the impact was a huge headlight coming straight for me, the next moment I was lying on my back in the road. What actually happened was that the motorcycle passed slightly to my right, the handlebars of the motorcycle passed over my bike but hit my right forearm. Remember this was England so I was riding on the left side of the road.

The impact threw me up in the air, doing a complete summersault, and I landed on my back in the road. Rather like a wrestler, doing a move called “The Irish Whip.” It happed so fast I do not remember that part, but know that is what happened because the back of my head was slightly grazed, (We didn’t wear helmets back then.) and the back was ripped out of my sweatshirt.

The motorcycle also went down and the two youths picked up some road rash as they slid across the road and ended up against a wooden barn on the opposite side. Apart from this they were uninjured. I was not so lucky. My right forearm was shattered, broken in three places. My bike on the other hand was completely untouched, not even a scratch in the paint.

I experienced the worst pain in my life that night lying in a hospital with my arm a temporary sling hung by my bed. The next morning they operated, and had to put a stainless steel plate in my arm to hold it all together. The plate is still there today, and I wouldn’t know it except for a six inch operation scar to remind me. 

They put my arm in a cast from my hand to my armpit, with my elbow held at 90 degrees. This cast was on for five months. I could drive a car and do a few other things but couldn’t work. I decided to keep riding my bike and rigged it up with a single fixed gear and a brake lever in the center of the handlebars so I could ride with one hand.

I rode every day as much as 60 to 80 miles. Weekends I would ride with the other guys in my cycling club. They cut me no slack and would drop me on the first hill we came to. I was riding with my left hand only so had to sit down on the hills, and could not get out of the saddle to climb. I would chase the group for miles, sometimes catching up, other times I never saw them again.

Weekdays I would sometimes ride with an older retired guy. He was probably in his late sixties, where as I was 34 at the time. He kicked my butt, and told me months later that I had the same effect on him. He kept telling himself that he couldn’t let a cripple with one arm beat him, while I was thinking ‘I can’t let this old man beat me.’

When the cast came off after five months, the doctors were amazed, my right arm had muscle in it. My left arm got a hell of a work out and I have heard that if you work one arm or leg it will affect the other. So riding my bike was probably the best thing I could have done for my recovery.

The end of that year and the one that followed was my best season ever. The five months that my arm was in a cast I had been doing over 400 miles a week, and doing it all on a single 69 inch fixed gear. (46 x 18.) I could spin and was as strong as a horse on the hills. There is no doubt in my mind when I was in the best shape of my life.


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What does the length of your forearm and the price of fish have to do with stem length?

This method of determining handlebar stem length has been around forever. My cycling experience dates back over 67 years and it was practiced then, and many years prior. Actually it is not a bad guide and works for most people.

Of course in an age of computerized bike fitting, this may seem to be bordering on an old wife’s tale, but believe it or not, back in the day before computers people figured shit out using only the power of their mind, and the wisdom of old wives.

Place your elbow against the nose of your saddle and if your fingertips do not fit behind the handle bars as shown above, then your stem is probably too short. If the bars are more than 2cm. away from the finger tips your stem maybe too long.

When I was racing I used a stem that placed my fingertips one centimeter from the bars. Now as a mild concession to my aging body I’m using a stem a centimeter shorter. If you are wondering as I did for many years what the length of a person’s forearm has to do with stem length? I will explain.

When I am determining frame size I take into account three body measurements.
1. Inside leg length (Often referred to as inseam.) measured crotch to floor without shoes.
2. Overall height.
3. Shoe size. (Length of foot.)
I do not require body length because I have overall height minus inseam. I do not require arm length because this is relevant to leg length and foot length combined.

Human bodies although all different do generally follow certain rules of nature. We have the same basic design and structure as most other animals on this planet except we walk on our hind legs while most others walk on all four. So it follows a person with long legs will also have long arms; short legs, short arms.

Four legged animals generally walk on their toes (and finger tips) whereas we stand and walk on our heels. So some people have a long body, but short legs and it is not unusual for a person with this build to have longer feet, and also longer arms. The long arms are not out of proportion if you consider the leg length is a combination of inseam plus the length of foot.

When pedaling a bicycle the toe is pointing downward at the bottom of the pedal stroke so the foot becomes an extension of the leg, which is why it has to be taken into consideration when determining frame size. The person with short legs, long feet needs a larger frame than their inseam alone would suggest. The larger frame with its proportionally longer top tube will also accommodate this rider’s longer body and arms

The length of the forearm is proportionate in length to the length of the foot. Take one of your shoes and hold it against your forearm and you will see it is the same length as the distance from your elbow to your wrist. In other words the big bones in your forearm are the same length as your foot.

So assuming you are on the right size frame and your seat is set at the correct height, then chances are if you have very long feet then you will have a short inseam and a long body.

Because you have long feet you also have a long forearm and if you do this little elbow against the saddle trick it will show you need a long handlebar stem which will be right for your long body and arms.

A person with very long legs for their height will also have long arms but will have a short body and small feet relative to their height. Small feet mean short forearm and a shorter stem which will be right for their short body. Because this rider has long legs his saddle will be set high making a greater distance from the seat to the bars. This will accommodate his long arms.

There is another method for determining stem length which states: “A rider seated with their hands on the drops of the bars, will have the front hub obscured from view by the handlebars.” This works in the same way, longer body calls for a longer stem and vice-versa.

The only thing is that this method could be affected by the head angle of the frame and the length of fork rake. I prefer the length of forearm method because it is simpler. It works for most people but there is a small percentage that it will not. I always say if you are comfortable and happy with your current position, don’t change it. Go by the old “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” adage.

And what does all this have to do with the price of fish? Nothing at all, but it got your attention.


This is a rewrite of a post from the very early days of the Bike Blog. At the time it was shot down by a reader as “Utter Rubbish.” I repost it today for the reasons I did the first time. Not to get people to rush out and buy new handlebar stems, but rather to explain that before the days of high tech bike fitting, people managed to get by. I hope also I have explained why this method did have some merit, and the reasons why.

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A cyclist must be passed

The late and great George Carlin said:

"If I am driving at a given speed, anyone who passes me is a Maniac, and anyone driving slower than me is a Moron."

The only reason this is funny is because it is the truth, a trait in human nature that we can all relate.

I recall the day I observed a guy on an old beat up moped. The engine was screaming, black smoke billowed from the exhaust, and he was driving at about 20 mph in the center of the lane on a busy main street.

There was no doubt from the sound of the engine, that this was the top speed this aging two wheeled clunker was capable of.

Cars were just following along behind him in a slow procession, no one was honking at him. Traffic was backed up at least a mile, and drivers positioned six cars back or more were oblivious to the cause of the hold up anyway.

They were all just calmly following this guy on a moped, and I wondered, what if that were a cyclist riding down the center of the lane at 20 mph. There would be a medley of car horns blowing, people would be screaming abuse from their open car windows.

Human nature would kick in, a cyclist is someone who must be passed. It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing close to 25 mph in a 25 mph speed zone.

It doesn't matter if the cyclist is doing 50 mph, plus, down a winding mountain pass. Where it is not safe for a car to travel at above fifty, a cyclist must be passed.

On the other hand, put a motor on the bicycle, electric or gasoline, just as long as it doesn’t have pedals, and it has some magical calming effect on following drivers.

The actual speed at which the moped or scooter is traveling has no bearing on the situation. Human nature and human behavior is indeed strange.


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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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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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