Dave Moulton

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Riding my bike to Grandma’s house

For ten years, from the age of 13 until I was 23, (1949 - 1959) I lived in Luton, an industrial town some 30 miles north of London.

This was where I started cycling, and throughout my teen years I rode my bike all over the South East corner of England, within a hundred mile radius of Luton.

My grandmother lived in a little seaside town called Hythe, in the county of Kent. It is on the South Coast of England, near Folkstone and Dover. On a clear day you can look out over the English Channel and see the coast of France.

On many occasions I rode my bike to visit my Grandma, who at that time still lived in the same house on High Street (Left.) where my mother was born.

The shortest route was 100 miles, and I would usually ride down on Saturday, stay overnight, and ride back on Sunday. 

The direct route took me right through the dead center of London, right down the Edgware Road to Hyde Park Corner.

If I could get an early start, usually around 5:00 am., I would be clear of London’s center before 8:00 am. when the traffic got heavier. This was a Saturday, and it was the 1950s when traffic was a lot lighter than today.

On the way back, I would take a detour north and east to Gravesend, where I would catch a ferry boat over the River Thames to Tilbury on the North Bank. This route was about 110 miles, taking me through Brentwood, Harlow, Hertford and Welwyn Garden City.

On one occasion, I rose early for my ride to Granma’s, I ate a large breakfast and immediacy threw up. Throughout my childhood and teen years I would periodically have these stomach upsets that my mother always called a “Bilious Attack.”

Looking back, I now suspect it was nothing more than food poisoning.

We never owned a refrigerator, and meat would be cooked, and then eaten over several days.

I really had no choice but to make the trip, neither my parents nor my grandma had a phone.

I had written a letter the week before saying I was coming, had I not arrived she would be terribly worried.

I rested a couple of hours, then ate something again and set out. By now it was too late to take the direct route through London. I would have to go the long way.

I hadn’t gone but a few miles when I brought up the food I had just eaten. I struggled on, and somewhere out between Harlow and Brentwood, weak from lack of food inside me, I collapsed in the long grass at the roadside.

I hadn’t laid there long when I felt something biting me and I discovered I was lying on a red ant’s nest. I was not having a good day.

However, it did get me up and back on the bike again. Soon after I was forced to eat again, and this time it stayed down. Once I was able to eat, my strength returned and I completed the ride.

If you ever have a chance to visit Hythe, be sure to check out St. Leonard’s Church. (Above, right.) Originally a Norman Church built in 1080, it was later enlarged in 1120.

An unusual feature is the Ossuary, or Crypt under the church, it houses a stack of human bones, and some 1,200 skulls. These are the remains of some 4,000 men, women and children, some who may have lived in the first millennium.

They are believed to have been placed there when the church was expanded, and later when the graveyard became full and bodies were removed to make room for more.

I went there as a child in the 1940s, and always wanted to return, but during the 1950s through the 1970s it was closed to the public. Now it is open again and there is a small fee to visit, which helps in the upkeep of the church.


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Bikes and Auto Insurance: Do they run on the same business model?

I am sometimes asked: “You were a frame builder, so you didn’t actually make complete bicycles?”

I explain that I built frames that either had the ‘dave moulton’ name on them, or Fuso, or Recherché. And when these frames were later built up into a bicycle, the assembled item became a ‘dave moulton, Fuso or Recherché bicycle.

I further explained that the bike business is not like the auto or motorcycle industry, where a company manufactures all the parts, and then assembles them into a car or motorcycle. When it comes to high end bicycles the components are either Shimano, Campagnolo, or Sram. And even the lower priced bikes are mostly built up with the lower priced Shimano groups.

Even the big three American companies, Trek, Cannondale and Specialized design and produce a frame with their company name on it, and that’s it. All three companies’ bikes are then built up with Shimano, Campagnolo, or Sram and the end consumer gets to decide which he/she wants.

Notice I said the Big Three “Produce” a frame. With a few exceptions they don’t actually make it. That is done in a factory in China or Taiwan, and it is possible that some of these different brands are made in the same factory. Frame design is pretty standard these days, same angles, tube lengths, fork rake, etc. No one is going out on a limb to make anything too radical.

So all three are basically selling the same item, each is no better, no worse than the other. This is why there is so much spent on marketing, the cost of which gets added to the cost of the bicycle, and passed on down to the end consumer. In most cases the consumer gladly pays this price because the marketing has convinced him that it should cost this much for the very best bike.

It occurred to me that this business model is not far removed from that of the large auto insurance companies. The Big Three bike companies assemble a bicycle with a frame that costs about the same as their competitors’ frame, with the same components that also have a fixed cost.

The Insurance companies assemble a package of insurance services that boil down to the same repairs carried out by independent body shops all over the US, at the same basic cost. The reason we see so much advertising on TV for auto insurance is because these companies are all going after the same consumer.

The one who spends the most on marketing, convinces the consumer that their insurance is the best, when if the truth be known, each is probably no better, no worse than the rest.

Part of bike marketing is supporting a professional team, which is a tremendous cost, Specialized does not support a team, but is an equipment supplier only. Cannondale used to have a team, but had to give up when costs got too high, and like Specialized stay in the sport as equipment supplier In other words, they are co-sponsors of teams.

This just leaves Trek with a fully sponsored factory team. So it will be interesting to see if they will continue to support a complete team. And if so, will their product cost more, and will it be perceived as better?


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Raymond Poulidor: A Working Class Hero 

Raymond Poulidor never won the Tour de France, or for that matter never wore the race leader's Yellow Jersey during any of the Tours.

He did place second in 1964, 1965, and 1974, and placed third in 1962, 1966, 1969, 1972, and 1976. He entered the Tour de France 14 times and finished 12 times, he was consistently in the top ten. 

He had a longer career than is usual for a professional cyclist. His first major victory was in the classic Milan-San Remo in 1961. His third place in the Tour in 1976, came at age 40.

His inability to win the Tour de France won him the nick-name in the press as the "Eternal Second." However in spite of this he was immensely popular with the French public, and was more often than not known affectionately as "Pou Pou." 

During the first part of his career, Poulidor had to race against Jacques Anquetil, and although the former could get the better of Anquetil on the bigger climbs, he lacked Anquetil's tactical ability, especially in the discipline of the time-trial. Poulidor’s riding style was aggressive and attacking, whereas Anquetil would control the race in the climbing stages, then win in the time trial. 

There was always intense rivalry between these two riders. (Pictured together, left.) Anquetil was the top French rider of his day, and it always irked him that Poulidor was in many ways more popular with the French public, and was often given more favorable coverage in the French press.

For example in 1965, when Poulidor was perceived to have received more credit for dropping Anquetil the previous year on the Puy-de-Dôme than Anquetil had received for winning the whole Tour. 

Long after their retirement, Jacques Anquetil and Raymond Poulidor would finally become friends. Anquetil died of stomach cancer in 1987, and the day before he died, he told Poulidor, “Once again my friend you will be second to me.” 

When Anquetil retired, Poulidor faced a second nemesis in a young Eddy Merckx. The “Eternal Second” label continued. In 1974 at the age of 38, he was second to Merckx, not only in the TDF, but 2nd also in the World Road Championship that year.

Incidentally, Poulidor also placed 3rd in the World Championships in 1961, 1964, and 1966. He does hold one record, in that he finished in the top three in the Tour de France no fewer than eight times. No one has done that before or since. 

Today Raymond Poulidor is still immensely popular with the French people, making regular appearances at the Tour de France and other races. Seen above singing autographs in recent years.

A national survey in 1991 asked the question, which celebrity they would like to invite for a Christmas dinner, a French audience overwhelmingly answered Raymond Poulidor, beating out famous movie stars. 

What could be the reason for such popularity? He came from peasant stock, from the farming midlands of France. He speaks with a regional accent. In other words, he is a "Working Class Hero."

There is something about a person who attains success in life, but they retain their "down-to-earth" qualities that the ordinary man on the street can relate to. Think of the continuing popularity of rock stars like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, they have that same working class persona.

Or maybe Raymond Poulidor’s popularity was in the fact that he never did win the big one, but at the same time never gave up trying. The world will always admire such spirit, that of the underdog.


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A New Cycling Hazard

There is a new hazard for cyclists that has been brought to my attention. 

The chances of anyone experiencing this is remote, but never the less it would be remiss of me if I didn’t pass on this information. 

It is a strange phenomenon known as Spontaneous Cyclo Combustion. (SCC.) It is similar to Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC.) but is relatively new. 

The first recorded case took place in Southern Italy in 1985, whereas SHC has been around for hundreds of years.

Since the late 1990s there has been a rapid increase in the reported cases, in the last two years there were four incidents in the US alone. Two in Arizona, one in Nevada, and one Southern California. SCC seems to be more prevalent in hot, dry climates.

Prior to last year, in all known cases, the victims of SCC for some unknown reason, had all been riding alone. In each case the cyclist’s charred remains were found, usually a short distance from their bicycle, as if they had dropped their bike and tried to run from the source of heat before being totally consumed by fire.

However, in one of the Arizona incidents last year there was a witness. Two cyclists, let’s call them Tom and Brad. Tom is deceased, Brad wishes to have his name withheld for reasons that will become apparent. The two were riding in the desert somewhere north of Scottsdale, when Tom the stronger rider dropped Brad on a long climb.

By the top of the hill, Tom was some 300 yards ahead. Brad looked up and saw a bright glow ahead. At first he thought it was a trick of the sun on the hot asphalt, but then he heard cries for help from his friend. By the time Brad reached his friend, his bike lay by the roadside and Tom was fully engulfed in flames some thirty feet away.

Brad grabbed his water bottle and ran to help his friend. However, the heat was so intense he could only get within ten feet of the fire, and in less than a minute all that remained of Tom was a heap of smoldering black ash.

Brad called 911 and while he waited for the police and EMS he took pictures with his cell phone. When the police arrived Brad was promptly arrested on suspicion of murdering his friend. He was held for several days then interviewed by the FBI. After the interview, he was allowed to go home but never told that he was cleared of any wrongdoing. Which is why Brad wishes to remain anonymous.

On arriving home he discovered the pictures he took had been erased from his cell phone. It appears in such cases where some strange phenomenon occurs, our government becomes secretive, and suppresses information. 

In the California incident, also last year, it is believed a cyclist who spontaneously combusted accidentally started one of the more serious wild fires that plagued that state. California fire investigators denied it, in what appears to be an official cover up. However, they did say if anyone should catch fire, to resist the urge to run into the surrounding chaparral. 

So why the increase in cases of SCC in recent years? Scientists believe it is directly related to carbon fiber frames. It is believed that it is triggered by a buildup of static electricity caused by the friction between the plastic saddle, and the polyester fibers in the shorts. 

The padding in the shorts is usually highly flammable which adds to the problem, and may even be the primary key in this whole SCC issue. It is like the cyclist is sitting on a fuse to a potential incendiary bomb.

With the cyclist firmly seated in the saddle, the heat quickly travels from the source, straight up through the core of the cyclist's body and the combustion spreads from the inside. A frightening prospect.
With the old steel frames this static electricity was constantly dispersed throughout the frame. A spokesman for Brooks Saddles in England said, " We have known about this for years, but were afraid to make it public because.......well......we might have appeared a little cuckoo." 

He added, "It's the reason we increased the size of the copper rivets in our saddles. (Picture right.) Copper, as you know, is an excellent conductor of electricity and it directs the static electricity away from the danger zone."

So what can a cyclist do to avoid this slight but definite hazard, besides riding a steel frame with a Brooks saddle. Well help is on the way, manufacturers of plastic saddles and shorts are getting together to find which materials do not cause static build up. 

It will be necessary to buy the correct shorts to go with a certain saddle. Each will have a warning label, and a code letter. (A, B, or C.) A type “A” saddle must be used with type “A” shorts, and it is not recommended that you mix code letters, or you may be actually be placing yourself at an increased risk.

These new saddles and shorts will not be available probably until early 2020. So what can a concerned cyclist do in the mean time? The incidents are so rare that I am not suggesting cyclists should become paranoid to the extent of carrying a fire extinguisher.

However, there are any number of proprietary flame retardant materials available, that you can use to treat the padding, and make your shorts fire proof. Or, you can simply keep the padding damp throughout your ride with water from your bottle.

There is a website with more information at BlazingSaddles.org


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Every generation has its ruination

In my teens and early twenties I was told, Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll would be the ruin of us all. Looking at the state of the world today, maybe it was true.

A female friend and successful business woman, recently hired her teenage niece as a part time receptionist.

She said she was concerned for her niece as she was terribly shy and lacked social skills. She felt this would be a huge handicap when it was time for her to go out in the world and make a living.

She hoped by making her a receptionist the teen would be forced to interact with people. She added that her niece spent all day texting her friends, she had boasted to her one evening that she had not spoken to anyone all day, but had communicated entirely by text.

In my view this is hardly something to boast about, it is extremely sad. It made me wonder how many other teens are there like this young girl. There is now a whole generation who have known nothing else but cell phones and the internet.

Another friend who was retiring as a University Professor was taken out to dinner by a group of his students, he said they were texting each other across the table. One would type something and across the table another would look down at his cell phone and smile, and type a reply that would get a brief verbal response or simply eye contact with a nod or a return smile.

Call me old fashioned (And you probably will.) but isn’t the whole purpose of a social gathering like a large group dinner one where everyone interacts with each other as a group? If someone has a joke or something interesting to say, then share it with everyone, not text it to one or two people, then giggle amongst yourselves.

I can see a real danger in this trend, humans are social creatures, we can’t live in isolation. These young people will have to form face to face relationships at some point in their lives, if nothing else in a job setting with their bosses and co-workers.

In a love relationship too, like all of life’s lessons we learn by failure. The only way to learn how to have a meaningful relationship is to get dumped many times until we figure out what we are doing wrong, and stop doing that.

“You have 5,000 friends on Facebook and you are bragging about it. Translation: You have no friends.”

Rudeness is rampant on the Internet. I have often heard the quote that, “Rudeness is a weak person’s show of strength.” Rudeness is born out of anger and it is so easy to be rude under the cloak of anonymity that the Internet provides. 

Fear and Anger are two human emotions that I believe are closely linked. Fear triggers a base emotion that translates to “Fight or Flight." In order to fight, our anger level raises, but there is also an underlying fear that if we get angry with someone we will alienate them socially.

This is why we come across certain passive/aggressive personalities in our day to day lives. They are angry at us, but at the same time afraid to piss us off. We are all aware of the fake smile and the “Wet Fish” handshake, or the “Compliment” that leaves us wondering if it was really a compliment or an insult.

People can express rudeness and anger on the Internet without fear of reprisal, but is this a good thing? Anger and rudeness leaves no one feeling good, neither the one being rude nor the recipient. There are few rules on the Internet, it is up to each individual to decide what is right or wrong. A simple rule for anyone to follow is:

Don’t say anything online that you would not say to the person face to face.

Every generation has its ruination and there is always an older generation like me, observing this and pointing out where this new generation is going wrong. No one listens, (I certainly didn’t.) history repeats itself and every time it does, the price goes up.


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