Dave Moulton

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1970s Time-Trial Bike

Fag paper clearances. (British slang for cigarette paper.) Meaning the rear wheel was so close to the seat tube that you could barely get a cigarette paper between the tire and the frame tube. See the picture above.

This was an extreme fashion fad in the UK during the mid 1970s especially on time trial bikes. It served no useful purpose except to make the chainstays shorter thereby saving a little weight, and making the rear triangle a little stiffer. The frames were usually built using vertical rear dropouts to achieve the close clearance.

When fads like this become fashion a framebuilder can do little but follow the latest trend, or loose business. I was no different. However, I did not follow the extremes of some framebuilders who built these frames with clearances so close you had to deflate the rear tire to get the wheel in and out. This bordered on the ridiculous. 

Some built frames with extremely steep head angles so the front wheel barely cleared the down tube. This was a part of the trend I refused to follow, as it made for some very “squirrelly” bikes. The last thing a rider needs is a squirrelly time trial bike. A TT bike needs to hold a straight line.

I remember one frame (not one of mine.) brought to me for repair. The down tube and top tube were bent. My first question was, “What did you hit?” The owner replied, “Nothing, I slowed to take a corner, and the frame collapsed under me.”

When I inspected the frame the first thing I noticed was a black rubber tire mark under the down tube right where the tube folded. It became clear to me what had happened. The front wheel was so close to the down tube that when the rider applied the front brake there was enough flex that the front wheel touched the down tube.

Maybe his headset was a little loose, whatever the cause, once the front wheel touched it would have stopped the bike very quickly and the forward momentum folded the frame. I replaced the top and down tubes, making sure to make the head angle a little shallower, making for a little more front wheel clearance.

The bike pictured at the top was one I built for John Patston, an international class rider who represented Great Britain on their national team. In the above picture, John Patston is leading, followed by Paul Carbutt, and Pete Hall. (All on ‘dave moulton’ frames.)

The forth rider Grant Thomas is obscured behind Patston. This was the British Team riding in the 1975 World Championship 100 km. Team Time Trial event.

John Patston was primarily a road rider, very strong and aggressive, often riding away from the opposition to win solo. If others stayed with him, he would usually win the finishing sprint. He was also an excellent time trialist. 

I received a great deal of publicity from this particular bike. It featured in the British “Cycling” magazine. (Affectionately known by cyclists throughout the UK, as “The Comic.”) 

I can’t remember whether the bike was built in Columbus or Reynolds tubing, but the complete bike built up with Campagnolo titanium components, weighed in a 19 lbs. Pretty light for 1977 when this was built.

The bike was also featured in “The Penguin Book of the Bicycle” published in 1978. (Left.) The same photo shown at the top was used for the title page as the book was opened. (See below.) 

My name was airbrushed from the picture, as were the spokes from the wheels to make room for the title text. However the same picture appeared again later in the book, (Page 97.) this time with my name intact.

The frame was painted black and had gold pin striping on the edges of the lugs. It also had John’s initials “JP” painted in gold on the seatstay caps. Cycling magazine drew an interesting parallel to this, one that I had not realized when I chose that particular color scheme.

The British tobacco giant “John Player,” also with initials JP, sponsored a Grand Prix racing team at that time. The cars built by Lotus were painted black with gold lettering.


This article was first posted  March 2008.

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Stolen... Be on the Lookout

The Fuso pictured above is owned by Richard Salinas of Ontario, California. It is a 56 cm. frame, serial number 190. It was stolen from an apartment communial garage last Sunday 28th May. 

Please be on the lookout, especaily in the Inland Empire (South East of LA.) area. The frame is a pretty distictive one. One of a kind if my memory serves me.

The Blue/Red paint was one reserved fo a bike store called Two Wheel Transit Autority, a huge store that was once in Huntigton Beach, CA. The store closed its doors in the late 1980s. They sold a lot of Fuso frames and bikes over the years.

This particular one was built for the owner of the store who requested something distinctive. I placed random white stars on the bottom blue portion of the frame.

This should make it easy to spot and difficult to sell. If anyone has info, please either contact Richad via his FB liknk above, or comment here or contact me via the email link on the right column of this page.

Footnote: If ever your bike is stolen file a police report. I have been told on good autority that the police often recover stolen bikes, but then have no record to get it back to its owner. Also if the bike is sold, and it could change hands several times, then the original owner has a problem proving ownership. File a report, its worth the effort.


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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, and 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 continually 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, anymore 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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In search of the perfect fork blade

When a fork blade comes from the tube manufacturer’s factory, it is straight, the framebuilder bends it to a curve that suits his requirements. 

An un-raked road fork blade is oval at the top. The oval section runs parallel for about a third of its length.

Then the cross section becomes round and starts to taper gradually to its smallest diameter section at the bottom end.

The fork blade is bent cold on a curved form that is sometimes made from hard wood. I used one I made myself from two heavy-duty steel fork blades, bent in the desired curve, and brazed together side by side. This made a natural grove between the two blades where the blade would sit as I was bending.

I would slip a short piece of tube over the thin end of the form and the blade I was bending. This acted as a collar to hold it in place. Then I'd start bending, first by pushing down by hand. The thin end of the blade bends easily, and I would finish off by squeezing it in a vise.

Bicycle tubing is hardened, and it will spring back after bending. Because of this, the form needs to be a greater curve than the finished fork blade will be. 

A fork blade is several inches longer than it needs to be. The framebuilder chooses where he will put the bend, and where he will cut to length. For example, if I were making a criterium frame and wanted a very stiff fork, I would cut from the bottom, thin end.

If I were building a touring frame, and wanted a flexible fork for a more comfortable ride, I would cut from the top end and leave the blade thin at the bottom end. The framebuilder creates the perfect fork blade, by selecting the best place to bend the blade, and by choosing how much to cut from either end.

It is rather like a furniture maker choosing where to cut from a piece of wood to achieve the best end product. Once I arrived at the perfect fork blade, it was then an easy matter to repeat the process again and again.

On a John Howard

On a Fuso

On a Recherché

One exception to this process was the Reynolds 753 fork blades. 753 was heat treated to a degree that the material could not be bent after. These were bent at the factory, then heat treated, and the framebuilder then cut to the required length. You will notice on the 753 Fuso Lux frame (Pictured below.) that the fork bend is a different shape than the ones bent by me.

Chainstays and seatstays are also tapered and the same selective cutting to length is employed. In this case, where the cut is made depends a great deal on the size of frame and its end use. 

The perfect fork blade is stiff enough to allow precise handling, but with some flex to absorb road shocks. It also looks pleasing to the eye. I have a theory that when something is designed correctly from a functional standpoint, it has a natural aesthetic beauty. This is true of a boat, a bridge, a building, and even a bicycle frame.

The modern trend of building straight forks of course saves the framebuilder a great deal of time and effort. If this look has become acceptable, why should today’s builder go through all the time consuming process I have described here? 

The straight blade is angled forward so the same fork rake or offset is achieved and handling would be the same. I can’t comment on the shock absorption qualities because I have never built a frame with a straight fork.

In my view, a great deal is lost aesthetically, so where does that leave my theory about function being linked to aesthetics? On the other hand, is it simply that beauty is in the eye of the beholder?


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10 useful tips for car drivers

1.)    If you see a cyclist ahead and you can’t pass because of opposing traffic, resist the urge to run over him, even though you can. You know what a mess it can make of your car if you hit a deer, a cyclist will probably do even more damage.

2.)    Don’t throw stuff at cyclists: In some states there is a $250 fine for this, plus there is a $1,000 fine for littering. It can add up. If you feel you must throw something at a cyclist, think of the environment and throw something that is biodegradable.

3.)    Don’t waste time thinking of clever things to yell at cyclists as you drive by at 50mph. Just shout, "Garble, garble, garble, fucking road." It is all they will hear anyway

4.)    If you are approaching a right turn, slow and wait behind the cyclist ahead of you. If you can’t do this at least be consistent and race ahead of other cars, then cut them off by turning right in front of them.

5.)    Use the buddy system. If you can’t resist the urge to text while driving have a buddy ride along to look out for cyclists.

6.)    Pedestrians can also be annoying. They will not stay on one side of the road and are likely to interrupt your texting by crossing over to the other side at some point.

7.)    Resist the urge to lay on the horn. If you can’t do this consider fitting a second horn inside the car a few feet from your head. This will give you a realistic feel of how incredibly fucking loud your car horn is.

8.)    Watch your blind spot: Looking in store windows or at pretty girls as you drive by creates a huge blind spot ahead of you. Cyclists have an annoying habit of riding in this blind spot.

9.)    If a cyclist is riding in the middle of the lane, it could be because he will not ride within five feet of a parked car. (The door zone.) If you expect cyclists to ride within inches of parked cars, set an example by driving within inches of parked cars.

If more drivers did this and removed a few car doors, and busted a few knuckles as a result, it would help by reminding people to look before opening a car door. At the present time cyclists hitting car doors does not have the same impact.

10.)  Avoid hitting cyclists by simply going around them. If you should hit one because he happened to be there when you were applying makeup, or you were distracted in some other way. Don’t say “He swerved in front of me.” Simply tell the police officer, “I didn’t see him.”

This is becoming the more widely accepted defense. After all it is the truth and a driver can’t be expected to see everything. (Don’t try the “I didn’t see it” defense if you run a stop sign. For some strange reason this does not work.)  


First posted December 2011. 

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