Dave Moulton

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Bicycle Accident Lawy




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Horse Play

In the late 1950s I was taking part in a road race in Buckinghamshire, England, just North West of London. The race was held under the auspices of the British League of Racing Cyclists. (BLRC)

About an hour into the race, the riders were still in a single group, or “Bunch,” as we referred to it. The maximum number of riders allowed in a BLRC event was 40, so it was a Bunch rather than a Peloton.

We rounded a bend on a country road and passed two people riding horses, the bike riders startled the horses, and one of them threw its rider and bolted. The rider-less horse ran onto the road, right into the middle of the bunch.

By some miracle no one fell, but the bunch split. There were about a dozen riders in front of the horse, and they sprinted away. It was initially a move to get away from the horse, rather than to take advantage of the situation, although racing cyclists are not above seizing on such opportunities.

I found myself immediately behind the horse, and I can tell you it was a pretty scary situation seeing those large steel hooves that appeared to be directly in front of my face with each stride. I slowed as best I could, but was aware of the rest of the riders immediately behind me.

I was also aware that the horse could fall in front of me which would not be good. Steel hooves on asphalt do not make for the best of traction, plus the horse’s reins were trailing between its front legs, the animal could easily trip. As a kid, I had witnessed a runaway horse slip and fall on the road, it was not a pretty sight.

I needed to get around the horse. The road was clear so I went as wide as this somewhat narrow country road would allow, and out of the saddle, sprinted as hard as I could. As I went past the horse, I startled it again and it veered off the road and onto the grass verge.

I was now ahead of the horse and still sprinting as hard as I could. However, the horse now running on grass started to go faster. I could hear the quickening hoof beats immediately behind me. The faster the horse went, the faster I went.

I looked up and saw I was catching the dozen or so riders who were up ahead. Now I had a double incentive, and the chase was on to catch the lead riders. At the same time I was being chased by a large brown horse, and the last thing I wanted was to have him in front of me again.

As I caught the lead group, it included one of my team mates. “I see you got up then.” He said as I pulled alongside.

Another rider turned and quipped, “Did you have to bring the bloody horse with you?”

Just as I had done, the pace quickened to stay ahead of the horse, only now there were a group of riders working together. Gradually the hoof beats faded. I'm not sure whether the horse slowed, or we just dropped him. Or maybe he found some open fields to run in.

The lead group kept up the same pace that the horse had initiated. This proved to be too fast for most, and we dwindled down to three riders by the finish. I got second place that day. If I still had the horse to lead out in the final gallop, I might have won.


Originally posted in July 2009. 

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Enforcement or Education

I clearly remember coming to the US in 1979 and within a week or so I was invited on a bike ride.

It was early one Sunday morning, as bike rides tend to be. There was not much traffic, and we had only ridden a couple of blocks when we came to a red traffic light. I stopped and everyone else kept going.

The reason I stopped, it was what I had done all my life. At a very young age I was taught the rules of the road in school. Especially the ones that applied to pedestrians and cyclists.

This was my rude introduction to cycling American style. Soon after I witnessed people riding bikes on sidewalks, on the wrong side of the road, red lights and stop signs were completely ignored. I was surprised, even shocked, because in England at that time I had never witnessed anyone else riding in this fashion, neither bike enthusiasts or the general public. (I understand it is different now.)

As I see it, when people get on a bicycle, they don’t see themselves as the driver of a vehicle, but rather they are simply a Pedestrian on a Bike. (POB) And just as pedestrians walk where ever they please, they ride a bike in the same manner.

The reason I come to this conclusion is because whenever I see someone riding with complete disregard for any rules of the road, I think, ‘These people probably own a car, or at least have driven a car at some point, and they would never drive a car in this fashion.’  They must believe that the rules of the road don’t apply to bicycles.

I still stop at red lights, stop signs too if there is someone waiting ahead of me. I never ride on the sidewalk or the wrong side of the road. Why? Not because I am a perfect law abiding citizen, but it is what I was taught as a child.

The reason the majority of people don’t kill each other, or steal each other’s property, is not because we fear law enforcement or prison, it is because our parents and teachers taught us moral standards. In other words, education.

On the other hand, give a child a bicycle and send him out with no guidance what so ever, and he will ride that bike where ever and in any way he pleases. He gets away with it as a kid, because he is just a kid, and no car driver wants to hit a child. But what he learns as a child he carries into adulthood.

He learns about momentum, and how stopping and starting again requires effort. I witness so many cyclists on arriving at a road junction will not stop. If there is no gap in traffic they will turn towards traffic, or turn onto the sidewalk if that is the direction they need to go. I have seen people on bikes ride in a circle at an intersection, rather than come to a complete stop and wait.

In large cities like Chicago there are now so many cyclists that it is becoming a problem. I quote from one article, “There are getting to be so many cyclists, and so many are being killed or injured, something has to be done.”

Law enforcement in Chicago has stepped up the issuing of tickets for cycling violations, and now there are cries of unfairness, because more tickets are being written in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods. Does anyone consider that low income African Americans and Latinos, are being forced to ride bikes for economic reasons?

Law enforcement is not the answer anyway, any more than incarceration is the only answer to the crime problem. Education is key. Start teaching cycling proficiency in schools, and when issuing tickets to offending cyclists, give them the option of a hefty fine, or attend cycling classes over several weekends.

That would be both a deterrent and more useful. Motorists "Dooring" cyclists and other infractions involing cyclists, should attend the same weekend courses on road safety as the cyclists.

Also in large cities speed limits should be lowered to 20 mph. and enforce that. It is not that cars and bicycles don’t mix, it is the difference in speed that is the issue. Cyclists, even one’s riding badly are not the main problem, it is simply one of too many people in too small a space. We can’t all have the luxury of driving cars at high speed.


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Some I remember

I don’t remember every individual frame I built, there were too many of them, but those I do remember it is usually some little detail about the frame or the particular customer that will trigger a memory. And when someone sends me pictures years later, often after the frame or bike has changed hands, I will say to myself, “Oh yes, I remember this one.”

The one pictured above for example was built for the manager of Two Wheel Transit Authority, a large bike store in Huntington Beach, California, that sold a lot of bikes for me through most of the 1980s. I remember the customer visiting my shop in San Marcos in 1985 as clearly as if it were a few weeks ago.

It was unusual to see a customer in person as most of my orders came through bike dealers,

However, this particular customer was representing one of my biggest dealers, so it was an exception.

The frame ordered was a custom ‘dave moulton’ built in Reynolds 753,

Another reason I remember this particular frame, when I asked the customer what color paint? He answered “Surprise me.”

This is a freedom I rarely experienced. On all my custom frames the paint was always “Understated.” I felt that gaudy or flashy paint schemes would take away from the fine detail in the metalwork of the frame.

This one I simply mixed black and white to come up with a rather plain looking grey. But after applying black decals, I added a blue pearl to the final clear coat overall, giving the whole frame a blue sheen, especially in bright sunlight, and the decals appear as a dark midnight blue.

The pearl additive comes in the form of a paste in a small jar. A tiny amount on the end of a mixing stick, stirred into the clear Imron, and the overall finish takes on the color of the additive. Blue, green, red, silver, gold, many variants are available.

Pictures of this second frame I remember, came to me recently. It is a Fuso LUX model built in Reynolds 653. One of a kind I believe, with many of the features that were usually reserved for my custom frames. But that is not why I remember this one.

It was a persnickety SOB of a customer who insisted I measure this frame from center of the bottom bracket to the center of the top tube. And stamp the bottom bracket to reflect this.

As most know I always measured my frames center to top, the standard English way.

Why did do that? It was all I knew, I had always measured frames that way.

I was not exposed to Italian frames (Measured Center to Center.) until I came to the US.

Also it was not something I discovered the moment I stepped of the plane at Kennedy Airport.

By the time I realized that most in the US measured center to center, it was too late. I had a ton of frames out there already measured and stamped center to top, and it would have been chaos to change at the height of production in the mid-1980s. I had to remain consistent.

This frame was a 54cm. by my usual standard, but I had to stamp it 52.5 C.

I added the letter “C” to alert any future owner this was not measured the same as every other frame I built.

This bike is now a show piece in a bike store in El Paso, Texas. The Bicycle Company, drop by and take a look if you are in that area.

So there you have it. Two frames I remember, but for two completely different reasons.

The one because I knew the customer and was given the freedom to create paint of my own choosing. The other because my freedom was taken from me. A piddling little detail that should not annoy me, but it does.

This second frame was built in 1990 when business was dropping off, and I allowed myself to be manipulated for monetary gain. Something I regret, and know it is the reason it still annoys me.


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Moving Target

Paul Theroux wrote a series of essays in a book titled “Fresh Air Fiend.” One of the stories is called “The Moving Target,”

It starts out by talking about a traveler named Nathaniel Bishop, who in 1877 rowed a small boat from upper New York State to New Orleans. A distance of 2,600 miles.

On arrival in New Orleans, as the exhausted Nathaniel Bishop tied up his boat, a group of young drunks approached, mocked him, swore at him, and threatened him with violence. Theroux commented:

“This, I have come to think, is a very American reaction, rewarding eccentric effort with scorn and violence.”

Theroux then goes on to write about a man named A F Tschiffely who in the 1920s rode a horse 10,000 miles from Buenos Aires to New York City.

His two and a half year journey took him over the Andes, through Central America, across deserts, swamps, and jungles. However, his worst part of the journey was traveling through the United States.

Cars would deliberately swerve close to scare him and his horse. He had bottles thrown at him, and shouts of “Ride ‘em Cowboy.” In the Blue Ridge Mountains a driver sideswiped him injuring his horse’s leg. Then honked and waved in triumph as he drove away.

After two more serious incidents, Tschiffely had to abandon his ride in Washington, DC and finish the final leg to New York by train. Theroux goes on to write about intolerance towards cyclists and runners, or anyone engaged in any form of exercise in public.

After reading these accounts of how things used to be, I am reminded of a line from the 1969 movie “Easy Rider.”

“Americans talk a lot about the value of freedom, but are actually afraid of anyone who truly exhibits it.”

Isn’t that the truth? Haters are “Equal Opportunity” bigots. It is not just about race, and it probably never was. It is simply prejudice toward anyone appearing different, or doing something different, or behaving differently than the perceived norm.


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Crank Length

A reader recently asked me a question about crank length and suggested I might write an article on the subject. 

There is a reason I haven’t touched on this subject before in over eleven years writing here. It is one of those subjects like "Knee over Pedal." I feel it is unimportant and irrelevant.

However, when I started to think about it, I realized I could maybe throw some logic on the fire, rather than adding to the huge pile of horse shit that is already out there. The whole reason to mess with anything like crank length is to improve performance. Go faster for the same amount of effort.

Were it that simple someone would have figured it out long before now and we would all be using something different than we have been using for the last 100 years. And if ever there was a case for the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” this is it.

The part that most fail to grasp is that increasing crank length increases leverage, meaning (In theory.) you can push a bigger gear, but unless you can pedal this higher gear at the same RPM for the same amount of effort, you are not going any faster.

Because you have increased crank length you have also increased the diameter of the pedaling circle. Any advantage in leverage is canceled out by the disadvantage of the greater turning circle.

Your feet, and the leg muscles that drive the feet, are having to move a greater distance (Therefore greater speed.) per revolution of the crank. You may as well stick with the standard length crank and pedal the lower gear. You are traveling at the same road speed, relative to the speed your feet and legs are moving.

Also if you are switching from a 170 to a 175mm. crank, that is one centimeter greater pedaling circle. Your saddle needs to stay in the same place. (Let’s assume for this argument that your saddle height was right to start with.) If you lower the saddle by 5mm. your knees will be coming up a full centimeter higher at the top of the stroke.

Better to leave the saddle where it is. Your crank and pedals will still be at the center of the turning circle you are used to. The extra length of the crank will be equally spread 5mm. extra reach at the bottom of the stroke, and 5mm. higher at the top of the stroke.

I notice longer cranks are being touted as a cure for various leg pains. Often leg and other pains are because the rider is not in the peak of physical condition. Start any exercise regimen, not just cycling, and the participant will often feel discomfort. All one can do is slowly and carefully work through it, until the body becomes accustomed to the extra stress being placed on it.

I fail to see where pedaling in a larger circle can help. It is placing more stress on the body, not less. It is akin to telling your doctor that walking is painful, and he suggests you walk faster and take longer strides. Just because long legs can accommodate longer cranks, doesn’t mean they should, or that there is necessarily an advantage in doing so. Try adjusting your saddle height first. It costs nothing and it is less of a shock on your system.

Here is another analogy. A person with long legs could climb stairs two steps at a time. He may get to the top of the building quicker, but one thing for sure, he has expended a lot more energy in doing so. Just because he can climb stairs two at a time, doesn’t mean he should.

Of course there is nothing stopping him climbing stairs two at a time, and there is nothing stopping him from fitting different length cranks, I am just pointing out that anyone saying there is some big advantage in doing so, is simply blowing smoke.

So how did we arrive at the crank lengths we use today? Let’s first look back in history to the forerunner of the chain driven bike, the high wheeler.

The big wheel was around 60 inches or five feet diameter, cranks had to be short in order to keep the wheel diameter as large as possible.

When the chain driven bike came on the scene in 1885, there were no restrictions on crank length. However, its invention was soon followed by mass production of bicycles and standards had to be set. It was England that started the bike industry and so set the early standards. Even today the world uses half inch pitch bicycle chain as standard when the most of the world uses metric measure for almost everything else.

The standard crank length was soon established at 6 1/2 inches for most bicycles. Because twice 6 1/2 is 13 inches, which is an average stride length for a leisurely walk. However, later it was found for racing bikes 6 3/4 worked better. 7 inches was too long for all but the tallest riders. That 1/4 inch either way made a big difference.

Do you ever wonder why Campagnolo offer a 172.5 mm. crank? Up until WWII Britain led the world in bicycles and components, including the high end racing equipment.  6 3/4 inch cranks were the standard for racing worldwide.

After WWII, Italy really moved into the component market. 172.5 mm. is pretty close to 6 3/4 inches. So this became the new standard. It did in the UK anyway. Everyone I knew, myself included, used 172.5, a few taller guys used 175. It is interesting that Campagnolo is the oldest established out of the big three companies. Campagnolo, Shimano, and Scram, and they still only offer 170. 172.5, and 175mm. crank lengths. Maybe it is all we need.

There may be a case for 180 cranks for someone with exceptionally long legs, say 36 inch or longer. Conversely, 165 cranks for a person with 29 or less inseam. But this whole range of crank lengths throughout the complete range of body sizes I feel is just hype put out there by the bike fitting industry.

Many of the best bike riders in the world range in height roughly between 5’ 7” and 5’ 11.” They ride small to mid-size bikes, and use standard length cranks. It has always been that way for years. Of course there are exceptions, but he day tall, long legged guys using long cranks, start dominating professional racing, is the day I will change my views on crank length.

Certain things in bicycle design were established many years ago, and remain the same because it happens to be right. Half inch pitch chain, already mentioned. 27 in. wheel diameter. (Measure your 700c tire.) 73 degrees is the best head angle for a road bike. The same with crank lengths.

The original crank lengths set over 100 years ago were: 6 1/2 inches (Almost exactly 165mm.) 6 3/4 inches, which is right in between 170 and 175mm. And 7 inches (Slightly less than 180mm.) That is all the range you need. It works, why fuck with it?

To sum up, yes there is a case for different crank lengths, but only over the relatively small range of a centimeter and a half. 165mm. to 180mm. This should accommodate the extreme range of leg lengths well beyond normal averages. Campagnolo's range, 170, 172.5, and 175 is fine for most of us.

Remember too, I don't have a pig in this market, I’m not trying to sell you anything. My final advice, just enjoy the bike, and stop trying to over-think it.


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