Dave Moulton

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Drillium and Bottom Bracket Cutouts

Most vintage bike enthusiasts know about cutouts in frame bottom brackets, but some, especially newbies don’t know the reason. Someone recently asked me why I didn’t put drain holes in my bottom brackets? I was baffled and asked, “Who does that?” He listed frames that had “Drain holes,” and I realized he was talking about bottom bracket cutouts.

It was a fashion gimmick of its time, that’s all. There was no logical reason. Think about it, it is a poor drainage system. The bottom bracket is in direct line of fire from water spraying up from the front wheel. These large holes let in more water than they let out again.

For those who don’t know, here is a history lesson. In the 1970s a craze started amongst cyclists all over Europe, later referred to as “Drillium.” (Picture left.)

Drilling holes in component parts to reduce weight. The fad was huge in the UK, especially amongst time-trialists, who were forever looking for ways to save weight. And of course removing metal reduces weight.

The amount of weight saved by drilling holes in aluminum components was miniscule, but it didn’t matter.

It was a way to customize a bike and a few more holes than your competitor was a psychological boost if nothing else.

If your bike had so many holes, it had no shadow, you were a winner, in style anyway.

Component manufactures were quick to follow this trend, and for example, a seat post that was previously round and smooth, now had flutes machined in them. Frame builders too got on the band wagon. A large hole cut out of a bottom bracket shell, was a considerable chunk of steel that was no longer there.

Of course all these holes and flutes created more aerodynamic drag, but no one thought of that at the time. Aero bikes would be a future craze.

Frame builders used a special die and a press to stamp out these cutouts in seconds. Holes were similarly stamped in lugs before the frame was assembled. It also gave framebuilders an opportunity to individualize frames with cutouts in the form of their logo. It was done for brand recognition.

My newbie inquisitor was still not satisfied. “If these are not drain holes in the BB, then why weren’t they engraved?” I’ll tell you why. Holes can be stamped out in seconds, but engraving takes time, and is super expensive. Especially engraving on a curved surface.

I know this because I had my name engraved in the top of the BB shell.

It had to be done with a special fixture that rotated the shell as the engraving progressed, so the router bit that does the cutting is always at right angles to the curved surface of the BB shell. (Picture right.)


It is a highly skilled operation and is one of the reasons my custom frames cost so much. If you see what appears to be engraving on the bottom bracket of a production bike. Things like lettering, a logo or grooves. It was most likely cast that way. The design was in the mold.

Just as my custom frames had my logo engraved in the crown, whereas my production Fuso frame had the name cast in it. (See above.)  I had to buy 1,000 crowns to get that feature. So why did my Fuso not have a cutout BB? By 1984 when production on the Fuso started, the fashion had run its course.

Some Italian framebuilders continued doing cutouts, but remember they had dies to stamp the holes. I was not about to invest that kind of money for the tooling and a press, for fad that had run its course, and was dying out anyway.


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Is youth wasted on the young?

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (Above.) is generally credited with the quote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” I see the quote as a truism, our physical ability declines with age, as our knowledge through experience increases.

Take relationships for example. All the screw-ups and mistakes made in the past make us knowledgeable. We learn what to do, and often more important what not to do. We learn which types of personalities and situations to avoid in relationships.

So imagine if we had all that knowledge when we were young and still had our good looks and energy. But that is not how it works. The quote cannot be turned around to read, “Age is wasted on the old.” Even if we take age to mean wisdom or experience. Because wisdom or experience is never wasted.

The reason I keep writing here, it is exercise for my mind. Activity, both physical and mental are so important, even more so as one gets older. Writing here causes me to think. If others come here and read my sometimes inane scribblings, and it makes them think, that is a huge bonus. I learn through the feedback and comments of others, and even have been known change my thinking.

My last piece for example, about short attention span. I came to realize, there is so much information on the Internet that we can’t possibly take it all in. If I read something that doesn’t inform me or entertain me, I will not spend time reading it, but will click away to something else.

“We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

Another good one attributed to Shaw. Deepak Chopra ran with a similar idea,

“People don’t grow old, they become old when they stop growing.”

The only way to grow mentally as I see it, is to change my thinking occasionally. If one clings to a certain mindset, there can be no possibility of growth. Keep an open mind so there is room to put new stuff in it.

Every generation has its ruination. Today it is cell phones, in my day it was Rock ‘n Roll. By the 1960s they had added Sex and Drugs to the equation. Back in the day safe sex was a padded headboard, and the worst STD you could get could be cured with a shot of penicillin. I feel sorry for today’s generation in that respect.

The drug induced haze lasted through the 1970s and into the 1980s. Still goes on to a certain extent, no wonder the world is a mess. It’s not that Sex and Drugs and Rock n’ Roll, were inherently bad, it was overindulgence that was the mistake. The same is true today, the Internet, cell phones, and social media are not essentially bad, it is overuse to extremes that is the problem. 

If a person can’t turn a phone off and set it aside for a short period while they drive somewhere, they don’t just have a problem, they have an addiction. 

Today’s younger generation is not going to listen to an old guy like me, any more than I would have listened to my elders in my youth. But they should, because a person can learn from their own mistakes, or learn from the mistakes of others.

Learning from the mistakes of others is all gain without the pain. If you are young hang with old people, and if you are old like me, hang with young people. But the key is, young or old, to hang with “Interesting” people. Try to visualize the future and realize there is a life after 30 or 40. In fact the older you get the better it gets.

Or rather the better it can get. Happiness is there for the taking, but you won’t find it through drugs, sex, money, job or relationship. Happiness is a choice, so simply choose it, and all else will fall into place. All it takes is the right attitude.

“Life is a journey, and attitude is like a bicycle. A good one makes the ride easier and more enjoyable.”

That is one of my quotes, 


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The Haunted Fish Tank

Scientists tell us a goldfish has a memory that lasts only three seconds; how they figured that one out, I don’t know.

Did they sit and talk to a goldfish, ask it questions, while holding a stopwatch?

I am beginning to wonder if some Internet users have the attention span of a goldfish. 

I have a little thing on this blog called Statcounter. It gives me useful information on people visiting this blog.

Don’t worry, it doesn’t tell me who you are, where you live, or what you had for dinner last night. However, it does tell me how you arrived here, search keywords used and how long you stayed once you got here.

Many people arrive here via a Google search, and what I find strange is when people ask a specific question, arrive on the page that has the exact answer, and stay less than three seconds.

For example, one recent visitor got here by using these keywords “replacing tube lugged bike.” Which led him to this page. There on the screen before his very eyes, step by step instructions on how to replace a tube in a lugged frame. Length of visit: 0 seconds. Anything under three seconds registers as zero.

“What bike frame size for my height?” is a question that gets Googled many times, and will land you on this page. You would think the words “Frame Sizing” in the title would be a clue to a person that maybe they had landed on a page that might have some answers for them. Length of visit: 0 seconds.

I could go on and on, but I’ll just do one more. “Centering side pull brakes” will land you here. Simple instructions, 107 words and 2 photographs. The only way it could be any easier would be if I came round to your house and showed you how to do it. Length of visit: 0 seconds.

In my native England, we sometimes refer to the television as “The haunted fish tank.” I think that name would be more apt for the PC. The only difference is the fish are on the outside, looking in. Maybe some people really do have the attention span of a goldfish, and by the time they click from Google to here, they have forgotten what they were looking for.

The Internet is supposed to make us smarter, sometimes I wonder. The information is there, but until scientists come up with a USB cable that plugs directly into our brain, it requires that we read the information to benefit from it.

In writing this piece, I came to realize this strange aspect of human behavior is really a metaphor for life. The answer to any question, any problem we may have in life is right there within ourselves. Our intelligence, knows the answer, if we just give the grey matter time to work.

We search for answers, but then we try too hard to find the solution. Instead of slowing down and allowing ourselves to see what is often before our very eyes, we click away and continue searching elsewhere.


Footnote: This article was first posted here over 10 years ago. Since that time hundreds more articles have been written with even more answers. Plus there is now a Search tab on the top right column of this page.

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Over bar the shouting

The 2017 Tour de France is over. Over bar the shouting, that is. There is much shouting about Team Sky’s dominance. Cries of, “It is unfair to have a $40 million budget, when most teams have to make do with a fraction of that amount.” The French crowd were booing Chris Froome, not because he had done anything wrong, but because he owed his win to the strength of his team

Yes it is unfair, but then isn’t life unfair everywhere? There are always those individuals and groups who have more than others. What can you do about it? I might as well say it was unfair when I built frames and had to compete with the large import companies who had a huge advertising budget that I could never match.

Such an argument would be as futile, as it is to blame Sky for their success in obtaining better sponsorship than other teams. The French AG2R team operates on a shoe string compared to Sky, yet they were still able to challenge Sky on several occasions.

If France is so desperate for a Tour winner, why is the French government not throwing in some money? France is not a poor country, there has to be some large corporations that could sponsor a team like AG2R.

The problem is professional cycling shot itself in the foot, by turning a blind eye to doping for so many years. Sponsors do not trust the sport any more. But the Tour de France alone must do wonders for French tourism.

Team Sky dominated the race, Froome did not. To me he looked vulnerable at times, and he never won a stage. Uran did remarkably well, considering he had little or no team support. Dan Martin too. Warren Barguil’s attacking style was a joy to watch. Of course if he had been closer in the GC standing, he might not have been given the freedom he was.

And what if Alejandro Valverde, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte, and Jacob Fuglsang, had not crashed out, what a different race that would have been. Would Froome have won, with the extra work load of running down these additional great riders? We will never know.

Roman Bardet rode a good race, as did his AG2R team, the only challenge to Sky. His time trial performance let him down, and I was glad he hung onto his podium place by a scant one second. It would have been sad to see him drop off the podium.

Mikel Landa will have his day I’m sure, especially if he changes teams. Wasn’t Michael Kwiatkowski amazing? Rode himself to a complete standstill on the Col d’Izoard, then two days later had recovered enough to almost win the time trial.  Beating Froome and only one second off first place.

Fabu Aru got a lot of stick for attacking Froome when he had a mechanical. I thought it was funny as hell. I burst out laughing when it happened. Aru was another who had little or no team support. What a different race it would have been if Fuglsang had not crashed out. These two Astana riders would have worked well together.

We have had a good Giro d’Italia, and Tour de France. The sport is better for having a more diverse talent base, instead of one or two riders riding unchallenged. Young riders are improving and Froome is slowing down, not sure he can win another Tour

Looking forward to the Vuelta. What say you?


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Rights and Privileges 

As cycling becomes more and more popular, more people choose to ride a bike to work each day rather than drive. We start to hear calls for cyclists to be licensed, or a tax imposed, in the same way automobile drivers are licensed and taxed.

The idea of licensing cyclists usually comes from city governments rather than on a state or national level. The argument is usually along the lines that bike lanes and other facilities cost money, and it only seems fair that cyclists should pay some of this cost.

However, in practical terms any attempt to tax or license cyclists in the past has always turned out to be a bureaucratic nightmare. It always costs more to implement such a plan than the income generated. Plus law enforcement and the court system has to then impose fines on those not having a license.

Sidewalks have been in place in cities everywhere since before the beginning of the last century, and no one has ever suggested that pedestrians should pay for sidewalks. Sidewalks make it safer to walk, bike lanes make it safer to ride a bicycle. And anyway revenues from drivers’ licenses or even road taxes do not pay for roads. So really that should be the end of that argument.      

When automobiles first appeared there were no laws or regulations, you could simply buy a car, jump in and drive it. Pretty much in the same way as we can buy a bicycle today and ride it anywhere.

Later because of wholesale carnage on the roads, laws were passed and licenses issued to drivers. As a result, driving is a privilege, one that can be taken away, whereas cycling like walking is a right. Although cyclists and pedestrians are still subject to the laws of the road. It appears no one can be prevented from walking or riding a bike, even if they break the law.

So what is a right? There are so called God given rights, but as people have the right to choose whether they believe in God or not, how does that work? If you don't believe in God, do you not have any God given rights? Are you obliged to respect other people's God given rights? As it is, the only God given right I can think of is our right to live.

If you look at The Bill of Rights there are very few actual rights. I don’t see a right to ride a bicycle mentioned. There is the right to bear arms, the right to practice a religion of your choice, etc.

After that it appears the function of government (In theory anyway.) is to leave us alone, and we are free to do as we please as long as we follow certain laws wherever they apply. It appears to me that rights are rarely granted, they are simply taken for granted. Is riding a bicycle on the highway is a prime example this?

I know to even suggest such a thing will cause outrage among a great many cyclists, but before we all get our anti-bacterial padded shorts in a twist, let’s think about this. In recent years cell phones have become available and some assume it is their right to own one and talk and send text messages whenever they please, including while driving.

It turns out this is not such a good idea so in some places this practice is being outlawed. Have people lost a right, or was it just an assumed right in the first place? 

A few years ago, people had the right to smoke just about anywhere they pleased. However, that right infringed on everyone else’s right not to breathe secondhand smoke. So, now that right has gradually been taken away, and smokers are now privileged to smoke in fewer and fewer places.

Because riding a bicycle on public roads is for the most part not a danger to other road users, it is doubtful than anyone will stop us doing it. Cycling is a good idea. It cuts down on congestion in our cities, it is better for the environment, and it should be encouraged because it is good for the physical and mental well-being of the participant.

My question is, are there any true rights or privileges? Or is this just an ongoing daily debate among millions of people, on the streets, on the talk shows and in the courtrooms? We all have certain rights, and we get to keep them as long as they don't infringe on the rights of others. If they do we may lose those rights, it is happening all the time.

In which case there is little difference between rights and privileges, either can be taken away. We should all remember this and in particular those cyclists who blatantly and regularly flout the laws of the road.


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