The Life and Works of Alex Moulton

We were pleased to attend this seminar, "The Life and Works of Alex Moulton", in March 2015.

Alex Moulton reinvented the bicycle as the Moulton Bicycle in 1962, designed and produced numerous vehicle suspension systems, including the patented Hydrolastic and Hydragas systems which were fitted to British Leyland/Rover vehicles over a period of 40 years, and contributed the unique rubber-cone suspension to Alec Issigonis's Mini (1959-2000).

Dr Alex Moulton 90th Present from

A Royal Designer for Industry, member of the Fellowship of Engineering and Doctor of the Royal College of Art, Moulton was celebrated during his lifetime and his legacy continues today in the continuing work of the Moulton Bicycle Company, and in his influence on young engineers and designers.

The seminar included presentations and a panel discussion involving prominent figures from the field of design. Guest speakers included Sir Christopher Frayling (an educationalist, writer, and former Rector of the Royal College of Art and Chairman of Arts Council England) and Sebastian Conran (designer and member of the outstanding Conran family of designers and design writers). The event put Moulton’s achievements into context and discussed the future of design and invention in the UK.

The Moulton Life

By David Moult

Riding to Aldi on my Mk 1 flame orange Moulton Standard is one of the best parts of my day. The story is, that driving home from Aldi one day before Christmas I thought, “why am I in a car”? I always used to ride; but since knee troubles and moving from Suffolk to hilly Cornwall I had given up. My doctor said cycling would be good for me, that and losing some weight.

My Dawes racing cycle from 1995 was not, I thought, the thing for shopping and so I had a think. All things mid century are chic just now and I thought of a Moulton, they seemed to be built for shopping. I looked on Ebay, then had a sit down. Hundreds of pounds for an old bike? Even more if you lived in the far east. I found this web site and started researching. Lots of good advice and soon I knew what to look for and what to pay. Rear forks were an issue it seemed, especially getting them off and on again. Just before Christmas I spotted one with a front carrier in old but unmolested condition and bought it from a junk shop near High Wycombe. Putting it on top of my daughters furniture that I was delivering to London made the car safe for parking in the street in Deptford, It looked like everything inside was going to the tip.

Taking the bike out of the car I must admit to wondering if I had lost it. £100 for a fifty year old scrap bike. However the first bit of goodness was not long in arriving. I sorted out and cleared my garage. One day with some steel shelving bought and a few trips to the dump and there was all the space I could desire plus lots of tools I had forgotten about.

Actually I took the bike to pieces in the conservatory as there was more light. The chrome was pretty good and most things came off pretty easily. I took photos to remind myself of where unfamiliar things went. The one screw that defied me held the bottom of the rear carrier brace to the frame. It had a painted over defiled cross head. I tried all the things, had a think, and cut the head off with my trusty Dremmel. Drilling the screw out carefully revealed a clean thread and I was ready to strip and paint.

The two carriers I cleaned with a vibrating multitool over a few evenings. Lots of dust but it was too cold to open my shed door. I repainted them with white Hammerite and on a nice day started on the frame. It wasn't too bad and after some filler undercoat it was ready for a top coat of Halford's Ford Flame Orange. The painting went well over a couple of sunny calm afternoons in the garden and I finished off with some clear lacquer.

The rear fork remained in place as it seemed O.K. with just the smallest of cracks visible in some good quality brazing. I had read horror stories of removing and refitting the fork and it was the only part of the bike not stripped. I re greased with molly the front fork. Looking at the rear end the cog was a small one with the teeth worn in to little scimitars. Luckily one bike shop in Truro had a replacement of a slightly larger size. Sorting the new chain was a problem. I could get it too long or just a little too short. I thought, chains stretch, and so went with the short. The tyres were a problem, I bought the wrong size and so have a couple of slightly too small white wall tyres in the garage, I do know all about tyre sizing now though.

Nearly there with new black sponge handgrips, black cables and the gears seeming to be adjusted well. I took it for a quick trip and second gear was unreliable. Ringing around some of the older looking bike shops in Cornwall I found a new old stock Sturmey Archer shifter in Wadebridge and now the gears are perfect. The old white saddle had seen its best days and following the orange theme I found a bright orange BMX saddle for a few pounds in Halfords. While there I found a nice orange rubber covered bike lock. New brake blocks were a three pound extravagance and a red alloy LED light that I drilled and fitted with a stud to mount in the rear carrier finished the bike off in a Dan Dare way. The proper transfers went on the frame and I was ready to go shopping.

I love riding my fifty year old Moulton. People are friendly and of course it is re-cycling so I can be a little pious. I am fitter, happier, the garage is tidy, riding it gives me energy, I cleaned the conservatory after one ride. It has been win win win. Looking at the garage now, I realise that a Fiat X19 will fit, orange of course.

A level ride on the Cheshire Plain

Six Gentlemen choose a level ride on the Cheshire Plain

Six Moultoneers, with a 1964 De Luxe, three TSRs and two New Series, assembled at Mobberley Railway Station for a ride through Cheshire in glorious Autumn sunshine. The ride briefing being slightly hampered by the deafening noise of aircraft taking off from Manchester Airport.

At first sight it appeared that the local residents, a little troubled by drink, had come out to welcome the Moulton Club, and one seemed so shocked to see six Moultons together that he fell from a tree, but it soon became obvious that a wonderful local Scare Crow event lined the first few miles of the ride.

The route southwards mostly followed quiet lanes, with the first few miles cooled by a southerly breeze. After passing a recently closed rural pub the route went through the extensive David Lewis Centre complex. The first stop was to investigate the state of the derelict listed building of Bate Mill, in a delightful sheltered hamlet. The old water wheel remained in place, but sadly not working.

After ascending a short incline, the next stop was for refreshment at the Cafe adjacent to the Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope. Mobile Telephones were duly switched off as instructed by numerous signs on entering the site. A Bike Shed for visitors was a welcome feature and other cyclists seemed to make up the majority of the morning customers.

A few miles of minor roads, and a bridleway through the Peover Hall Estate, took the party to the wide avenues on the outskirts of Knutsford. The variety of domestic building styles and the size of some of the recently built properties prompted discussions on the differences in individual tastes. The high walls and gates and security guards patrolling in vans were noted. Further on there was an entertaining collection of century old Italianate homes designed by Richard Harding Watt, including one that had featured as a Shanghai residence in the 1987 film Empire of the Sun.

An excellent lunch was taken in a cafe in Knutsford housing a collection of around 60 Penny Farthings, where free tea was available for any Penny Farthing riders. Locally brewed beer was served.

Suitably refreshed the party set off through the grounds of Tatton Park with the following wind making for a pleasant easy ride. Notices warned the party to keep clear of rutting stags.

At Ashley the group divided, with those cycling home towards Manchester making their way separately from those returning to Mobberley. It was a pleasant 26 mile rural ride, with no punctures or incidents to report.

Five gentlemen attempt some hilly country

Golcar, once a weaving village now the outer suburb of Huddersfield, was our starting point. The only way in or out of Golcar is a hill, so we were soon climbing quite steeply, out onto the moorland within 3 miles, joining the A640 which has little traffic. We stopped at Buckstone to admire the misty view, on a clear day with the right wind condition, this is a favourite spot for paragliding - but not today.

Over Saddleworth Moor and the long descent down to Denshaw. A short dogleg got us onto Wham Road and narrow lanes, known as Heights, for obvious reasons. Our destination was the 250 year old stone pub Th’Heights, the quintessential moorland pub, hard of access, next to the church which, as it is Heritage day, was miraculously open.
Suitably fortified we descended the precipitously steep road to the edge of Delph. So in one mile we were sitting for our next beer, thirsty work is cycling in t’hills. A rather slow lunch, speedy service is not a speciality of The White Lion.
Round the other side of the pub we found another climb which took us up onto the A62. For us locals it’s Yorkshire flat, for the offcumdons from the East it’s another hill. By now the mist had burnt off.
At the top, where the Pennine way crosses, we were all assured that from now until near the end neither hills nor Yorkshire flat will be found. We sped down hill and took a very sharp left to Standedge and Tunnel End where the Huddersfield canal goes under, for 3-4 miles, the hill we just descended.
After a general look around, we set off along the canal on what must be the prettiest canal path in UK.
With its countless locks, the descent is quite steep for 5 miles. We stopped in Slaithwaite for the Handmade Bakery, surely England’s best, where they are running a course on bread made with wild yeast. Back along the towpath.

We took the decision to take the optional route, carrying then pushing the bikes up through the steep woods and Ginnels, a precipitous ascent in a very short distance to be back in Golcar for tea, coffee and cakes.

In total we climbed 2660 feet in a 26 mile ride