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Road Test/Bike Review (1990) ALEX MOULTON Speed

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Road Test/Bike Review (1990) ALEX MOULTON Speed

Old 01-17-24, 06:20 PM
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Road Test/Bike Review (1990) ALEX MOULTON Speed









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Old 01-17-24, 09:52 PM
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Still in production!

https://www.moultonbicycles.co.uk/models/AMSPEED.html
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Old 01-18-24, 09:09 AM
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I'd love to try one to see how it does on our crappy roads. But I bet even used they are probably pretty pricey!
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Old 01-18-24, 10:00 AM
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I've always wanted to try a Moulton.

Looks like in the current production of this model they have updated the design to remove the beefy pin tube even.
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Old 01-18-24, 07:49 PM
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Not sure about the tiny wheels… probably fine for a circus clown.
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Old 01-18-24, 10:53 PM
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Crazy that modern carbon wheels are even lighter than the tiny wheels Doug Roosa (the author) was raving about in this review.
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Old 01-18-24, 11:43 PM
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Remember that although Moulten's were originally designed for more casual riders, they have also been used, where allowed, for racing or records. The human powered bike competition featured many Moulten's and the Race Across America featured a Moulten. Small wheels + decent suspension does work.

It is too bad that they are so expensive. I would like to try the 20" wheeled version.
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Old 01-19-24, 07:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Velo Mule
It is too bad that they are so expensive.
The knee in the cost/feature curve for Moultons seems to bend around the SST (£2950, ~$3750) or Flyte (£3350, ~$4250) models.

Agreed, not cheap, but I look through the Trek, Specialized, Giant and Cannondale catalogs and see many more expensive offerings.
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Old 01-19-24, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Alan K
Not sure about the tiny wheels… probably fine for a circus clown.
'That the universal agreement has fixed on 70 cm as the proper size for wheels does not in anyway prove that this diameter is best. It simply proves that cyclists follow each other like sheep.’ - Paul De Vivie
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Old 01-19-24, 07:42 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
Agreed, not cheap, but I look through the Trek, Specialized, Giant and Cannondale catalogs and see many more expensive offerings.
I think the price is justified.They never became popular enough to become common. It's funny that MiniVelo's have gained popularity, but lack the suspension of the Moulton.
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Old 01-19-24, 09:52 AM
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For folding bikes, the small wheels make a lot of sense.

For bikes that don't need to fit in small spaces, it's hard to argue that small is still better. Adding suspension does help compensate for the reduced ability of the wheels to bridge gaps in the road surface... although the author then argues that the suspension allows the tires to be pumped up to 140 psi to "reduce rolling resistance". Later, we learn that the tires are 1 1/4", or 32mm.
140psi in a 32mm tire?? Don't let Jan Heine hear about this.

It's possible that the small tires weren't available in a lightweight, supple version, so the current understanding that high pressures aren't the solution to low rolling resistance might not apply.
Has Moulton updated their designs to use wide tires instead of the heavier suspension?

Steve in Peoria (it would still be fun to take a Moulton for a spin around the block regardless)
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Old 01-19-24, 10:25 AM
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Originally Posted by tcs
'That the universal agreement has fixed on 70 cm as the proper size for wheels does not in anyway prove that this diameter is best. It simply proves that cyclists follow each other like sheep.’ - Paul De Vivie
Are you contending that a 17” wheel will handle road unevenness and gaps in surface as well as 70cm or any larger size that sheep use?
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Old 01-19-24, 11:56 AM
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Could there be an uglier bike?
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Old 01-19-24, 08:42 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
Don't let Jan Heine hear about this.
In Mr. Heine's recent book he speaks fondly of, oh, maybe a dozen bike designers/builders. There's only one bike designer he criticizes: the late Dr. Moulton. He has castigated Dr. Moulton and Moulton bikes on occasion in his blog and magazine as well. Let us say Mr. Heine is somewhat aware of the Moulton design philosophy.

In other news, the Moulton Works' order books are full and they are adding staff as fast as they can be trained.
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Old 01-19-24, 09:20 PM
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Please keep in mind that I don't own a Moulton and have never ridden one either. I can only go from stories that I hear and read about. Many Moulton cyclist say that the positives outweigh the negatives compared to a typical road bike. One story that has stuck in my head is where Dave Bogdan rode a Moulton across the United States, 3000miles in 10 days for the 1988 Race Across America bike race. This is quite a feat. At the end, he was the only rider that could hold a pen to sign autographs.

The other story that I hear is that as a Touring bike you can take the train, bus, plane or a car more easily because the Moulton takes up less space than a typical touring bike especially when you consider racks and fenders. You can do an "out and back tour" instead of having to complete a loop. It just give you more options.

It definitely has positives and it definitely has negatives. By the way, one of the reasons that I said I'd like to try the 20" bike is that, I would consider 17" wheel a big negative. At least with a Moulton APB with 20" wheels , I could go to an local bike shop and get a tire, a tube and even a rim if I needed one.

I think this design was ahead of it's time. Folding bikes have adopted suspension to deal with the limitation of small wheels. Mini Velo's have gained a niche following. There are things in the bike world that are heading down the path that Alex Moulton first blazed. Or at least, that is my opinion.
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Old 01-19-24, 09:45 PM
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Originally Posted by tcs
In Mr. Heine's recent book he speaks fondly of, oh, maybe a dozen bike designers/builders. There's only one bike designer he criticizes: the late Dr. Moulton. He has castigated Dr. Moulton and Moulton bikes on occasion in his blog and magazine as well. Let us say Mr. Heine is somewhat aware of the Moulton design philosophy.

In other news, the Moulton Works' order books are full and they are adding staff as fast as they can be trained.
Even being somewhat critical of the use of small wheels for no apparent reason, I have to admit that I don't know all of the reasons that Mr. Moulton has chosen the small wheels. There is an argument that small wheels reduce overall weight, but it does require the addition of suspension, which adds weight. Small wheels reduce the overall size, in some regards, which is quite useful for folding bikes or bikes that have to be stored in small spaces.

The Rivendell Reader #16 contains an article where Chester Kyle interviews Alex Moulton. The Moulton family had worked with rubber products, and there was some interest in the use of rubber elastomers in simple suspensions. Mr. Moulton mentions being impressed with how the use of small wheels in the Morris Mini had produced some efficiencies in the vehicle's design. My general impression is that he was fond of the idea of the use of small wheels and suspension and felt that it could be applied to bikes with good results. There doesn't seem to be any sign of an investigation of various methods of improving a bike's lightness or ride quality, with the selection of the optimal method based on the merits of each.

As a fellow packrat and hoarder of bike magazine articles, I'm attaching the interview with Alex Moulton below...

Steve in Peoria




















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Old 01-20-24, 07:38 AM
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I have a Moulton, and I love it. I won’t say it’s as fast as a full-sized road bike, but I will say than in nearly 50 years of riding, I haven’t ridden a bike which has such a combination of positive attributes. It soaks up the bumps, is remarkably stable, surprisingly fast, and easily modifiable. Some people don’t like the space frame design, but I do. A Moulton New Series is on my shopping list, I just have to figure out how I can justify to my wife how I spent $20k+ on a bike. I’ll remind her that I didn’t complain when she spent $15k for a Birkin handbag.
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Old 01-20-24, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
There doesn't seem to be any sign of an investigation of various methods of improving a bike's lightness or ride quality, with the selection of the optimal method based on the merits of each.
If you go beyond a little magazine interview to the books (yes, there are entire books on Moulton, his life of engineering all manner of things including his bikes), you'll get a rather more complete picture. Dr. Moulton began working on cycle design in 1956, and his first bikes came out at the end of 1962. The Moulton Museum (yes, there is one) is filled with years of prototypes, test mules and yes, dead ends and failures. Fun fact: back in the 1950s he even tested (and rejected!) the recumbent position. There are test rigs and archives of results. He did the same thing from 1973 to 1983 for the spaceframe bikes. I'm hard-pressed to name anyone in the 20th Century who started with a clean sheet of paper and no box to stay inside, did more investigation and resulted in something unique with merit.

It's a well-ridden road: it would be hard to come up with a fresh, new criticism of Moulton bikes; they have been denigrated and even savaged since 1962 and continue to be to this day. Yet the bikes have their fans.

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Old 01-20-24, 10:27 AM
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From Tony Hadland's 1982 book, The Moulton Bicycle:



Below you can read the transcript of Dr. Moulton's Friday Evening Discourse.









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Old 01-20-24, 10:28 AM
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...and the last page.

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Old 01-20-24, 01:24 PM
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Interesting information. Thanks for posting.

As a 20+ year Bike Friday owner, I am in no position to pass judgment on small-wheel aficionados.
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Old 01-20-24, 03:46 PM
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Originally Posted by rider19
From Tony Hadland's 1982 book, The Moulton Bicycle:
.....
Below you can read the transcript of Dr. Moulton's Friday Evening Discourse.
.....
very interesting! Thanks for sharing!

Looking through it... I'm impressed at the creation of a power measuring device with a strain gauge! Nicely done! The technology of the day definitely didn't allow putting the electronics on the bike, so I'm impressed by the use of the circular path in the aircraft hangar. I've seen pics of a van used by Cinelli(?) use in a similar fashion to get signals from a bike while going down the road, reinforcing the idea that getting decent data back then was certainly not easy.

Reading through the pages, I see the idea that small wheels are useful for carrying cargo and allowing the bike to fit in small spaces. I was looking for some info that suggested that small wheels offered performance advantages over large wheels... and I don't think I've found it. The most significant text seems to be this:

"By elimination it was therefore deduced that the greatest influence in the difference of power required to drive the two machines lay in the tyres. Figure 9 shows that the tyre offering the least resistance was the 17 in high pressure tyre of nylon thread construction developed in conjunction with Dunlop Rubber Co. This tyre was equalled in power consumption by the 17 in tubular tyres, a form of construction which dispenses with the inner inflated tube, the tyre itself containing the air under pressure. The 27 in x 1 1/4 in high pressure tyre accounted for the 6 per cent difference in power requirement, but a significant improvement was made if 27 in tubular tyres was used. An important observation was the high power requirement of the small diameter large section tyre (1 5/8 in section) which incurred a 38 per cent penalty when inflated to the recommended 50 psi."

I transcribe this from the pages, so there may be some errors... or maybe just my fingers refusing to type "tyres"...

The issue of the lower power required by the smaller wheels seems to be dependent on the tyres that Dunlop developed for this project. Well.. there's also the question of the tires on the large wheeled bike. My first 10 speed had 27 x 1/4" tires, and they were cheap tires rated for 70psi. The tubulars of the day were the good tires, which is what my 1974 Raleigh International came with. A few years later, the first decent 1 1/8" high pressure (90psi) clinchers became available, offering a definite advantage over the 70psi clinchers, but still a bit behind the sew-ups.

The wording "The 27 in x 1 1/4 in high pressure tyre accounted for the 6 per cent difference in power requirement, but a significant improvement was made if 27 in tubular tyres was used." hints that the difference might just be due to the tyres/tires instead of the wheel size.
At the same time, it doesn't suggest that the smaller wheel is performing any worse than the larger wheel.

I commend Mr. Moulton for taking this effort to get actual data in this project! This was much too rare in an industry that tended to rely on seat-of-the-pants (shorts?) feel. I do wonder how much difference the test environment made. Having spent many hours working in an aircraft hangar, I will note that the surface is very smooth. I'd say that it is similar to the floor of the average car garage. It is quite a bit different from the texture of the average road. I'd expect a bit more rolling resistance from any wheel on a typical road than a typical hangar floor, and the effect would be greater on a smaller wheel. I'm not faulting Mr. Moulton for not going to this level of detail... he went far beyond his peers in terms of basing his decisions on experimental data (to the best of my knowledge, imho, etc.)

Steve in Peoria

(this is the hanger that I spent many interesting hours in, troubleshooting the electronics on A-4 Skyhawks at MCAS Yuma... plus a lot of hours in the sun on the flight line. hot!)
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Old 01-20-24, 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy
(this is the hanger that I spent many interesting hours in, troubleshooting the electronics on A-4 Skyhawks at MCAS Yuma... plus a lot of hours in the sun on the flight line. hot!)
At least you kept your sense of Yuma about it.

(also a former Yuman being back in the late 1980s - I remember the wind more than the hills...)
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Old 01-20-24, 05:44 PM
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Originally Posted by RCMoeur
At least you kept your sense of Yuma about it.

(also a former Yuman being back in the late 1980s - I remember the wind more than the hills...)
hills? I don't recall any. (at least not where I rode bikes)
I do remember some high winds and having sand blown into my eyes. Nasty. I remember the heat most of all.
I also remember Kenny's(?) bike shop, where I got my first pair of bike shoes with nail-on cleats!
Had a couple of buddies that had raced, and taught me to ride pace lines and such. Good times.

Steve in Peoria (no, not the one in Arizona)
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