Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Martin de Blois

Martin de Blois is working in Taiwan. Now, his Moulton (and work) may take him to China, Vietnam and BEYOND!!!

Martin's bike is a custom Moulton AM Esprit (from our shop) with SON generator hub and home-built custom carriers.

Begin forwarded message:

This was an amazing trip...
Bike worked very fine with my own luggage rack design.

I am extending my work stay and will probably go west China, north of Vietnam...
Or, I might go back to Taiwan to ride the TOROKO Gorges...2600 meters in 40 km !
Want to make sure I have all I need...
The bike climbed kmeters of 7% incline without problem, not up on the pedals, but very upright.
I have climbed severe hills for long stretches in Taiwan.
Very happy with the bike. Want to mod the front wheel fender flipper...makes noise I think...


P.S. No, the saddle bags are not rubbing on back wheel or derailleur. (Secret bracket !)
All is KD. I made a very nice hose clamp for the lower frame attachment, all in stainless !
Worked perfectly and fits in the box with all the bike.
I am polishing the box and will send images as well.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

BoA 2009 Photos

Snaps from "The Hall"—the Moulton estate in Bradford-on-Avon, where research, design and production is carried on daily. The Hall also serves as a meeting and demonstration ground for the annual "Moulton Bicycle Club Bradford on Avon Weekend".
Thanks to Thurston at The Bike Show for the tweets!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

2006 Brightleaf Hoe Down

September 23 & 24, 2006 in Yanceyville--Street vendors, live music, bike rodeo, crafts, boy scout mischief, wild animals, stray dogs, stray people, free music, it's all at the Hoe Down Rumble!

The Chamber of Commerce says that every September over 30,000 people come to the Historic Town Square in Yanceyville for the Brightleaf Hoedown. In 2006 they were joined by a group of cyclotourists who rode up from Raleigh to enjoy all the excitement of the day long activities at this Annual Caswell County Classic Event. I'd ridden the route two or three times before, made up some cue sheets, sent out the invites, and lashed down the tube tent, 3/4 thermarest and other light camping gear to the back of the bike. We ended up with two groups: one riding up Friday night after work--late September is pretty warm in NC and honestly we were a bit nervous about being spotted by the FBI as our Y-ville contact had been emailing an agent in Paraguay about "sending the arms" and then taken to posting on the touring list about "explosives at the campsite". The other group was to follow on Saturday morning, under the cover of daylightness.

Heeby Jeeby, the Ventriloquist and I met at the NCSU bell tower at 5pm on Friday, as planned. David rode by to tell us he was feeling ill and, not wishing to worsen the situation, would do the prudent thing--join the Saturday morning bunch. We rode into Cary and picked up Byron, then into RTP where Chloe joined us, completing the Friday Night squadron. Derrick advised, "oh and, you guys should know that this will be my longest ride yet, so if I start bitchin', just send me a back hand across me jowls." We stopped on Durham's Ninth Street for a supper break to let the sun thoroughly set, hit the Last-Chance ATM, and then struck out to do the remaining 50mi by dynamo light. ETA--midnight-ish. The first few miles out of Durham on Cole Mill presented hills and traffic. Pleasant Green presented more hills and less traffic. Our lights played nicely across the asphalts where the wind blew the first fallen leaves of autumn before us on Schley Rd.. Riding was good, and we sailed right past Underwood Grocery at New Sharon and into twenty-four miles of quiet darkness with no services, followed by another twenty-four miles of few services (two!). We enjoyed a great tail wind, pleasant temperatures and only one puncture.

As the clock neared midnight, the Leasburg Rd hills grew steeper and the Ninth St Vietnamese supper was running low. Promises of mass quantities of Italian food, salad and icy pitchers of cheap lager at Fratelli's kept us pedaling. Finally we joined NC-86 for the dive into, and the climb out of, the Roanoke River basin and into Yanceyville--where the Fratelli brothers had just flipped the lights and vacated the premises leaving us to watch their "Sorry, we're closed." sign sway back and forth on it's string--cruelly mocking us--behind the glass door.

We found the Paraguayan "arms" dealer plodding the alleys--taking his (bomb sniffing?) dog for a midnight stroll. He showed us where the boy-scouts had commandeered the fire station camping space next to the Anderson dry-dock and Merrit organic gardens. We kept it quiet, so as to let the scouts sleep--anticipating a full day tomorrow of helping them earn their demerit badges in skidding, wheelies and misadventures. Then down the hill, behind the jail and deep into the Yanceyville arboretum, where Gilbert had built up a camp with lean-tos, running water and refreshments. Demonstrating the benefits of cycling events for the local economy, he'd also rented us a Porta-Loo Deluxe. After we took turns showering with the parrot and toasted the evening's adventures, and toasted those joining us tomorrow, and toasted the crafting of the crafts and downing of the hoes, we settled in for a well deserved night's rest under the stars.

Up at the crack of dawn on Saturday (well, it was dawn SOMEWHERE) we broke fast with country biscuits and fixings while plotting revenge on those dastardly Fratelli brothers. We telephoned the reinforcements to advise them to take the time to get a good breakfast before riding instead of rushing out and it was dutifully reported back that there was little risk of a hasty launch as a couple members of their party where out stocking up on cigars for the road! Strolling the Craft booths and selecting four varieties from the home-made goat's milk cheeses (the selections offered presented far more variety than any city bagel shop's cream cheeses!) must have had a calming effect, as we lunched at the now forgiven Fratelli's. I had warned everybody that healthy organic vegan food would be hard to come by at the Caswell County Hoe Down, but healthy anything seemed in short supply. I felt pretty weak that afternoon--the miles? the al-fresco sleeping? too much cheap lager? too much vegetarian cracklin's? A good afternoon nap in the arboretum restored my constitution and I ventured back to the 4-H tent for an education on Turkey Hunting.

What would you expect to happen if, during turkey season, you dress in full camo, find a spot where everyone knows there's likely to be Turkeys, make yourself invisible in the bushes, and start making sounds like a turkey and otherwise pretending to be a turkey--that one species of fauna all those other hunters are out there determined to shoot? "It's the most dangerous hunting there is," the man at the 4-H tent told me.

"Don't you wear hunter's orange", I asked?

"Heck no--a deer's color-blind, but not a turkey", he admonished! "I had a friend who was sitting in the bushes about to shoot a gobbler. The gobbler took off suddenly and got away. Disappointed, my friend sat back, reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a pack of Marlboros. Another hunter saw the red & white pack and BLAM! I've got one less friend. You don't bring anything red when you're hunting turkey."

Made me feel safer cycling.

Next to the million-dollar restored courthouse, the bright-eyed nonagenarian, Ms Andersen, showed us around a very grim jail complete with a bona-fied gallows. "Never used," lamented our frail guide, "After we built it the legislature decreed that all executions be in Raleigh." They steal all the fun.

Gilbert gave us the walking tour of town. Brown's Seafood is operated by Commodore Kim of the Farmer Lake Yacht Club. He pointed out the dungeon beneath the boarded-up movie theatre where a refugee from by-gone days is holed-up pecking his memoirs from serving in Johannesburg for the Helms administration on an old manual Remington typewriter.

Glenn brought by his family plus a child he'd kidnapped from Macedonia. Kelly Doug Hans & David moseyed in around late afternoon. David set up, then disappeared inside a high-tech stealth tent suspended several feet above the briers.

In the morning we watched inmates cleaning up half-finished beers and encouraged them to pocket their more interesting finds among the flotsam and jetsam of a big Caswell Co Saturday Night. We broke fast at the convenience store, foregoing the traditional eggs-and-brains, minded the snakes in the resroom, saw Person County with daylight on it, reverse chased bikefest yellow darts to Pleasant Green, and made it home in time to boast!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

LEL: London-Edinburgh-London 2009

Shaun Moulton is a busy man. When he is not building walls for charity organizations in Uganda, or running the world's most advanced bicycle manufacturer, he enjoys riding a bicycle that is made in his workshop here, there and from London to Edinburgh and back!

This year, our shop has numerous friends participating in LEL including five randonneurs from North Carolina (the NC contingent would be larger, but ride registration closed before Christmas!). With a route 16% longer than PBP, the ride is a pleasant little trot around the island. The riders will enjoy a generous 20 hours of sunlight each day, enabling them to complete the day's journey and relax with a pint before sundown. They may enjoy more pleasant weather than PBP…maybe.

We'll be following their progress on Shawn's blog, listening for Mike's audio updates, and checking in at The Bike Show. Do join us!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Different Bicycles are built for Different Purposes.

"Always go hard and fast enough so that when you hit the ditch you can pull out the other side."
—J. Paycheck

Well, Mr. Paycheck had his strategies, but we rather prefer avoiding a dip in the drink in the first place by practicing a more modest and civilised pace—the better to enjoy the unfolding panorama and fragrances that Springtime brings to the English countryside in stylish comfort from the saddle on our handbuilt Pashley. With all due respect to Mr. Paycheck, we'll quietly venture around the ditch. After all, the quickest way from point "A" to "B" is not always the best—Pashley owners never forget this.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Guarding against Bike Theft

Rita Coolidge said, "Many of us have heard opportunity knocking at our door, but by the time we unhooked the chain, pushed back the bolt, turned two locks, and shut off the burglar alarm--it was gone." Never let fear spoil your bike trip.

Some people
never take
While theft is a legitimate fear, there are usually much bigger concerns on any bicycle journey. Obviously, in high crime areas you should not leave your bike unattended, and these areas are best avoided unless no alternative exists to your objective. My experience from over thirty-five years in the bike business is that the overwhelming number of stolen bicycles are stolen when left unlocked. The environs of certain bike theft zones, like NYC and Boston, certainly being exceptions but with good locks millions of cyclists park their bikes and find them where they left it when they return every day.

Bike theft can be a problem anywhere, and bikes priced well into four digits USD are not unusual nowadays. Locking it where you can keep and eye on it, and asking shopkeepers, waitstaff and others to "please keep an eye on it" while you attend to the needful will go a long way (it is nice to travel with a pal sometimes). When exploring a new environ, a local bike shop will typically be glad to store your bike for a few hours. I always buy supplies when visiting a local shop, as a practical token of good-will.

Even a minimally loaded touring bike (especially one with drop bars) is not much of a theft target compared to a shiny new department store mountain bike. Even a stupid thief is going to figure that the owner is close by a bike loaded with gear, and how wise is it to tangle with a hundred-mile per day cyclist fresh off a break? A good lock used religiously (I know it is a pain) will go a long way to preserving your bike.

Asian model

A theft-proof lock is of no value if it is too cumbersome for you to engage consistently while traveling. One solution is a type of frame lock that, while de rigueur in Europe and Asia, has not caught on yet in the United States. This lock conveniently mounts on the seat stays, and quickly secures the bike by means of a rectractable circular shaft that immobilizes the rear wheel, preventing "ride off" thefts. For additional security, a simple vinyl coated wire-rope can be looped around a bike rack, through your helmet, pannier loops and frame and finally secured to the same shaft. We carry a very nice German made model. Should you venture to the Far East, you can pick up the less beefy Asian equivalent for spare change on many urban street corners.

An empty holster slung over the handlebars and a conspicuously discarded Winchester box can send a message too.

"If I had only known,
I would have
been a locksmith."
—A. Einstein

Take valuables with you and keep a stash of emergency cash and credit cards in more than one spot. A burn wallet with your daily cash needs is a good idea when venturing into a place where you might be robbed by confrontation. Being bike-less and penniless in a strange town is much worse than being just bike-less.

There is always insurance--renters, homeowners, special sports equipment or travel policy. Mark sure it is a replacement cost policy. Insurance companies have tables that will make anything purchased yesterday worth nothing when you file a claim--the miracle of voodoo depreciation. Make sure it covers your gear too, as gear might exceed the cost of the bike. Find out details of how to file a claim, and the conditions and meet them, before your trip, not after.

As Jenny Jones of London Parliament says, "Part of the joy of cycling is the ability to stop off where you want, nip into a shop, have a quick coffee and do all those little things along your route that are more awkward when traveling by bus, Tube or cab."

Friday, March 6, 2009

Keys to Winter survival, in style!

It has been said that nobody can drive you crazy unless you give them the keys. That's probably true, but if ol' man winter is working away at your wits, you won't be the first the first cyclist to seek sanity cycling south to the Florida Keys.

I recommend it highly. I did two January trips from Raleigh, North Carolina to Key West, Florida years ago, with a buddy. We had the luxury of nice touring bikes with full fenders, lights etc.. We carried No Panniers whatsoever. On the first trip, days one and two saw us through a sleet storm, and I don't believe the temperature ever got above freeing until day three. Not my favorite conditions, but with head-to-toe raingear and stylish gallon-sized zip-lock bags duct taped over both feet and hands, we more than doubled our first days mileage--from 65 to 140 miles--even with the short winter days.

I must admit I have done lightly loaded trips before in remote areas without camping gear where I was pressing for an overnight hotel--in retrospect, I feel like that was a mistake. Often the Inn would be out of easy reach at the end of the day (very good and redundant lights are always a good idea when you ride with me) or simply full. Even back then, I would rarely consider a long trip like this without some emergency camping gear, yet this was one of those times. The weather was horrible for camping, as the rain never stopped until the day we reached Florida proper.

While we did not stay in a tent on these trips, we did carry one and were prepared to use it. Because we were changing climates as we rode south, and we intended on exploring Key West for a few days upon arrival, we shipped season-appropriate clothing and some supplies to the Homestead, FL bus station. We arrived at the station after they had closed for the day, and made the pleasure of their acquaintance when they unlocked the door the next morning. We exchanged longs for shorts, winter for summer, and sent the winter clothes homeward-bound in the same box via Greyhound.

Bike theft is a problem anywhere, and bikes priced well into four digits USD are not unusual nowadays. Locking it where you can keep and eye on it, and asking shopkeepers, waitstaff and others to "please keep an eye on it" while you attend to bodily functions will go a long way (It's nice to travel with a pal sometimes). I have found when exploring a new place that a local bike shop will typically be glad to store your bike for a few hours. I always buy supplies when visiting a local shop, as a practical token of good-will.

The biggest threat to your bike in the Keys is salt air and salty/sandy soil. Keep your bike clean, and wash it with soap, fresh water and a "brush" often--maybe a couple of times per week, with an immediate (do not wait) disassembly and thorough cleaning upon your return. UV rays can damage exposed carbon fiber clear epoxy resin causing it to flake off exposing the structure to moisture and eventual delamination. Before departure, clean the frame well and touch up any gaps in the epoxy coating (some are painted). After drying for a couple of days, wax the frame very well and enjoy!

Carrying your Gear: I usually toe-strap bagged tent poles (and pegs) to the frame. It allows much flexibility in placement of the tent. I will that say that, while people do this all the time, tying gear to the bars really can interfere with hand placement (i.e.: comfort), and STI gear levers usually get in the way. Much better to use a good bar bag for this. Sometime using longer cables on the STI brifters will allow room for a bigger bag.

Actual frame size matters. A small frame has little room for big bags, front or rear, sadly. Some people think it is too big, but I use (and sell in our shop) the Carradice Camper saddle-rear mounted bag. A big bag like this is easier to load, and saves lots of time when setting up and breaking camp. Some of their other seatpost bags are also generously sized and remove quickly as well. Bring a good sleeping pad for the Keys; the campsites I found are on coral rock and very firm.

Our website has links and articles on ultralight touring and camping that might be helpful in your planning. Enjoy your trip, and I hope the wind and weather are favorable.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Northwest Audax through the Pennines

The late February weekends in Manchester England bring temps in the 40°Fs (ideal for a brisk bike ride) and Noel Healey's annual "North-West Passage" 200km—a classic route taking in a loop of Lancashire, Yorkshire and Cumbria with "Free pie and peas for finishers."

England is hardly a mountainous country—few peaks climb to 3000 feet, but those that approach that height are found in this region. The Pennines, often called the "Backbone of England," separate greater Manchester from Yorkshire and extend into southern Scotland. All in all making for a great opportunity for an Englishman to stretch his legs while scaling the lumpy bits of the North, where they say, "Audax: It's NOT a race—It's meat & drink."

Press coverage of the 2009 event in the Rochdale Observer article, "The long and winding road," from which the snap, at right, was appreciatively lifted.

Frank Kinlan rides the 120km mini to keep trim and provides a sat-nav track ( [ Bikely ] )

Monday, March 2, 2009

RE favors the VAR wishbone

"We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire…Give us the tools and we will finish the job."
—W. L. Churchill

When your tire does weaken and falter, RandonneurExtra recommends that you make life easier by making the VAR tool your bead jack of choice for removing and fitting tyres of all sizes.

You'll handily finish the job in time for tea, for as Sir Churchill said,
"Difficulties mastered are opportunities won."

Monday, February 2, 2009

Vegas--where America goes to Show Bikes and Bits

[ This article originally appeared in the Nov 2008 North Carolina Bicycle Club newsletter and is reproduced here with permission of the author in exchange for covering his losses and release from Clark County Corrections. — Ed. ]

Las Vegas NV
Back from Vegas. My second trip served to reinforce my initial impressions: Though the nearby canyons are spectacular, Vegas itself is a stink-hole. Even if you hope to put your sensibilities on hold to appreciate the famous "decadence and depravity", its just not there. Rather than luxuriously elegant opulence or exotic frontier edginess, the casinos feel more like dingy rundown malls filled with stale smoke, empty gambling machines, overpriced gas station food and a handful of American obesity epidemic poster-grandparents. If you get a chance, go, it'll make you appreciate home, and everywhere else.

So, why'd I go? Interbike, North America's largest bicycle trade event and show. It's a business-to-business event, so I attended in my official capacity as the Supreme Commander of the Ministry of Information Technology Services at North Road Bicycle Imports' Yanceyville-upon-Dan Operations Centre. This was my first Interbike, and I'm not a gadget geek (all my bikes are steel and I haven't even used a bike computer in years) so I am NOT well positioned to identify trends, spot "new for 2009" offerings, or differentiate bike-show biases from the true Zeitgeist. But that won't stop me.

White is the New Black
For example, the color white is everywhere—tires, saddles, handlebar wraps, brake pads(!), etc.. Even ol' Brooks is in on the white thing! Gilbert says, "Looks like 'white' is the new 'black'," so I guess it's a trend, though I have my doubts: bike clothes and parts are traditionally black for a reason—black hides grease, oil, dirt and sweat. I once wore a pair of blue jeans on top my bike shorts for Big Dog Bruner's bitterly cold winter century in north Durham and confirmed that a leather saddle will indeed impart an unsightly black stain upon one's derrière. Perhaps white will be sold as the best "salt hiding" color?


Down Low Glow (Berkeley)
On the other hand, black is terrible for safety as it works toward invisibility at night. As you'd expect there were plenty of lights on display, including Rock the Bike (Berkeley)'s long neon tubes—the "down low glow". There was a deafening air horn, powered by an air bottle you inflate with a bike pump. The rep said he inflated his in the Fall and it still had plenty pressure in the Spring. I'm sure plenty vendors refuse to locate next to that stall—this is a horn that should NEVER be used on a group ride.

Monkey 'Lectric (Berkeley)
Monkey 'Lectric (Berkeley) had a nice animated graphic spoke light system, like the old “Hokey Spoke” system. I never saw the Hokeys in person, but I'm told the Monkey system is a vast improvement. I asked the rep if they paid royalties to HS, but he scowled and protested that this is entirely different technology. I was disappointed that there's no way to customize and upload your own images, but otherwise it looked nice. Retails about $70.

Save the Wells--Just Ride
Blackburn has some new, tiny, rechargeable lights called "fleas". Weighing only 17g including the built-in battery, you could even mount them on your helmet comfortably. They come with these little wires that have magnets on the end so that you can recharge your flea off a 1.5V flashlight battery.

I sought out Cat Eye to try to get an answer on their TL-LD1000s which, in my experience, are seriously plagued by a dangerous propensity to turn themselves off in use—a very bad thing for a taillight. The rep denied any knowledge of a problem. The 1000 is superseded by the 1100, which looks the same, and the always reliable skinny TL-LD600 has been superseded by the 610, which now has those lens bulges over each LED (like the 1000/1100). Cat Eye is a good company with great customer service, so I suspect the problem is fixed.


Pashley Guv'Nor
Back home, we'd been discussing the white goop on most new tires and how it's been known to cause crashes if not scrubbed off the tire before mounting. The conventional wisdom is that the nefarious substance is "mold release compound" —applied at the factory to the steel tire mold to prevent the rubber from sticking to the mold, kind of like spraying pam on a waffle iron—and is also reported as a problem on motorcycle tires. The Schwalbe rep. denied the existence of mold release compound. The Michelin rep. called it “silicone”, and the Panaracer rep called it “talc”. The rep. said he did not know what it was, but they wash it off and then Armor-All the tires on display; he showed me a "knobby" which had white residue in the corners, and offered to contact the factory to investigate the issue.


I saw more steel frames than I expected, which made me happy—I still love steel. Again, being a show newbie, I cannot judge whether this is par for the course, a sign of a resurgence, or if Interbike is biased toward l'Acciaio? So, why steel? Aesthetically, carbon fiber looks like plastic. Aluminium tubes look bloated, and I still don't understand why they don't clean up the welds on aluminium bikes. Even oilfield welders pass the grinder over a completed weld to pretty it up, and expose voids.

Steel bikes are not welded. Steel tubes are assembled with lugs and brass brazing or silver solder. Lugs offer another opportunity for the builder and painter to create beauty and style. More pragmatically, I'm the kinda guy who sticks with a bike for life, so I appreciate that steel is forgiving, steel can bend and remain strong under stresses that would cause any of the other material to develop hairline fractures—fatal fractures. My old eyes are not good enough to spot those cracks.

Lastly, Fausto and Velocio both rode steel.

Speaking of steel, Mr Bayliss (San Diego) had an unassuming stall exhibiting his beautiful work. Though there were many outstanding steel frames from factories large and small, Bruce Gordon (California) and Brian were the only indie artesian custom frame builders exhibiting handicrafts at the show. Bayliss is often regarded as a painter, but I'm told he bristles at the suggestion. You see, he is a reluctant virtuoso—the problem is that he does such remarkable work with paint that other master framebuilders seek him out to paint frames that they build. One grows accustomed to hearing, "frame by so-and-so, painted by Brian Bayliss," and forgets to acknowledge Bayliss as a top frame builder in his own right. Take a look at Dale Brown's Interbike photos and note that he generally did not take more than one photo of the best bikes at the show—yet for Brian's bike he's posted TEN photos to capture the glorious detail.

Did I mention Bruce Gordon? Yeah. He is now partnering with an outfit in Taiwan to build some less expensive frames to his specs. Bruce will build the racks and offer the "BLT" frame with fork and racks for about $1000.

Lugged Steel
Sublimated Powder Coat
Sillgey frames (Irvine/Taiwan) builds nice lugged steel frames (NOT complete bikes) and does them up in spectacular graphics. I'm told its not paint, but a special sublimated powder coat process, like Velocity (Australia) uses on their outlandishly graphic deep-V rims (checkerboard, eyeballs, skull and crossbones, argyle, camo, etc.). Also, Synergy is now available in good ol' 27". How 'bout a Smith & Wesson bike with Camo Synergies?

Et tu, Brooks?
Another traditional manufacturer at Interbike whose name evokes sentimental nostalgia is Brooks, who have been handcrafting premium leather saddles in England since 1866—cyclists have been riding Brooks since before we had chains, tubes or bearings! Brooks are a favourite with randonneurs—on many brevets, everybody is riding Brooks. Today Brooks offers thirty leather saddle models, plus six super supple “aged leather” models, leather bags, leather hand grips, leather bar wrap, leather mud flaps and other bits. I'm told they're going to offer one with leather so fresh that its still furry (my grandma had chairs like that) but I didn't see it.

Torelli also had nice Italian leather goods.

QBP's Loring, with Bamboo
Naturally QBP was there. Even if you've never heard of "Quality Bicycle Products," I promise you that you've bought from them indirectly—they wholesale materials to all the bike shops. Ever wonder why Bill's Bikes uses the same part numbering system as Cindy's Cycles? Last year QBP rolled out the Civia brand of commuter bikes. This year they added the "Loring" model with really cool looking real bamboo fenders and racks. Available in any color you like (as long as it's apple green).

Hubs, Drivetrains & shifting

Speaking of 800lb gorillas, Shimano (Japan) demoed their Dura Ace Di2 electronic shifting—faster, lighter and more reliable than mechanical Dura Ace. This is NOT the old Mavic system, for one thing the Di2 shifts front and rear and uses conventional style integrated brifters. There's also options for other shift button locations. How much? Who knows! Campy has not produced theirs yet, so I guess Shimano can charge whatever they want for these jewels.

Speaking of shifting, have you seen the NuVinci continuously variable hubs? "Continuously variable" means there's no 1-2-3…, its analog, like a tractor or a Honda Insight transmission. Or like the volume control knob on your radio—there's min, max, and all points in between. Want gear # 2.539, you got it! This also keeps your chainline always straight, no dropped chains, no missed shifts, only one cable and no finicky derraileurs! At $600, they're about half the cost of a Rohloff. If you shop around you might get one for $400.

Want a cableless shift for the chainrings that's hands-free and maintains that clean fixie/ss look? Schlumpf (Switzerland) has the SpeedDrive—a two speed bottom bracket that you shift by pushing a mechanical button with your foot. Several bikes at the show where SpeedDrive equipped.

Moulton New Series
Years ago Sachs (Germany) made a coaster brake hub with a twist—by giving the pedals a quick backwards kick the cyclist could shift the internal gearing between low and high. If only Sachs still offered these, you could combine with the SpeedDrive for a four-speed, cable-free, derailleurless system with the clean look and perfect chainline of a singlespeed. But Sachs hasn't made the kickback in many years, so…dream on.

Dream come true—Moulton (England) has found a stash of NOS kickbacks tucked away in a European warehouse just waiting to be paired with the SpeedDrive! Moulton is offering a limited edition of their spaceframe bike with this novel configuration.

Sturmey Archer's (England) newest hub is three speeds, fixed-gear, with bar-end shifting.

Gates Carbon Drive
Gates, the company that makes belts for your car, introduced their "Carbon Drive" polyurethane belt drive system at last years Interbike emphasizing MTB applications. This clean, quiet and smooth running toothed-belt drive system showed up on a lot of commuter bikes, folders and even a fixed-gear from Fixies Inc (Germany). They say this belt will also last twice as long as a chain, needs no lube and is much lighter than a chain.

Do you pump your tires up before each ride? Not me…I know I should. Ever wish somebody would make a self inflating wheel? Defined Design (San Francisco) has done that with their "Pump-Hub"—and it's really cool! The pump-hub is a machined aluminum tire pump that installs inside a special wheel hub and pumps when the wheel turns. You use normal tires and tubes, the hub connects to the valve using a thin black polyurethane air line. You push a little silver mechanical 'button' to turn it on, and ride the bike a mile or two to pump up the tire to the pressure you've set (adjusting screw). It goes "clack-clack-clack" as it pumps, then when the tire is fully inflated, the pump disengages, shutting itself off. The pump cartridge module adds four ounces to the wheel weight.

Phil Wood
If you're looking for a hub that is just a hub, but you want the smoothest and most durable hub that money can buy, Phil Wood (San Jose) has been designing and making them in California since he pioneered sealed bike hubs almost 40 years ago. Not light, nor cheap, these hubs and bottom brackets will outlast your frame. You can consider them a family heirloom. A very conservative manufacturer, Phil Wood only makes changes in response to bona-fide new technology, so it is exciting news that this year Phil Wood bearings got even smoother with the introduction of "Carbonyte" bearings with a new compound that fills in microscopic cracks in bearing surfaces.

Gilbert pointed to a hand-cranked spoke threader at the edge of the booth and whispered, "four thousand dollars." Hunh? "You know how with a regular threading machine you turn and turn the crank? Not with a Phil Wood: One pull and the spoke is cut to length and a full set of threads are, not cut, but cold forged onto the spoke—it does not cut away material, and makes a stronger spoke."

Velo Bizarre

Go One
I saw more fixies and single-speeds than I expected. Being a newbie, I can't say if that is in keeping with past shows. They could be catering to the youthful fashions, or maybe builders have always sought to highlight their frame construction by building up without messy cables, levers and derailleurs to distract the viewer's attention? I still like building a fixie up from a vintage steel frame—buying an expensive factory-made fixie just seems a little…bourgeois-bohemian, but some of them some look so nice that I'd definitely like to take them out for a spin, so call me a bo-bo. C'est la vie.

Rans had some long wheelbase recumbents with massive rear racks and pannier. I like that both wheels conveniently had the same tire size, but the saddles where like regular bike saddles—no back rest!

HP Velotechnik (Germany) folder
I had a great time talking to the guy at HP Velotechnik (Germany), he hates Vegas more than I do! If I may generalize, my experience with German salesmen is that they are the least pushy salesmen ever—in fact, if you want to buy something you need to be ready to push them. I was interested in his “Grasshopper FX” folding recumbent, but he said that the one he had was only a prototype and could not actually fold. Still, I wish I had pushed him for a test ride—I'd love to have a traveling 'bent.

"Stepper" indoor exercise machines are turning into outdoor vehicles. No seat, and two big platforms for your feet.

Orient Bicycle Company (Massachusetts) 1896 Oriten

Santana (California) lined their booth by assembling ten of their “Cabrio” S&S-coupled sections into a ten seater tandem! You'd think that has to be a record, but the Orient Bicycle Company (Massachusetts) built and rode a ten seater way back in the 1890s! (Google "Oriten")

Kool Stop's Měsíček highwheelers
Over at the Kool Stop booth, there were two Josef Měsíček (Czech Republic) hand crafted highwheelers (penny farthings) on display. Highwheeling looks like fun, but these looked almost too nice to ride.

Topeak has a cool bike called the Jango with clever fittings for all the stuff you need to attach: fenders, lights, rack, trailer, etc… The idea is that all this stuff installs and removes quickly and easily without tools, and of course its all well integrated, so no more duct tape, nylon wire ties and leather bootlaces holding your stuff together. I keep an eye on Topeak since they introduced a cycling specific camping tent a few years ago—I figure any company that does that, understands how I like to bike. This year Kamp-Rite (Nevada) had their tent-cot mounted on a bike trailer.

Flying Pigeon
There were several vendors displaying electric assist bikes, including "Flying Pigeon" who are one of the top manufacturers for China's domestic market, dating back to pre-Communist days. Under Chairman Mao, FP supplied a working man with a great bike for $15, in any color he wanted (as long as it was black). But Mao is dead, color options are available, and those $15 models go for $150 today. The "Flying Pigeon" name evokes sentimental nostalgia in China, where most of the commuter bikes on the street are FPs or Giants. The electric motorized hub bikes are also very popular in China, perhaps partly because motorcycles are limited to 50cc (mopeds) in China.

In the U.S. these hub motors are limited to about 20mph and operate only as "assist"—you still have to pedal. BionX (Quebec) has some surprisingly lightweight models with regenerative braking that are said to get up to 80 miles on a three-hour charge, but that's assuming you set it on the lowest assist level. 20 or 30 miles is probably more realistic. Cost is about $1500. My buddy Tom Ed tried a few brands, but gave up on them after finding that its too easy to fry the controller unit. Cycle 9 in Carrboro sells the BionX and one of the guys there charges his with solar power.

Madsen Bikes (Utah)
Need to haul heavy stuff? Madsen Bikes (Utah) has a dump truck of a bike—a rear loader available as a rack or bucket model, either rated to haul 600lbs. Yuba had models set up to haul a quarter ton too.

Oh, and there was a guy doing insane twenty foot backflips on an extreme pogo stick. I hope he stays out of pacelines.


Indoor Bike Parking!
I've always been very pleased with Ortlieb (Germany) bags—durable, very waterproof (they look like kayaking gear), well designed and made. The panniers have a great attachment mechanism—they're very secure, yet detaching when you want to couldn't be easier.

Big front bags were popular this year. Rickshaw bags (San Francisco) was started by the founder of Timbuk2 and makes "zero waste" bags—i.e. designed and cut from nylon in such a way as to not leave any scraps. Detours bags (Oregon) makes bags entirely from recycled plastic soda bottles.

Looking forward

I think I heard that Interbike will open to consumers too in 2009. The really big shows in Germany open to insiders during the week, then to the public on weekends. Vegas isn't my kind of town, but if one is in to mountain biking the outdoor dirt demos might be a lot of fun—there is some spectacular outdoors nearby, and very much a change of scenery from the east coast.

—Adrian "la Paralysie" Hands

Never explore the final frontier blanket-less!

Charles Lindbergh rejoiced flying alone at night above a forgotten cloud bank, feeling as though lost "in the solitude of interstellar space," yet confessed to

"know that down below, beneath that heavenly blanket is the earth, factual and hard."
Flying closer to our factual and hard earth, the cycletourist seeks a more literal blanket at night. Spaceblankets are great! Waterproof, windproof and light, they pack small; I put them in thick zip-lock bags and squeeze the air to an interstellar thinness before sealing.

While I never go on an overnight ride without a space blanket (small, weightless, waterproof, effective) they do make a space bag that would be drier (from the outside) and much warmer. My buddy uses a breathable one that has two layers and is perforated with some quilted insulation for almost all his camping year-round. He is tough, but we are in the south and he wears a lot of clothes in the winter.

On a long brevet, you might try a time honored ultra-light backup to a space blanket by doing what 90% of the Randonneurs do: Travel light, ride briskly and sleep indoors at the checkpoints that the organizers provide.

There are actually four distinct styles of space blanket products, though all do not use the same name or trademark:

  1. NASA Style: Silver with red or gold back, with or without corner grommets. Solid, stiff and built like your life depended on it. Stiff enough to serve as an emergency sleeping bag, does not cling, and works as a tarp, etc., for years.
  2. Foil Type: Silver with gold or silver back. Mylar ultra thin and ultra light film. Fits in your pocket but is delicate. Maybe 1/20th the weight and a 1/8 the size of the NASA style.
  3. Plastic Coated Mylar Style: 1/2 to 1/3 the Weight of the NASA style. This is a mylar blanket coated on both sides with clear plastic. Fairly durable. These are hard to find.
  4. Space Blanket and Space Sleeping bag Style: These are perforated for ventilation and has a very thin synthetic loft—insulation layer in a mylar or foil sandwich. Both styles are very light and easy to find in our area. The compacted size is 4 x 8-9 inches or so and very light for a sleeping bag, but I like a little more softness.

Some clever bike-packing rugged individualists get dual-use from good space blankets by pressing them into service as pannier covers, also making good use of their high light reflective property—Ingenious! But we recommend using aluminized coated nylon for pannier covers—this material weighs similar (heavier 1.1 - 1.4 oz per yard) and will pack smaller as it will not puff up like the space blanket. Four pannier covers could wad into your fist. Stephenson's Warmlight and my neighbor (Treklite) who used to work for Stephenson used this fabric in tents that start in the sub two pound range for real three-person tents. At the Warmlite website this material was recommended to resist sun damage. It has a high tech Lost in Space/NASA look. Stephensons sells the fabric too.

Combining the water protection of plastic with the lightweightedness of Tyvek, the space blanket also sees use as a ground cloth or tent floor protector. While they can puncture more easily than Tyvek, they can be easily patched. Really if you are worried about punctures of a floor protector, you are pitching in the wrong place as far as your tent is concerned.

I have also used the space blanket as a space blanket.

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson

North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999

Sometimes, you just can't Beat the Drum!

Not THAT kind of drum!

Paul "Butch Cassidy" Newman, who performs his own bicycle stunts, advises that it is too late to put on the brakes once you're upside-down, but a set of Sturmey-Archer drum brakes will stop your bike, and easily toss you over the bars if used haphazardly! I was so impressed that I bought a pair (drum brake hubs) front and rear for an old Raleigh Gran Sport. No maintenance, clean rims, weather-proof, large strong flanges—Cool!

The standard supplied brake levers for the hubs are JUNK, however. They are nylon, are flexible and have limited travel. As far as I'm concerned, they're unsafe and non-functional. We have sold hundreds of the old Pashley Roadsters with these brakes, front and rear, coupled with mountain bike levers with Zero complaints. My personal bike had Campagnolo Record road levers and, again, you can easily lock-up both wheels, but they have better modularity than linear-pull brakes. Linear-pull and disk brakes require less hand pressure to lock-up the wheel than the SA drum brake, but you have to wonder if being able to easily lock-up a wheel is a good thing.

Braking at the hub will make for a bit more spoke stress than rim braking, but since drum brakes have better modularity than disks they will stress the spokes less. Rim brakes are less stressful to the spokes than drums or discs. I suppose it is a proportional game (or caper if you are a KiWi or Oz resident).

A drum that's hard to beat!
Eight internal gears to boot!

While it worked, I found that, for me, the Aria Drum Brake lost it's effectiveness quickly with use. I preferred the Canti's, with good pads on mine. While not designed for a tandem, I have never had any problem with the newer (since about 2000) Sturmey-Archer drum brakes. They have primarily had alloy 90mm hub shells but as I recall the steel ones worked fine.

Set-up with the Sturmey-Archer is a non issue, really: Adjust the bearing, clamp the brake-reaction arm down, use decent brake levers, quality cables, take slack out of cable, apply pressure to handle, stop. I feel like they are as simple as you can get.

Good, well placed cable-stops will help any brake. Santana Tandems going back over twenty-five years have some of the best, and had big cables in the old days.

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson

North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999

Just how Loaded is "Fully"?

Camping on the Castle grounds
at the 2006 Moulton Rally,
Bradford-on-Avon, Somerset, England

J. P. Sartre says that words are loaded pistols, but his were usually fully loaded. The great visionary Bucky Fuller, who mesmerized students at Black Mountain in North Carolina, complained that the educational process tended to overload people until they lost their innate capabilities. Retaining what innate capabilities I still posses, I load up and go to a rally for Alex Moulton bicycles in southwest Angleterre every year or two. Lots of rides in the country-side and along the lovely English canal paths. Many people ride some distance self-supported to the long weekend rally and camp at Dr. Moulton's lovely home (we Americans often describe it as a castle).

The English as a whole, whether by accident or design, seem to travel with much less weight and bulk than the riders from most other countries. We were cycling in a popular tourist area and loaded vacationing cyclists were common. You could always pick out the Americans—with enough gear to make any outfitter proud. I think 80-100 lbs would be a common American load—without the bike—on overseas trips. The British that I observed often camped with 20-30 lbs of gear for a week, plus food and any carry-along liquids.

F-Frames at the 2006 Moulton Rally,
Bradford-on-Avon, Somerset, England

Now the heaviest loaded tourists that I have seen are from Japan. Though small in stature they often transport their own body-weight in luggage and gear. The Japanese often carried extensive electronic gear and scores of music collections. This can certainly be reduced from the old cassette tapes to CD, then DVD and now MP3 players but I assume these cyclists would now drag along full satellite communications and televisions, laptops, video cameras so their loads may have gone up! In Japan I feel getting back to nature may often include headphones.

While I consider myself one that carries few extras when camping, I carry plenty to be self-contained and comfortable. While some people would consider my camping load ultra-light, my summer travel companions often travel great distances camping with only one small partially-filled pannier, and one plans two weeks in Europe without even that. These fellows are very quick to pack-up in the morning.

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson

North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999

You can't argue with Radar

"Amazing attention to detail, exquisite craftsmanship and wonderful ride. A performance machine and a real head-turner all in one go."--that's the verdict on the Moulton Twin Pylon over at

"Beauty cannot be questioned.

It has its divine right of Sovereignty," wrote Oscar Wilde, before he ever rode the Pashley Princess Sovereign
Pashley 33
A tough bike parking day in front of our Yanceyville shop
Over one's mind and over one's body the individual is Sovereign. —John Stuart Mill

Pictured above, three Pashley Princess Sovereigns, designed to please the mind and body:

  • Rich Burgundy, fitted with the optional rear picnic basket with closing top,
  • Buckingham Black, sporting the standard front-mount wicker basket, and
  • Regency Green, endowed with the extra-large wicker basket, as seen in most Pashley Factory photos.

The Princess was selected by the Independent for Miss Marple wannabes pedaling the mean streets of Shepton Mallet, basket loaded with ginger beer and jars of home-made jam. This hand-built regal steed also caught the eye of TreeHugger, where they prefer to load the basket with flowers & bread.

Peruse the factory specs over tea, then ring us up to discuss customizations.

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson
North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Bobbie Martin can't let a Good Bike Die

An MK3 rebuilt from ashes
by Bobbie Martin

The Raleigh-manufactured Moulton Mark Three predated the space frame in the early 1970's. Though non-separable, these bikes were noted for their smooth and solid riding characteristics. The rear suspension rubber "Squash Ball" and lower pivot resemble the modern Moultons produced today.

I bought this bike a while back after it had been in a fire. With the help of my friend John Greenwood, we were able to restore it using mostly modern components.

As it was so bad to start with, I never considered restoring to original, and we decided to upgrade it using modern components.

The fire had melted all the plastic & nylon parts.

The fire had melted all the rubber parts as well, including the squashball!

The rear swing-arm was widened to 135mm and a new wheel with a Nexus 8-speed hub installed.

The Raleigh 26tpi bottom-bracket was rethread to standard BSC threading and cut down to the normal width. We used a Shimano UN72 BB, but still had to cut the rings slightly.

The new crank is a Campagnolo Triomphe—one I had on hand. I have always liked the look of these. This one has been modified for a single outer chainring (53 tooth).

The front wheel was built-up with a narrow flange Sansin hub spaced to 88mm to fit the MK3 front forks. Velocity USA supplied a pair of hard to find 36 spoke 16" Aeroheat rims. Tires are Schwalbe Marathons.

It was ready to ride by New Year's.

A local vinyl sign company duplicated the original decals. John Greenwood, a friend of mine, has done most of the work you see…

…including cutting down the front axle and skewer, giving us a nice quick-release front wheel that works like a champ.
New Squashball provided by Moulton Preservation.

He also machined new rear swing-arm bushings from Delrin.

We also added a few braze-ons for a water bottle and fender stays.

Here is the finished product. Powder-coated red frame & rack, with silver-vein mudguards and a black swingarm. Campy Triomphe crank with 53 T chainring, and Brooks saddle.

Finished out with a Nitto stem, handlebars, upper headset from an APB FX8 and an Avocet 30 cyclocomputer.

The bike rides great with the Nexus hub. All it needs now is the proper rack bag!

—Bobbie Martin

Yours in Cycling,
Gilbert Anderson
North Road Bicycle Imports
P.O. Box 840
166 Courthouse Square
Yanceyville, NC 27379
toll free: 800-321-5511
local: 919-828-8999