Friday, July 16, 2010

FAQ: What's your experience with Moultons?

"Realize what you really want. It stops you from chasing butterflies and puts you to work digging gold." —W. Moulton Marston

Moulton bicycles certainly must be the most misunderstood bicycle product ever invented. I have harbored a curiosity about these odd machines since introduced to them by my bicycle club president, a notable local racer, in 1974 or so. I thought, should I ever get a chance, I'll have to have one of those Moultons. The model at the time was the state of the art F-frame Moulton Mark 3, which, while very different, looks today a bit like many (not all) Bike Fridays in layout.

Years ago, a fellow brought a spaceframe Moulton (modern era model) into our shop for resale. I ended up buying it and I was hooked. I have owned just about every type of nice racing bike, and touring bike (Tandems—3, ATBs—5) over a decade before I owned my first car—which cost about the same as my first Moulton. The Moulton was remarkable; it had it's limitations, not for everybody, but certainly what I was looking for. I decided to convince a reluctant Moulton factory to set me up as a dealer. They just did not need the American market, I was told.

Now, twelve years on selling them, we have found it is lots of fun dealing with Moultons on a daily basis, but I have much better business opportunities than selling bikes that can have over a year wait from purchase to delivery. These days, we can often ship from stock, but if not on-hand or in the line-up to be produced, the wait can be challenging.

"A lot of people can't stand touring but to me it's like breathing. I do it because I'm driven to do it." —Dylan

The Moulton GT is in the connoisseur class. However, we generally find the lower price models better for touring, and they are very nice indeed these days. Having said this, if you feel as did Churchill when he quipped "I am easily satisfied with the very best", we do have very large bags to fit the GT. There are lots of different types of touring, and lots of different Moultons for these requirements.

For loaded Touring, we sell many large bags and Moulton's can take huge panniers if needed, but it depends on the model and carriers. Remember, panniers were originally designed for donkeys, not bicycles. Large wheel bikes work okay with panniers, if you get over the heel bumping them, and dragging the ground with the large ones. With small wheels, a single bag (as opposed to opposing panniers), is more appropriate. The Moulton is a system for touring; for different types of touring, on-road, off-road, randonnees, mountains, flats, lightly loaded, heavily loaded, bad weather, traveling, stowing away. There are special frames, special models, special modifications, dedicated components, special luggage carriers, special luggage, all optimized to do the job and task at hand.

"Price is what you pay. Value is what you get." —W. Buffett

Cheap, not hardly; expensive, not really. Often times a Moulton, properly selected, will replace several bikes of much greater combined cost. An old Moulton ad read: "If you are the kind of person who owns more than a couple of bikes, one should certainly be a Moulton." Ha! I have over five customers that claim to own more than 70 bikes! (I suspect that their sport may not be cycling, but instead it may be buying bikes.)

One sort of odd and terrible thing about Moultons: We often see used models selling for more than we sell new ones. High demand, low supply, poor distribution—a real team. It has become known as a cult bike; a term I used to resist, I accept it now.

Most Moultons can be adapted for most people's uses and are generally much more versatile than standard big-wheel bikes. On cost, while there are no rock bottom world-beater prices, generally they offer real value and their costs are generally nowhere near a mid-range racing bike these days, and Moultons offer much, much more.

Now, if you want to shoot the moon: sell your spare Patrick Phillipe and pick out something nice in gleaming stainless steel and hunker down and wait (sometimes). Your bikie friends will be either jealous or write you off as an eccentric crazy. You don't care what they think anyway; you are on a Moulton after all.