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Alex Moulton spent a large part of this life engaged on his mission to improve the bicycle – in 1956 he was fascinated and delighted by his lightweight Hetchins, but felt that he could improve on it: “My intention in the creation of the Moulton bicycle was to take the evolution of that most remarkable device a stage beyond its classical form”.

In his mind, the bicycle – a single-track vehicle, requiring adjustments to balance at all times, powered by human effort only – was an extraordinary device to emerge from the Victorian era. Yet he was also struck by how the development of the design had become fixed around 1890 with the introduction of the diamond frame. The American Leigh Wade later commented that “We have had a hundred years of people ‘fine tuning’ a couple of triangular sets of tubes… if car design had taken the same route, we would be driving Model A cars with titanium frames and the hand crank would be carbon fibre.”

The story of Alex Moulton and the Moulton bicycle has been told many times (you can read more here and here), and as we celebrate Alex Moulton’s centenary, it is interesting to look at the bicycles that he chose to ride himself when he had the choice of ‘any horse in the stable’

 

 
 
 
 

We start with Alex’s 1963 Safari, finished in and Olive Green colour. This is a stock specification bicycle – albeit the most expensive in the range at the time at 41 guineas. Closer inspection reveals the rare rear pivot damper, and the substitution of GB touring handlebars with their flared sides and shallow drop instead of the standard specification of GB Maes ‘bars. Alex’s friend Gerry Burgess – the GB in GB components – provided most of the other parts too, including brakes, brake levers, and handlebar stem, all in aluminium and somewhat exotic for the time. Gearing was provided by the four-speed Sturmey-Archer hub as fitted on so many early Moultons.

 
 
 
 

In October 1964 we see Alex with his cycle industry friends on a Centenary Club run based in Llanwrtyd Wells. He is still riding a Moulton Safari, but this one has the optional two-speed derailleur to give a total of eight gears. The photograph was taken at Abergwesyn in mid-Wales) and Alex would certainly have needed all of those gears if he had pedalled across the Elenith and over the Devil’s Staircase from Tregaron.

 
 
 
 

As is fitting, Alex is seen riding a Moulton MkIII ‘special’ in the early 1970s. In 1975 this was replaced by an olive green Y-frame model, one of only very few made. Again the GB touring handlebars feature and this time there is a ten-speed derailleur in place of the Sturmey-Archer hub gears of his previous steeds. This Y-frame remained as Alex’s personal bike for many years and he was still riding it with the Centenary Club in May 1983, only two weeks before the AM series Moulton was launched.

 
 
 
 

By 1984 Alex was riding an AM7, again in standard specification and in steely grey, but fitted with a Zzzipper front fairing and wraparound frame skins. A couple of years later the fairing had gone; the frame skins remained and, despite the appearance of the AM14 for customers, Alex kept to the single-chainring original model.

 
 
 
 

Ten years later we see one of the more interesting of Alex’s bicycles, the stainless-steel AM GT-S. Based on the AM GT, this bicycle had several innovative features and was ridden in public by Alex at several Moulton gatherings – perhaps an indication that this was one bicycle that would never be available to buy. The handlebars were unusual, a type of narrow bull-horn bar that is clearly the prototype for the later Mosquito ‘bar. The leading link front forks are of narrow width, and the front and rear hubs are special items developed by Alex Moulton and Paulo Kiefe. The rear hub incorporated a roller-clutch freewheel so that it would be silent in use; another step in Moulton’s mission to make the bicycle ‘more pleasing to own and to use.’ The unusual crankset is from the American company Magic Motorcycle and follows Alex’s thinking when he produced his tubular crank with integrated axle. In this case he was happy to accept that someone else had done a good job and this meant that he did not have to make his own.

 
 
 
 

Of course the narrow forks and hubs, and the Mosquito handlebar, were defining features of the early New Series Moulton bicycles. This brings us to our final example, Alex’s 2001 Moulton New Series SPEED. Even here, with an almost standard specification (geared low to suit his advancing years), we see a few glimpses of innovation – a special Moulton quick-release skewer, a quick-demountable front fork. As always, some traditions remain: the original Moulton 1960s bicycle bell and the foam handlebar padding seem out of place on a bike like this. However, you can see why they prevail, and Alex was not one to compromise function for fashion.

 
 

Having seen how Alex’s choice of bicycle changed through the years, many of us could write a similar script. Which Moulton bicycle is your favourite – the trusty Series 1 standard, an AM Jubilee or perhaps a stainless New Series Marathon? Is it a bike you have owned – perhaps one you have shared many adventures with – or one you would like to own? We’d love to hear your stories – please email them to us at info@moultonbicycles.co.uk

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