In the 1890’s the first safety frames or diamond framed bicycles came into use revolutionising cycling as transport. Around this time there was a push to design a folding bike. One of the first credibly documented inventions filing for a patent was in December 1893 and was issued a registered patent in April 1894. During the First World War the folding bike became prominent and was used right through to the Second World War by paratroopers across all nations involved. The thinking was to keep the new diamond frame and wheel size and in essence the handle bars swivelled and frame was folded in two making it possible to carry the bike like a back pack.
For the next two weeks we are drawing on the knowledge and firsthand experience of Tim Stirling a local collector of “Moulton’s”. These are folding bikes from an English Bicycle manufacturer, founded in 1962 by Dr Alex Moulton who designed the “Hydrolastic” and rubber cone suspension systems for the BMC Mini motorcar, and the later “Hydragas” system. Moulton bicycles are noted for unconventional frame design, small wheels, and front and rear suspension. In the 1950’s
Moulton apparently was disillusioned with the classic diamond frame bicycle style. Moulton was reported to believe these designs were inconvenient to mount and not easy to adjust to suit both sexes, they were slow to ride and cumbersome to store with such large wheels. Moulton also looked at the changing patterns in the developing world of commuting patterns which often combined more than one mode of transport making the conventional bike more incompatible for commuters. Moulton considered that small wheels with high-pressure tyres would result in less rolling resistance and greater acceleration. He then went on to develop a range of high-pressure tyres in cooperation with Dunlop. Suspension for the front and rear was developed to give a comfortable ride with the smaller wheels.
The Moulton bicycle was truly ahead of its time, as bicycle suspension would not become common for another 30 years. The Moulton bicycles are a little bit ‘James Bond 007, a little bit Maxwell Smart’. They have little intricacies and novel ideas, such as the AM7 Moulton having the pump hidden inside the seat tube and an extra long 6ml Allen key hidden in a rubber grommet under the seat. This is the only tool required to split the bicycle in two, a process that takes only a few minutes with the aid of a cable splitter.
In the UK, the early Moultons were used successfully in many time trails on both the road and track. While other riders set records for point to point distances such as Lands End to John O Groats-from one end of the UK to the other. While the latter AM7 & AM Speed models were used in such events as the RAAM (Race Across America) complete with wheel discs and a full fairing to reduce wind resistance.
An amazing story legendary amongst the Moulton fraternity is: way back in the 1970s, a Moulton riding adventurer named Colin Martin had planned to ride around the world on a rare Moulton Marathon one of four ever built. He made the journey as far as Kalgoorlie in Western Australia when his Moulton was stolen. While waiting for a replacement, he met and married his wife and settled in Australia, only to complete his round the world journey many years later. To be continued.
Looking forward to seeing you on the road soon God willing