Moulton FAQ (Frequent Annoying Questions)

July 13th, 2014 No comments

The moment you decide to buy a Moulton you are aware that being a non-orthodox bicycle it will challenge what people accept about bicycle design. Many of these accepted design specifications the average rider, or let’s be honest keen rider, has never thought about at all. So when you arrive on a Moulton they immediately feel challenged or think you are a fool for buying such an “odd” bike.

My Moulton TSR 30 on my afternoon commute.

My Moulton TSR 30 on my afternoon commute.

1. Gee that must be hard work?

This question often has variants, “Those small wheels are hard work” or the best set of dialogue yet:

Roadie: Gee I hope you don’t have far to go!
Me: Why?
R: Well, you know, the wheels are small.
Me: But the gearing compensates for that.
R: Really?

I mean the lack of understanding about gearing is amazing. My Moulton TSR 30 is slightly lower geared than my Jamis Quest road bike, but this only becomes apparent downhill above 45 km/h. Not the place best average speeds are set. Is my Moulton hard work cause it has small wheels? No of course not. But like any variant in design what one hand giveth the other taketh away.

Small wheels means the following advantages:

  • Quicker acceleration due to lower moment of inertia
  • Quicker handling due to a smaller flywheel effect
  • Less aerodynamic drag from the wheels
  • Stronger and lighter wheels

But they deliver some negatives:

  • Less angular momentum means they feel a little flat initially on a climb
  • The quicker handling may appear twitchy to new Moulton riders
  • Small wheels deliver a rougher ride
  • Possibly slightly higher rolling resistance, mind you this is minimised by good quality high pressure tyres.

2. That must be a rough ride?

Many fail to recognise the subtle road suspension that a Moulton has. Not the gauche landing gear fitted to mountain bikes, but a simpler suspension setup that removes the harshness that small high pressure tyres deliver. On my Moulton the use of coil springing via leading links absorbs road shock but more importantly keeps the wheel in contact with the road which improves road holding. This truly is the benefit of suspension, improved road holding, that is its main purpose. A normal road bike bounces over bumps, the Moulton rides over them. This is most beneficial when cornering which is where the Moulton has a supreme handling advantage.

The rear suspension is a swing arm with a rubber spring, self damping and simple unlike many of the complex MTB arrangements, but again this is not landing gear, but road suspension, you will feel the bump but it doesn’t bounce the bike or deviate the bike’s course. The rear swing arm is a unified rear triangle design which means the bottom bracket is on the swing arm, minimising chain tension compressing the spring.

3. I think you’d go faster with bigger wheels!

Well this is a variant on the first but certainly relates to speed. Most people I meet out riding are on road bikes, and as such they move a long at a decent clip. My Jamis road bike is the only fair comparison to my Moulton, because I am the engine in both cases. It is about 1 kg lighter and a very nice ride. But there is very little difference between the Moulton and the Jamis across the routes I regularly ride. Little differences here, but to be fair the Jamis has ben ridden over these routes for years, while the Moulton has only had a 3 months of comparison. There are also wind effects that muddy the waters. There are a few climbs where the Jamis is ahead but not by a huge amount. In reality there is little difference between the two bikes.

4. So does it fold?

Most people recognise that small wheels means kids bike or a folding bike. So the Moulton with its seat height, must be a folding bike; it isn’t. My Moulton is separable into two parts, the front part is one-third, the back section makes up two thirds. The separability is a bonus of the frame design, but it is not a folder like a Brompton or a Birdy. The next question is normally a puzzled face or a verbalised “Why?”. “Why what?” “Why doesn’t it fold?” “Well,” I reply. “Because it isn’t a folding bicycle.” “So what’s the point?” they ask. To which I invariably comment on the Moulton being different approach to bicycle design, why do we always have to approach bicycles with a standard template, etc. You see with bikes we are so drilled with the orthodox that any variant mustn’t be as good or they’d all be like that.

5. What’s with all the tubes?

Well this is a “spaceframe” design. It uses a mix of tubes and thin rods to create a rigid structure that is stiff vertically and laterally. Unlike most bikes which laterally have movement this bike doesn’t, and the suspension provides the give that a frame otherwise has to deliver. The cost is increased weight, but it is separable which is a handy feature. It is made of Reynolds 525 chromium-molybdenum alloy steel, hardly cutting edge but lighter than older Moultons that used high tensile steel. Top end Moultons used silver brazed stainless tubes but then we are talking big $$$$. A TSR can be made to around 10 kg with careful component selection, but mine as a tourer is around 12 kg. Sure a fancy carbon bike is lighter, but then you look like every other MAMIL on their “plastic fantastics”.

Top view of the Moulton spaceframe.

Top view of the Moulton spaceframe.

The Moulton is a delightful approach to bicycle design. It is indeed unorthodox and as such challenges what many think are essentials in bicycle design. It is annoying but at the same time funny watching people try to rationalise a decision they wouldn’t have made.

Categories: Cycling Tags: ,

Back in the “fold”

May 3rd, 2014 No comments

Well a few years back I wrote a blog post totally bagging Moulton bicycles, saying that while I loved them, they were essentially a play tool for the rich, and not the preserve for a sensible cyclist.

Well let me eat those words with some Worcestershire sauce, with a serving of humble pie afterwards. Because I just bought a Moulton TSR30, a burgundy coloured one actually from my local dealer, Clarence St Cyclery.

Why? Cause they are damn cool, sure they are heavier than one of those ubiquitous carbon framed wonder bikes, but they are a dime a dozen now. The Moulton is something different. Suspension, small wheels, and the lovely spaceframe construction. My beloved Jamis Quest with its supple Reynolds 631 frame remains, but the Moulton is a different take on a road bike.

So I apologise to the Moulton world that I lost my faith, but the evangelist is back!

Categories: Cycling Tags: ,

Move to Fruity IT

August 25th, 2013 No comments

So it finally happened. After years of being a supporter, and then around 4 years as a user I finally turned my back on Linux as my desktop at home. Sadly in many ways I finally got sick of everything just being a little bit harder, particularly around work connectivity and the accursed DET love of Microsoft Office.

I was using Ubuntu and I have to credit it with being a great desktop OS. Really great in many ways. Compared to Windows versions I’d tried I happily played in the Linux world. But with the boys and I getting back into the iOS world it was only a matter of time before desktop computing made the easy move to Mac OSX.

In typical Paul fashion, it was in for a penny, in for a pound, so we have a new iMac, and we have an Apple AirPort Extreme router and an AirPort Express as well. Sadly I’m really not missing Linux much at all. Mac OSX is rock solid and except for a crappy Firefox memory leak I’m pretty impressed with its operation. iTunes is so much better on Mac than it ever was on Windows, and I can see why people quite like it.

So now we have gone over entirely to the world of Apple. My new roll neck sweaters arrive soon.

Categories: Computers Tags: ,

Not hard to Swallow

April 25th, 2012 No comments

OK I have to admit I love Brooks Leather saddles. there is something just decidedly lovely about the old world charm of a leather saddle, which is then doubly charming when you realise that after a break in period they are more comfortable than most “comfort saddles” on the market. The logic being the leather will take the shape on one’s unique posterior and provide unparalleled comfort. Yes some big soft saddles are comfortable but for the hardcore rider who wants a narrow saddle the Brooks may offer comfort they haven’t seen. The downside? Well cost and weight. The lightest Brooks saddle is the B15 Swallow Titanium and at 360 g that would make some hard core weight weenies cry. But not only will it become comfortable the thing is a bloody work of art. Classic aesthetics meets real world functionality; the key to good design.

Saddle art: The classic Brooks Swallow Titanium race saddle - the father of all race saddles.

Categories: Cycling Tags: , ,

The Labor Conundrum

March 26th, 2012 No comments

The Queensland result is nothing short of disaster for the ALP. No other words can really express the tragedy that is the result. And listening to Annabel Crabbe on with Richard Glover this afternoon it was the source of much mirth and scant analysis of what it meant. But Crabbe rightly identified that the challenge for the ALP is interpreting what it means, and in my opinion it doesn’t bode terribly well for the Federal party. In my not so humble opinion the ALP is caught in a pincer movement partly of its own making. Thirty years ago the ALP could rightly lay claim to being the party for workers, strong ties to the unions in a highly unionised work force, which meant their connection to working people was real. Their growth out of parliamentary socialism we could call it, informed their attempts in the Chifley years to nationalise the banks. But since the days of the electorally successful Hawke and Keating governments the ALP marched right and deserted their view of government ownership of large entities. Hence Hawke’s government privatised the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and Australian Airlines. Leaving it a hypocritical argument when they opposed the sale of Telstra by the Howard government.

Now we have seen within a the last year two state ALP governments fall for two reasons: privatisation and scoring one election win too many. First the ALP must try to sort out where it stands with privatising assets. They are idiots to keep arguing this “must be done”, when they are too cowardly to go to an election on it. Iemma was rolled by the party over electricity privatisation, and yet why should the party support him? He was too gutless to ask the people for a mandate over it, knowing electricity privatisation was poison. By the time Keneally achieved this the ALP was done for, but one of the nails in the coffin was partial power privatisation which the true believers hate. A year ago the Coalition won seats they had never won before in NSW, in part because the ALP lost their base. Bligh likewise didn’t gain a mandate for the sale of assets but she did it and then also reaped the pain of a mad electorate annoyed about many things, but particularly about being lied to.

The other problem both these governments had was crap oppositions. Both won their last election based on the poor palatability of their oppositions. This forced people to stick with governments they were tired of, by the next election once the oppositions were organised and worthy of election the electorate overturns the government they hate with such vehemence the wilderness for the ousted party is long and deep. There are parallels federally of course with the failure of the Keating to win the 1996 election. He was so hated that Howard just had to stay quiet and ride on the hatred to victory. This led to a long 11 year time in Opposition for the ALP. The answer here is when given a lifeline, recognise it and change tack – big time. Don’t take it as an endorsement of what led to you being on the nose.

Now any ALP member who doesn’t see the problems for Gillard is a fool. Gillard like Bligh is seen as a liar, now the silly thing is all politicians lie, but for Gillard it is like a millstone around her neck. It means even good messages fail to get traction in the community because the electorate has switched off. Now this is a problem for Gillard, because the QLD election tells us what happens when the electorate really dislikes you, or the electorate sees you as lying and negative. But more importantly Gillard has failed to articulate what the ALP stands for. The trite comments about “Labor Values” are at times not much different to the Liberal Party. The ALP must look again at those values it holds dear and not be afraid to hold tight on them. State ownership of key assets is anathema to the economic rationalists, but the ALP should not be the home of these thoughts. The ALP needs to recast itself as a modern party not just of the working class but one that isn’t a plaything of the 1% or the 10% of society with the wealth. It needs to make it clear that the broader left views of public education, universal healthcare, environmental concerns and workers rights are theirs above all else. They have not done this, and when they have recently (“like the Carbon tax”) is has been other parties like the Greens dragging them to it.

Australia is so welded to the 2 party system the ALP will recover in Qld and NSW, but the ALP will continue to struggle if it fails to articulate an ideology that is true to its parliamentary socialist history and lets business drive agendas due to their buying power.

Here endeth this rambling rant.

Categories: Politics Tags: ,

Return to a state of [Ubuntu] Unity

March 21st, 2012 No comments

I tried GNOME fans I really did. But sadly the GNOME 3 experiment for me is over. I wanted to support GNOME 3, I really did, but in terms of functionality I am afraid that Ubuntu’s Unity is better for me. I tried to ignore the discomfort I felt with GNOME 3 but sadly the environment that is GNOME 3 just does not work as well. On the desktop it was bearable but the dock simply replicated the Unity dash and the frippery bottom bar extension was like a broken task bar from GNOME 2.x, it simply offered limited functionality. On my netbook the damn network applet took ages to reconnect after waking the machine up, it was so bloody frustrating. Unity reconnects within 10 seconds.

The notifications on the bottom right corner is not the correct place, sort of shadowed it never seems to operate quite right. Whereas Unity has the top righ corner, things seem more obvious and the unity bar on the left seems more functional.

Yes I miss the Super Button reveal and especially the ability to close programs there. But sadly I cannot be on the GNOME bus any more. Time to ride the Unity train and see where that goes.

Categories: Linux Tags: , , ,

An Auto by any Other Name.

March 5th, 2012 1 comment

When is a manual car not a manual car? Simple answer, when there is no clutch. What about clutch-less manuals, simple answer they are a farce. Readers the sad reality is this, the only true manual has a gear stick and a clutch and no matter what a car owner says anything else is an automatic. You see automatic has two meanings depending on perspective, it either means relaxation and comfort, or it means lazy and lack of driving skill. Now the former meaning is why people buy automatic cars, and hence why many cars are auto only. Most people buy an auto cause it is easier and in city driving, no gear changes makes life very easy. And the reality is most people see driving as a chore.

But the latter meaning bothers many sporty car owners and car makers. You see if you have just sprung 50,000 for you new Golf GTi you don’t want someone laughing at you for buying an auto sports car. So car makers have tried and tried to improve autos so they are manual-like. And let’s be honest they are better. But they aren’t a manual and I for one won’t accept the illusion any more. One day I was chatting to a guy about his Golf GTi, “Did you buy the manual or auto?” I asked, “I bought the DSG.” He responds like he has some special transmission that somehow is better than an auto. It is still a frigging auto. No clutch and changes itself… that is an auto. It doesn’t matter how it does it, it is still an auto. “You see they have the wheel paddles so you can… blah, blah, blah”. It doesn’t matter that you can change it manually it is still an auto. No clutch means it is an auto.

I had a friend with an Alfa 147 which wasn’t an auto, no it was a Selespeed. This is Alfa speak for: “we feel dirty that we have to make auto cars cause we make drivers cars but this tries to replicate the manual experience”. Sadly the way it did it was when you changed it dropped revs and then changed then picked up again, so harshly I might add you move in your seat noticeably. I mean it was contrived and embarrassing, it was an auto pretending to be a manual because sadly Alfa knows no auto option in Australia means very few sales.

So to all out there, I will bear it no longer. If you tell me you car has [insert marketing hype name/acronym for auto] transmission I will now say, “Oh the auto”. An auto by any other name is still an auto. No matter how much you cover it up with techno jargon your sports car really is just an auto. Which means you aren’t really into driving.

Categories: Cars, Rant Tags: , , ,

Rudd vs Gillard – Who would have thought… well anyone really.

February 26th, 2012 No comments

The current disaster that is the ALP is caused entirely by the 2010 decision to roll Rudd. For whatever reason the Australian public has never been happy with the way that was done. While Australia is indubitably a parliamentary system and you only vote for your local member, campaigns have for a long time run as presidential style campaigns. It is all about the leader and in 2007, the Kevin 07 campaign was, in my opinion, more presidential than any other. It was all about Rudd with the occasional mention of his team. They crafted a narrative about Rudd and he campaigned well.

Come his time as PM sure he made mistakes and he was at times, well most times, prone to prolixity. But he remained popular until Gillard and Swan persuaded him to drop the ETS. When he did that the Australian public thought him a charlatan, a man that stood for nothing. The grand irony is that the ETS ended up killing Rudd’s stratospheric popularity in the electorate and the similar carbon tax has done a similar thing to Gillard’s more humble “popularity”. But I digress.

That the ALP thought it somehow possible to roll a PM before he even fought his first election as an incumbent is gobsmacking and arrogant in the extreme. Blokes like Bill Shorten, Mark Arbib and that fat useless David Feeney managed to remove a still popular PM and install a PM that many thought would be an ALP messiah (great wrong calls there). Sadly their actions destroyed the ALP and any chance Gillard had. Oh she helped with a very poor campaign, and yes leaks occurred but I am pretty sure it wasn’t Rudd there. But the reality is the public have never accepted her legitimacy nor have they liked how she got the role of PM.

And failing to gain a majority in the election she called after 5 weeks as PM, another stupid move, has let that illegitimacy become a fact of law in the eyes of many, even thought she succeeded in gaining the support of a majority of the House of Reps which is all the PM has to do. Sadly this has resulted in massive unpopularity aimed at Gillard and this has not been helped by her poor statements about a carbon tax before the election and then her inability to explain the carbon tax is actually a trading scheme with a fixed price on opening.

And this is the problem, Gillard is popular in caucus for her negotiation and consultation but hated by the public cause she cannot sell a message with warmth nor does she appear genuine, so the public think she the epitome of the lying pollie. Whereas Rudd is disliked in caucus, many who will vote for him only do so out of desperation, he is viewed in the party and an outsider and a tyrant; yet to the public he is great. So what will they do. Well if Rudd wins there won’t be another challenge and they may win the election. If Gillard wins there will be another challenge, so more disunity and they will lose the next election. If I was an MP I would go for Rudd, not cause he is better as a PM than Gillard, but because if I was sitting on the Opposition benches after the next election I wouldn’t want to be thinking, what would have happened if we went back to Kev.

Here endeth the rant.

Categories: Politics Tags: , , ,

Wear it as long as thou canst

February 9th, 2012 No comments

It would go down as one of my favourite quotes from Quaker Faith and Practice. I think it is a lovely summary of the acceptance Quakers have for others and those with beliefs that may diverge from Quaker “orthodoxy” (if there is such a thing). Hope you all like it (yes I know it is on the Religion page on this blog too).


Corporate testimony depends on individual faithfulness. An individual will be faithful through a recognition of the testimony and a searching of the heart to see what steps are required. The following anecdote depends on oral tradition, but it has played so large a part in Quaker thinking that it is included here:

When William Penn was convinced of the principles of Friends, and became a frequent attendant at their meetings, he did not immediately relinquish his gay apparel; it is even said that he wore a sword, as was then customary among men of rank and fashion. Being one day in company with George Fox, he asked his advice concerning it, saying that he might, perhaps, appear singular among Friends, but his sword had once been the means of saving his life without injuring his antagonist, and moreover, that Christ had said, ‘He that hath no sword, let him sell his garment and buy one.’ George Fox answered, ‘I advise thee to wear it as long as thou canst.’ Not long after this they met again, when William had no sword, and George said to him, ‘William, where is thy sword?’ ‘Oh!’ said he, ‘I have taken thy advice; I wore it as long as I could.’

Samuel Janney, 1852



Categories: Quakers Tags:

Self Serve registers – No way!

January 29th, 2012 No comments

Ok I hate those self serve registers. I can operate them, goodness me that isn’t the issue. Companies like Coles and Woolworths are installing these to shaft workers. six self serve registers need one attendant to help, instead of 6 register operators.

So they pay less wages and yet no reduction in prices. No discount for doing my own scanning. No discount for packing my own bag. So I get no discount and I support making people redundant if I use them. Easy decision, I boycott them. The lone attendant asked me once would you like to use the self serve. My answer was a firm but polite No. I will not use them, I’ll happily wait longer to support a register attendant keeping their job.

Categories: Rant Tags: ,