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A Video Ode to Bike Designer Alex Moulton

"One must always go back to the fundamentals. And get your face out of the computer."

So said Alex Moulton, an engineer and the designer of a handmade, small-wheeled steel bike with rubber suspension, who died this past Sunday. He was 92. The Brit first built a Moulton bike more than 50 years ago, designing a prototype that in 1959 Raleigh refused an offer to buy. They said the new bike wouldn't sell. So Moulton began his own factory. Eventually Raleigh made a similar frame and Moulton sold the company to them. Later, Moulton bought back his patents. Since then, cyclists have used Moultons to pedal to work in England, to ride across New Zealand, and to journey 6,000 miles through China.

Screen Shot 2012-12-12 at 4.26.08 PMJubilee 50 WB Zoom. Photo: Moulton

The design and the manufacturing of the bikes changed over time, but a video released earlier this year shows how some things at the company stayed the same. As a boy, Moulton loved to destroy and rebuild various objects using his hands.

"From an early age Alex Moulton was interested in picking things apart in order to see how they worked. He spent many hours as a child watching the carpenter and blacksmith at work on the family estate, and this interest blossomed into a considerable aptitude for engineering," according to The Telegraph. " At Marlborough College he built a steam car of his own design, and constructed a steel dodecahedron in the metalwork shop—to the astonishment of his maths master."

As a man in his twilight years, he stressed that others should step away from their computers and do the same. As an obituary in The Guardian pointed out, Moulton believed that when people used a thing, they could detect its "spirit"—the care with which it was made. "Man should make things.... Make a profit, of course, but don't take the money gain as the prime judgment."

For more on the history of the bike and its designer, check out the heritage page on the Moulton Bicycles website.

—Joe Spring

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