Moulton Buyer's Guide

One day on the Moulton Yahoo-hosted Forum "Lou G." wrote: I am always checking ebay for Moultons, unfortunately most of them are pick-up only. I was wondering what should be my primary checks when buying an F frame or an APB. I saw some ads on ebay stating that the rear fork was bent or too much rust etc. I am aware on I and II generations the rear fork assembly matter, but was wondering what else should I inspect to make sure I made a good buy. Cheers! Lou.

Right side full twentyfive

Here is what looks like a very acceptable early "billiard cue" Moulton Deluxe, bought from ebaY by my friend Andrew Simms. It has a rivetted and brazed frame and the original equipment: GB Hiduminium bars and stem, Middlemores saddle and the pedals they only fitted in the first year. Although there is some spray touching up, the frame and wheels look to be free from rust, nasty scratches and dings. Mudguards are fairly good and the rear carrier not at all bad. There is even a dynamo bracket brazed on to the rear forks which you hardly ever see on a series one.  Left side full twentyfive
The early curved series 1 forks are a bit weak and although most have survived well for nearly 55 or more years, others can develop cracks. See this page of Bicycle Hub to see where. As long as the cracks are not too serious, you can get them repaired and the forks strengthened. Contact Michael Woolf of Moulton Preservation using the address in the back of the Moultoneer. We will look at the billiard cue machine in more detail as this page progresses. In the mean time, here are 10 things to look at (if you can) before scoring a Classic Moulton. Please note, if you are viewing this page on a smartphone, please turn the screen to landscape view to get larger photos. All of the photos are clickable to get full-size versions.
The blades of rear forks can occasionally bend and the forks are certainly prone to twisting. Stand behind the bike and check if the wheel stands vertically, in line with the frame. This happens most to the very first brazed forks made up until 1964. None of the above comments apply to the straight rear forks that were fitted to Series 2 machines. They are pretty much indestructible. One can't help but recommend bikes with these stronger forks. View from back twenty five
Aha! I might have known. These are early brazed forks, not the welded ones that are so often blamed for this trouble. The cracks start at the sides of the crescent cup where it meets the fork blades underneath the bike. On this bike they are not too far gone to repair, however. Notice that there is some evidence of a brazed repair to the frame near the forks. We will be coming back to this area later. Deluxe pivot tube crack twenty five

2. Rust.

All bikes can be repainted, but if rust has developed to the stage of pitting, it is too serious and the bike is best left. What you hope for is that rubbing the surface with a piece of emery paper, you ought to be able to get a shining metal finish. Turn the bike upside down and look at the underside of the main beam, around the bottom bracket, all around the rear forks, particularly at the welded joint seams. The bike shown is a Stowaway and the rest is not serious. It can be rubbed down and the area treated with rust converter, then Zinc 182.

Stower pivot tube under twenty five
Take out the saddle post and look down the tube to see how severe the rust looks inside the frame. If the bike has been left outside it will often have become rusty internally. Mudguards can sometimes be okay on the outside but completely rusted on the inside. Chrome mudguards often get worn out by polishing. Chromework should be able to be brought shiny by scraping off the rust or brushing with a wire brush. If it can't, you may prefer to get  replacement parts or the bike may look a little lacklustre. Unless of course you like the character of a patinated look.
Chainwheel twenty five

3. Bent front forks.

It is surprising how often you see front forks that have been bent back on one or both blades. The tubes are very small bore. The steering of the Moulton is very sensitive to bent forks and handling will be ruined. Look carefully along the forks to see that they are perfectly in line with the axis of the steering. Also that they have not been bent sideways. This bike is ok.

Down front forks twenty five

4. Other bent tubes.

Problem areas are the base of the long head-tube tube at the junction with the main beam. This gets bent forward in a crash and you can feel ripples on the front of the bike just above the joint.

Note the rivets in this joint. The frames of early Moultons were made without heavy lugs, like most ordinary bikes of that time. First, the tubes were assembled in jigs and the joints drilled and rivetted. This would hold the frame in alignment until brazing was finished. Later on they adopted a welding technique that did away with the rivets, but was itself neat and clever.

Front ripple twenty five
Particularly on early bikes with no lower carrier strut, the seat tube bends backwards. If there is a lower carrier strut fitted, it should be a nice tight fit to give the frame rigidity. You should examine carefully the line of the seat tube. Often you will find that the front of the tube is a straight line from the top to the bottom, with the taper formed on the rear of the tube only. Though this does not always seem to be true. If the seat tube has been chronically overloaded, it can develop a crack at the pierced joint, starting at the front and running around. Very often people wanting a lightweight sports Moulton cut the rear carrier beam and the support struts off! These docked frames are prone to cracking. My brother's docked tail seat-tube snapped off, but we did manage to braze it on again. Seat post scuffs twenty five
The horizontal tapered beam sometimes bends down if the rear carrier has been overloaded, although this fault is surprisingly very uncommon. (Not in Moulton minis!) Rear carrier twenty five

5. Suspension.

Both suspension units are fairly robust and durable. Play in the front suspension, I believe, was probably there from the outset because of ill-fitting top bearings. Pull the front brake on and rock the bike forward and back to check for play. Make sure that this is not coming from the head bearings. A bit of play won't be felt when riding, but too much will make unpleasant rattles when braking. Bounce the front suspension up and down to see if it works smoothly. Listen for roughness, scraping sounds. Note that worn front suspension bushes can be replaced. Check the rubber boot (or bellows if you prefer) to see that it isn't split on the folds or torn at the back.

This is the most common bellows that you will find, but the Mk3 Moulton had a more wavy design made from a shinier plastic that doesn't split. In the very early days, they used a narrower bellows and the forks fitted into a collar in the frame. I've always assumed that this was a temporary arrangement due to, say, the special wide diameter lower bearing cup not being ready

Rubber bellows side fifty
The rear suspension never seizes up, as such; it will always work. But if your bike has been left outside the steel pivot bolt will usually seize in the pivot tube, meaning that it is difficult to get the forks off for painting. Can be done though, so not a reason to turn the bike away. Forks and cable clamp twenty five
It can be done, yes; but not by turning the bike on it's side and braying the pivot bolt with a heavy hammer. The previous owner of the Deluxe found that application of brute force doesn't always result in submission, and must have been horrified to find out that instead, the entire pivot tube has been pushed sideways in the frame. A heroic repair has been carried out, but in this highly stressed area it has not been strong enough. Deluxe frame skewed ftwenty five
I looked for a long time at this horrible sight and was forced to the conclusion that the frame was at best, not going to last much longer even with a fresh repair and at worst, could deposit the unlucky rider in front of a Routemaster without warning. So, for safety's sake the frame will be written off. All other parts can be used with a fresh frame. The lesson is, if you can't get the pivot bolt out pretty quickly with moderate hammering, saw through the pivot bolt at the bushes with a hacksaw, and replace the bushes.
Deluxe pivot bolt hammered twenty five

6. General maladjustment.

Check for looseness in the cranks (bottom bracket) steering, wheels, brakes if you intend to ride the bike straight away. Adjust where necessary. Old Moultons almost always are out of adjustment and the difference between an as found bike and one that has had only a couple of hours tuning up is incredible. Oh, and see if the crank arms are nice and straight.

Note on the photo to the right, the flared nut has been fitted to the left hand of the bike when it should really be on the right. A special nut with a tube should go on the left to protect the end of the indicator rod. The previous owner has mixed these up.

Hub left twenty five

7. Brakes

Old brake cables may be weak and should really be renewed, but if you pull the brake levers and find no fraying, they are probably fairly safe. Check that brake blocks line up with the rim properly, not on the tyre, certainly. Look for fraying of the cable at the brakes, and make sure there is not too much rust on the chrome. Brakes can be stripped down, cleaned and rebuilt in an hour or so.

Front brake twenty five

Note that this is a very early Moulton Deluxe that was fitted with GB Sport Mk3 alloy brakes and levers. Sadly, the bike has lost one of the original levers, to be replaced by what looks like a steel Raleigh RSW lever. Whilst GB calipers are certainly lightweight, the stopping power is not in the league of modern dual pivot calipers, to say the least. And John Bull brake blocks on a chrome rim on a wet day require plenty of advance planning. If you do keep the GB brakes, it is very very wise to upgrade to modern Aztec or Koolstop blocks, and maybe replace the steel rims with alloy Brompton made ones too.

Alloy brake twenty five

8. Gears.

The four speed hub is easy to adjust, but it does have to be bang on to work without jumping gears. There should be no play in the wheel bearings and the cable should work smoothly and easily. Even if you can't get all the gears at first, this can almost always be fixed with lubrication, adjustment and a new cable. Check that the toggle chain is not absolutely mangled. The 4 speed trigger sometimes has a weak spring that allows the gear to jump out of first. This can be re-tensioned, but it is not that easy. Moulton Standards had 3 speed hubs which are generally trouble free.

Trigger twenty five

9. Wheels.

Look for broken or loose spokes, worn rims, wobbles, buckles, excessively rusty surfaces, cracks. Spin the wheel and try to assess if the bearings are very worn. The early 36 spoke wheels don't break spokes, but the 28 hole rear wheels are much more likely to have broken or loose spokes. The rims on the bicycle in the photograph are in excellent condition. Rims usually get a lot more worn than this, and if rust starts you will have juddery brakes. Check the tyres for cuts, bulges, wear, perishing. New tyres don't cost much and it gives you an excuse to upgrade to easy-rolling, puncture-resistant high pressure rubber, with a reflective sidewall. The superb Schwalbe Marathon of course! If it has a Dynohub, see if it works.

Front wheel twenty five

10. Accessories.

Early bikes have GB Hiduminium stem and alloy bars and levers- very desirable. Check they have not been mangled. The Moulton bell is a nice feature that is inexplicably growing like Topsy in value. A propstand is worth having, although a little bit heavy. Front racks are quite rare, and well worth having. The low bolt front rack is most desirable and harder to find. By the way, rear racks are made from thin tubing that can easily get bent, but if the bends are not too severe it is feasible to bend the tubes back to their original profile.

Stem and headtube twenty five

The saddle shown right is the original horsehair-stuffed Middlemores, in very good condition. They can often split at the stitching. They are quite comfortable on journeys of, say, up to 20 miles. Moulton Stowaways are very much more sought-after than fixed frame models. In fact, any model with an S in the name apart from a Standard is always worth a lot more, and should be saved regardless of condition. The Major is generally better than the earlier F frames simply because it is a more fully developed machine and all brazed by hand, not welded.

Saddle rear twenty five
One other thing worth doing is to stand at the front of the bike and line up the head tube and seat tube to see if they are in line. Some bikes are not quite spot on and it doesn't seem to matter, but if you have a frame that has been twisted in an accident it will always want to turn one way or the other. This may annoy you after a while. Generally faults with the front fork being bent affect the steering more than an out-of-alignment frame. By the way, it is a real bonus to get a nice headbadge in good order, like the one shown.
Headbadge twenty five

 With my sincere thanks to Andrew Simms for the use of his Moulton Deluxe.

A Snapshot of Moultons For Sale on ebaY

Let us now have a browse on ebaY to see what the current offerings are. The date today is 29th April 2020 and the country is in the middle of Covid-19 lockdown, so driving around the country picking up bikes is quite out of the question. When people sell old bikes they are usually pretty reluctant to package them up, so will specify "Collection Only". You can only hope that realising the situation, sellers would be prepared to send them. We'll see. Click on the listing to see a larger photo of the bike.

doggett standard small First up, a nice looking standard  with reliable series 2 rear forks and a neat looking rear bag. There are small paint scabs all over the bike but within the description of patina. There was one larger rusty patch behind the chainwheel that personally I would touch in to prevent further deterioration but most of the frame looked quite good for it's 55 years of age. Chrome-work and wheelrims seemed shiny and not too worn too. The rear rack looks quite bent and rusty but this is not difficult to un-bend and repaint, which would smarten the bike up nicely. Note a Miller dynamo has been fitted; this may be original, or at least fitted back in the 1960s. The specification is more like a deluxe with the 4 speeds and the lettering is not original, so who knows? The seller will post the bike included in the price so I rate this as a good buy. This is an experienced seller of Moultons with a good feedback record.

secret stowaway small I am just going down the listings in order of distance from Olney. Three things I noticed about this bike were the nice low starting price on the auction, the excellent condition of the paintwork, chrome and wheels and the series 2 rear forks, always a big plus point. But isn't that also a vertical line in the centre of the main beam of the frame? It blooming well is! That's a Stowaway, one of the most desirable of the classic Moultons! The seller clearly has no idea about the bike and has not mentioned that it separates. The lettering, although missing, is clear enough and the button on top of the main beam confirms it. There are two photos of the perished rear bag- that would go straight in the bin. Only one picture of the frame and one of the headbadge, showing that it is a late sticker rather than a rivetted badge. The year may be 1966 or early 1967, at a guess. The Duomatic hub has been replaced by a 3 speed, shame, but not a showstopper. You could pick up another Duomatic on German ebaY. So there really are still spectacular bargains to be had in the world of old Moultons! But here's the crunch; Collection Only. Local pickup. Drat, drat and double drat.

 expensive deluxe small

This is a very interesting machine. On first sight it seems close to top money for a Moulton in 2020, but it is in London and comparing that to the price of any Brompton on ebay, the Moulton looks cheap. It's got series 1 rear forks and the colour is very unusual. I thought, "it must be a respray", but the marks of the lettering are clearly visible on one side. The support struts for the carrier are brazed on and the carrier is removable, like a Speedsix or a Stowaway. It's a puzzle. The headbadge also looks like a sticker, not a rivetted badge. It's almost as if someone has taken a Series 2 Moulton and substituted the rear forks with Series 1, but that seems so unlikely, it can't be true. I can only assume that the bike is an export model that has been brought back to the UK. My guess is that it had chrome mudguards that have been overpainted silver. The dynohub and Sturmey lights are a nice accessory and overall the bike looks in good order, particularly the paintwork, so I think that it is a good buy, particularly being so unusual. The seller inviters offers; take £30 off.

 expensive standard smallHere we have a very early Moulton Standard, which you can tell by the high triangle of the front carrier, the rivetted construction at the front joint, crossbar and the bottom of the seat tube. It was being sold with the other red Moulton above but at a cheaper price as it has one less gear. This one does seem to have been repainted and has had maintenance and some modifications. The most obvious are the mudguards which are not found on an English Moulton. They do look like a continental type with the thicker rear stay that is designed to carry a dynamo. It does have a 1980s dynamo but clamped to the front forks. It seems possible that if the other machine was an export model, the mudguards were swapped between bikes at some time. It has lost its polo mint chainguard and kept its original pedals. The stem is shorter than the usual 2 1/2 stem fitted to the Moulton but looks similar in design. It may have been specified at the cycle shop at the time of purchase. The question is, is it priced fairly? I like the bike and it has been looked after. It's an early rivetted frame, very likely to have been made at Bradford-on-Avon under Dr Moulton's watchful eye. There are a few bits that I'm not sure about, the rear rim; is it rusty or just dirty? I'd like it to be saveable as it is a 36 hole rim. The chrome is nice on the bars but a bit less impressive on the saddlepost. On the whole, it seems about £30 too much to me, particularly as no postage is offered. Again, offers are invited, so try £230. Lets see if it sells!

 shabby 4 speed grey smallThis is the sort of bike that at first sight of the condition and the price you think "they're 'avin' a larf". But looking closer, the worst thing about it is that the rear carrier has been bent up at some time. That might well be repairable. The seller will post it which is worth £50 off the asking price, and it is in London so attracts that premium. It's just the sort of bike I would love to restore. You would get the maximum pleasure from all the cleaning and polishing to bring it back to the road. Even the bars and wheels (36 spoke Dunlops) look as if they could be returned to sparkling chrome, albeit with some minor characterful speckling. The frame has some surface rust in places but really, it wouldn't be too bad after cleaning and some touching up, and the grey Moultons are much rarer than the Kingfisher ones. I think that the only thing putting me off is the fact that for a hidden gem, you would hope that it would be offered by someone unaware of its value on an auction starting at a low price. I'm not saying it is priced unfairly but considering how much would need to be done and the current prices of better Moultons, it seems about £100 too much to interest me.

two bikes deluxe smallThis is the sort of listing that will attract a bicycle restorer like iron filings to a magnet. A low starting price auction, two bikes for sale and the seller appears to just want to get rid of them for whatever they go for. The featured photo is of a late Series 1 Deluxe with the very desirable "pigeon's wing" chainguard. My guess is that it also had chrome mudguards that went rusty and were replaced. However the frame really doesn't look too bad at all. Everything appears straight, apart from the front carrier which is knackered. Not beyond repair by a clever brazer but not bend-backable. A previous rider must have found the Moulton's suspension wanting and has supplemented it with a fully sprung Brooks B73, a valuable piece of equipment that is still sold today, for £117. You also get a good 4 speed trigger and hub, saveable handlebars and brake levers and the polo mint chainguard. It's all ripe for refurbishment apart from the wheels, which could easily be rebuilt on to new Brompton 28 hole alloy rims. The front rim is not too bad in any case.

The listing states that there are two bikes, so what does the other one look like? Here we have uncovered a hidden gem. It wasn't even in the main listing photo! Nothing is said about it in the description! It is a Moulton Speed, a late one by the look of the frame. interesting speed thumbI didn't know they made the Speed as late as 1966 - 67 which is when this bike was born. It has a fully brazed frame, what is termed a "true Series 2" and the headtube main tube joint is edge brazed. The carrier struts are strongly brazed in like the Moulton Standard we looked at, but not with a removable rear carrier. In fact, you would have to find a replacement carrier for it. The frame is in great condition, almost no rust. You would expect to be able to T-Cut and polish it back to a lustrous deep red. As if that wasn't exciting enough, someone has long ago upgraded the Speed to emulate Speedsix specification! It has a rear derailleur, Milremo crankset and a TA chainwheel!  There are no friction dampers at the rear and it doesn't have a GB quill stem or Milremo hubs, winning bidas far as I can tell. Nevertheless, the Maes bars and brake componentry does look very in keeping with the 1960s and was very likely put on at that time. You wonder at what this bike was used for and the miles it would have done. By someone of small stature it seems. It reminds me strongly of the Moultons of Reg Randall and Peter Lea, both of which were left in sheds for years. This is all easily restorable and with a set of new wheels it would look stunning! It's not something you would expect to see very often on ebaY but it does prove that really wonderful surprises wait around the corner for those who are vigilant.