Monday, November 14, 2005

Not a highly sought after collectable. (Yet.)

“Not a highly sought after collectable.” Not my words but the opinion of several people talking about the Fuso on Classic Rendezvous open forum.

Actually I am fine with that statement. I get emails all the time from Fuso owners (and other frames I built) saying how much they enjoy riding their bikes. That gives me real satisfaction. To know that the bikes are being ridden; it’s what they were built for.

When I started out building frames in England my customers were almost exclusively racing cyclists. The important thing to them was the way the bike felt and handled, and that the price was reasonable. They cared little about the paint finish and aesthetics. The sport of cycle racing was the main interest; the bike was only a piece of equipment necessary to participate.

Blatant sponsorship of amateur riders was not allowed in England during the 1970s but I did give away a few frames to top international riders. They were always extremely grateful and just being seen riding my bikes sold me a lot of frames. Also the feed back I got from these riders furthered my knowledge of frame design.

When I came to the United States in 1979 I found it to be a whole different ball game. Racing cyclists and especially those at the top international level were a bunch of prima-donnas. Give them a bike and their attitude was. “How much will you pay me to ride this piece of shit?”

The more lucrative side of the bike biz was catering to the rider who didn’t race but rode for fitness and pleasure. To these customers aesthetics was everything. When I went to work for Masi in 1980, and I also saw the standard of finish on frames built by American builders; I realized I had to do the same in order to compete.

I learned how to bury decals under eight clear-coats and sand the surface smooth for a perfect finish. All very labor intensive and in spite of this I was building on average 8 custom ‘dave moulton’ frames a month, but working 100 plus hours a week to achieve this.

The frames were very expensive and a person had to have the income of a doctor or attorney to own one. Then I began to hear, “These bikes are too beautiful to ride.” So here was a bike the beauty of which I considered to be in the way it rode. The aesthetics to me was secondary, but they were now being looked on as art objects, which gave me very little satisfaction.  

I started producing the Fuso frame in 1984. By training others to do all the prep and finish work I could build some 20 to 25 frames a month. Because I was still doing all the main assembly and brazing the Fuso would ride and handle every bit as good as any other frame I built, including the custom frames. The price was reasonable and people were riding them and even racing on them.

Many of these frames are still owned by the original owners. They still ride them and they will not part with them. Others were bought by people who dropped out of the sport and some have been stored in garages and are still in new condition. There are two such bikes on eBay as I write this piece.

These bikes still sell for a reasonable amount right now and I hope it stays that way so anyone who wants to ride one can do so.  I can live with “Not a highly sought after collectable.” I get my satisfaction from the fact that a few of you out there still want to ride them. If they become a collectable then they will be bought by people who don’t ride, just as vintage guitars are bought by people who don’t play.  


1 comment:

VintageSpin said...

I don't consider my Moulton a collector's piece, but a masterpiece created to ride, just as Dave intended. At my age and experience I can feel the difference from any other bike, making heading out for a ride such a pleasure.
I was able to get mine at an unbelievable price from the original owner hoping to find a good home for it.
If someday it becomes a much-sought-after collector's piece, maybe it'll bring a king's ransom. But that won't buy what I have now.