Thursday, February 21, 2008

The strange things people do

Between 1982 and 1986 I built 216 custom ‘dave moulton’ frames; the frame numbers were registered in a book that I still have. I built a few more between 1986 and 1993 when I retired from framebuilding, but so few that I didn’t even record the numbers.

A custom frame I consider to be one that the order preceded the frame, unlike the Fuso for example that was built in standard sizes and kept in stock. It has the name ‘dave moulton’ on the down tube in lower case letters. The way either bike rides or handles is identical.

The exception to this was one of the custom models I built called a “Criterium” frame. It had slightly steeper angles and was designed to be ridden fast and hard, and handle quickly. Out of 216 custom frames, there were only 36 Criteriums.

I have been tracking eBay sales of my bikes for over two years since November 2005. During this period there have only been two custom ‘dave moulton’ frames come up for sale.

Many of these frames are still owned by the original owners who will not part with them, so the chances of finding one is slim. There is even less chance of finding one in your size.

It is not for me to decide if a frame is a valuable collectable or not, that is something that occurs when there are more people wanting to buy a frame than there are frames available for sale.

However, I don’t feel I am being over presumptuous if I say the custom ‘dave moulton’ has the potential to be a collectable in the future. These frames will last 50 or 60 years and beyond, and will still be around long after I am gone.

One of the 36 custom criterium frames was sold on eBay last evening; it went for $455. I have seen Fuso frames sell for more than that. The reason the price was low the previous owner had repainted the frame and added the name ‘Bushnelli’ (A personal nick-name.) to it.

This was no rattle-can paint job done out of ignorance, this was a paint job done by Joe Bell, who happens to be one of the best painters in the business. This previous owner spent a great deal of money in order to devalue a frame.

It is devalued because if the frame is ever to have any value in the future, it will have to be stripped of this otherwise beautiful paint job and repainted as it originally was. And of course this is going to be an expense for the new owner.

My custom frames were unique in that from 1982 on, my name was engraved in the bottom bracket shell, and my “four m’s” logo engraved in the fork crown. There is no doubt this frame was built by me. The serial number matches the one in my record book. O836, means it was built in October of 1983 and was the 6th custom frame built that month.

There are two schools of thought on the subject of “collectable” frames. One is that a person owning anything is free to do as he wishes with that object. The other is that collectors are merely “caretakers” preserving something for future generations. The latter is the one that I support.

If a frame has the original paint in good condition, leave it that way. Because eventually most frames will be repainted, and original paint will make it more valuable. In the case of my custom frames, they were not only built by me, but also painted by me.

If you have a frame from the 1970s without braze-ons, don’t add braze-ons. And if you have a frame from the 1980s with braze-ons, don’t cut them off to convert to a fixie. If a frame is rusting and the paint is shot, then you have no alternative but to repaint. However, repaint as close to original as possible.

Don’t powder coat. This type of finish, while durable, is (with exceptions.) usually cheap and nasty, and is a pain to strip and repaint in the future. So keep this in mind if you are bidding for a frame that has been powder coated.

Incidentally, I am working with a company to reproduce decals for all model frames I built. The reason this is taking time, is that there are several different models, Custom, Fuso, John Howard, and Recherché. This involves a considerable capital investment from me, and the possibility it will take me a while to recoup this.

I hope to have these available later this year, so bear with me if you are waiting, and watch this blog for an announcement when the time comes.


imabug said...

what is that under the top tube? that isn't a matching tire pump, is it?

Anonymous said...


This is a well debated issue. Speaking only for myself, I NEVER leave something totally stock. I always personalize it to some degree. It might be gearing, saddle, stem, bar or PAINT. Once your money has bought the item, it is now yours to do with what you want. If adding braze ons or bottle bosses or painting the frame makes it better for you and your purpose then how can that be wrong? The restoration of bikes to how they appeared in print sales adds to me is a "why bother". A bike is for pedalling and enjoying, not hanging on a stand as a "work of art". And as I'm sure your custom frames are some of the very best "riders" out there, I hope that they are being enjoyed for just that!

Anonymous said...

I like the paint job that has been applied. For my money, it takes nothing away from the value at all. It is still a Dave Moulton Custom.......and in very nice shape at that!

mpetry912 said...

A very good friend of mine has a Dave Moulton custom frame, and it is a fabulous frame. It was a little big for me, I think, but a classic thru and thru.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

Anonymous said...

WHY IN THE HECK! would you not only repaint DM frame but also rename it? what a waste o time & $$$$.just my 2 cents

Anonymous said...

I saw that ad on Tuesday afternoon and just about got sick on myself and my keyboard. I could tell from the BB and crown that it was the real deal, but why would I consider (beside the wrong size for me) buying a masterpiece covered up by a curataor's own interpretation? Incomprehesible indeed.
A Dave, too.

Anonymous said...


I was watching that one too, unbelievable that it sold for so little. While it is my size, I do not have the funds, nor the need for another of your frames. Had I the extra discretionary income though, I would have snapped it up in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

I saw that a few days ago, and lamented that it was not my size. The auction had half a day left and had not gone much over $100. I posted a like over at Bike Forums, figuring the C&V folks there would appreciate it.

The paint looks great, even if it does have someone else's nickname on it. If it where my size, I would have bid it up a bit, built it up, enjoyed riding it for a decade or so, THEN worried about more authentic paint job.

Anonymous said...

I think this is always a tough decision. Since you not only built the frames, but also painted them, Dave, I can see where you are coming from. However, sometimes it's just plain economics that force us to make decisions that might not make sense to others. As you said, this gent spent a great deal to have the frame repainted by one of the best, if not the best, in the industry. Perhaps decals were not immediately available to him and so he chose to place his own name on the frame?

I only say this because some time ago, I purchased a Fuso from the original owner. It was a tad too large for me, but I really wanted to experience the ride. The frame, as you can imagine through years of riding, had it's share of niks and chips. I contacted Russ Denny to obtain costs of repainting, because I wanted to maintain the "integrity" of the frame. However, reality set in as the cost to ship the frame, have it painted with new decals, ship it back, would have cost more than what I spent for the entire bike. So..once I decided I'd like to paint the frame locally and obtain the decals from Russ, I no longer could get in touch with Russ. I realize he has more taxing duties than trying to sell decals, so your thought of obtaining decals is a great idea.

As a further note, I did have the frame powdercoated and a gorgeous job it was.

Anonymous said...


I wonder if you could say more about why you think of powdercoating as cheap and nasty.

I totally understand why it would be inappropriate for a collectable bike frame, but I'm making a frame in my basement (lugged road frame) and was thinking of getting it powdercoated instead of wet paint. I doubt I'll even be renowned enough as a framebuilder for my first frame to be collectable! :)

My understanding is that there are accomplished framebuilders who powdercoat their frames....


Anonymous said...

Robbie, I would say that as in painters, there are different levels of powdercoaters. In my area (SF Bay Area)there are powdercoating companies who are looking to fill idle time by advertising for bike frames. I've used one of these companies...twice. I should have learned from the first time. As for me now, I'd powedercoat with my current powdercoater any day of the week as compared to painting. There are pluses and minuses for both, but for me, pc is more durable. Both of my current pc bikes have been put through the ringer and there are no niks, scrapes, chips, etc. Plus, my guy used to powdercoat for Steelman, so he lays it down very thinly and then follows up with a "wet" clear powdercoat, to give it a lacquered look. Again, just depends on what you want to do. Plus, cost for me is $150 for frame and fork. I had estimates at $450+ for paint on my Fuso frame, from two different sources.

If you are going to restore to museum quality, by all means paint, but if you can find a good powdercoater (ask advice on your local craigslist), give him a shot.

VintageSpin said...

The owner of that custom Moulton isn’t Eddy Merckx or Mario Cipollini, for instance, who have earned the right to put their own names on whatever bikes they race(d). And they would be valuable just because they raced them. The Moulton isn’t a disposable frame but a rare collectable, period.
To bastardize the Moulton frame with a no-name decal is tantamount to the guy forging his name on a Rembrandt. He didn’t build or paint it, and since he didn't keep it in the family it is now a lost child in the world. It's not more valuable because he rode/raced it.
I think the only decent thing to do now would be to repaint it using original decals.
Otherwise I agree with Dave, it’s of little value in its present condition.

Anonymous said...

Powder coating is also more environmentally friendly, I'm told. Not sure to what degree, though.

Anonymous said...

Vintage,to say that the frame is of no value in its current condition is wrong. It is still a Dave Moulton frame, which, if I'm correct, were built to ride, not hang on walls. That frame will still bring an enormous amount of enjoyment to its new owner, regardless of whose name is on the downtube. I agree; it was probably not smart to have done that, but that does not take away from the frame itself, how it handles, how it rides.

VintageSpin said...

maltese falcon:
Any debate is not whether this frame is a Moulton, although some would never know it, but that colorizing ‘Citizen Kane’ has changed its appearance, for what purpose? Just because one can?
Sure it still functions the same, but it’s not a Bushnelli (rhymes with Vanelli, of infamous Nelli).
If collectable frames are to have value, there must be a reason for what is changed, and if the originator hasn’t instigated this than you are presumptuous to do so yourself. And you will devalue it by “personalizing” it in this way.
Fine if you intend to keep it and it would have sentimental value, or if you go through as many frames as racers do-they are utility frames.
And fine to replace components, put on modern sew-ups and wear the latest cycle clothing while riding it. But as collectors such as Jay Leno or Jesse James know, getting (and keeping) it right when restoring or possessing functional art is the right thing to do.

Anonymous said...

Was it collectable at the time? Or more of a nice bike/tool? That's the kicker isn't it? Nothing to get huffy about, and any 'customs' out there should be worth more now as they are even more rare(one less original in the world)?

I remember well a shop that went out of business here, had 4 or 5 Fuso frames hanging in the corner... *nobody* wanted them. Montana in the late 80's/early 90's... everyone wanted a mountain bike... preferably with purple bits. I think they sold for less than $100 apiece w/ forks at the end. Times change, attitudes change.Life is short, do what you will with your bikes to make you happy, and be happy your lot in life is so good that you can even worry about it.

Mike in MT.

Anonymous said...

Vintage, I understand what you are saying and cannot say that I do not agree. However, as someone who grew up with a father who rebuilt and restored Jaguars as a hobby (Engish Jags..not Schwinn Jags, by the way), one of processes he (we) went through was stripping the body for new paint, very similar to what James and Leno do as they rebuild an old classic. Paint is a process so that painting a vehicle or bike in a color that was not that frames original color, it truly does not hinder the rebuild one iota. My point being is that would I have not bid on that frame simply because of the paint job and personalized graphics? No...because it is a Fuso, a Dave Moulton frame and I most certainly can repaint it with the proper decaling at any time I choose. Rebuilt in its present state would still bring satisfaction to me because I know it's a Moulton and truth be known, who the hell cares if anyone else knows that? It's still a fantastic ride and that alone makes it valuable to me. Maybe not valuable to you, but valuable to the owner.

Anonymous said...

jimmy livengood,

my understanding of powdercoating is that the paint particles (and/or the part being painted?) are charged so that the particles are attracted to the part - reduces overspray dramatically. less bad things going into the atmosphere...

Anonymous said...

As the new owner of the Bushnelli Moulton special pro criterium frameset (recently auctioned on E-Bay), I was surprised to see it being subject of one of Mr. Moulton’s blogs (the strange things people do), and the comments made therein.

To begin with, according to Mr. Moulton the reason “the price was low the previous owner had repainted the frame and added the name ‘Bushnelli’ (a personal nick-name) to it”. Although we can never know this with certainty, I would hasten to say that this was not the case. The frameset was clearly advertised as a “Dave Moulton Special Pro Criterium” and there was never any doubt of its pedigree as Mr. Moulton’s name is engraved in the bottom bracket (BB) shell, and his “four m’s” logo engraved in the fork crown. If these identifiers were absent (i.e. engraved BB shell and fork crown), then I would be in agreement with Mr. Moulton - unless again we could prove the framesets provenance.

Mr. Moulton then goes on to say that, “if the frame is ever to have any value in the future, it will have to be stripped of this otherwise beautiful paint job and repainted as it originally was”. Does Mr. Moulton mean any value greater than the $455 recent auction price or simply no value, whatsoever? Let us take the example of Stradivarius violins. Of the hundreds of violins that Stradivari made, there are only six that still retain their original neck. This was necessitated by the fact that most music written since the 19th century would be difficult, if not impossible to play on a Stradivarius in its original condition. To me this is akin to changing the fork on a bike, not just simply the paint. So are Stradivarius violins devalued? The simple answer is, no! Although the frameset does not have the original Dave Moulton paint, it is still a Moulton. Moreover, many of these violins are identifiable by the names of their owners (e.g. The Lady Tennant, Alard-Baron Knoop, Lord Dunn-Raven, Hellier, etc.), so Buschnelli Moulton may not be such a bad idea, as it will be readily identified as Dave Moulton Custom Special Pro Criterium 0836.

To conclude, I am fan of Mr. Moulton, both of his bikes and his intelligently written technical articles. I own two bikes made by him, an original finished John Howard and a most likely, one of a kind 753 Fuso with concave seat stay caps featured on Mr. Moulton’s web site, with CycleArt paint reproducing the original. I bought the frameset in question because Mr. Moulton built it!


John Katsaras

VintageSpin said...

Those six original Stradivarius' are worth more than any of the others still in existence, as UCLA Music Dept. knows after selling one of the originals for millions. And there is nothing that sounds like the original; neither would a Moulton with a replacement fork ride like the original.
Dave spent countless years perfecting it, so too Antonio building violins throughout his life. Some would argue his later violins were not as good as some earlier models, yet they are worth millions in their original condition.
The paint: it will last the life of the frame, unlike most autos, if it isn’t damaged. I have an original “hidden” decal 1984 Dave Moulton Custom Professional Road bike that I use Zymol polish and wax on and it looks brilliant, probably close to the day Dave delivered it to the California Bicycle in La Jolla.
The point being, if it isn’t damaged don’t change it. If components aren’t worn don’t replace. Original is always better kept that way if possible. That’s why those few that are become scarce.

Unknown said...


In the photo of your name printed on the bottom bracket there is a 'JB' adjacent on the chainstay.

I recently picked up a 1990 Bill Davidson frame from a neighbor's garage sale and it has the same JB insignia.

I am newer to the earlier steel frames (I was born in 84) and I was wondering what JB represents?


Dave Moulton said...

JB is the painter Joe Bell’s insignia.

On powder coating:
It is better for the environment, but usually goes on thicker than wet paint, which is good for a welded frame, but for a vintage lugged frame you lose the edges of the lugs and other fine detail. Powder coating is more durable and less prone to chipping, but is difficult to remove should you want to repaint again. As with everything, you get what you pay for. There are cheap powder coat paint jobs and better more expensive ones.

I thank everyone for their comments and those who thought the paint did not detract from the frame itself. However, the price it sold for speaks for itself that the frame was devalued. This was a rare custom frame, only 36 built; it sold for $455. The lack of interest was for economic reasons, by the time you add the shipping, and the shipping again to a painter and return shipping, plus the cost of a repaint, to bring it back to original. Pretty soon you have $1,000 sunk into the frame, and it is not the bargain it originally seemed.

On the other hand, an early (1984) Fuso frame with original paint just went for $492.57 on eBay. I built close to 3,000 Fuso frames. But in this case the buyer can build it up as is, ride it for many years, then sell it again for at least what he paid for it, and may even make a profit.


Anonymous said...

"Clothes do not make the man"


"Paint does not make the bike"

Anonymous said...

Now this repaint is a crime:

mike in mt

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous above me:

That's not a repaint, Land Sharks are known for having insane paint jobs.