Moulton bicycles are noted for unconventional frame design, small wheels, and front and rear suspension.
A misconception about Moultons is that they fold in the manner of more recent designs by manufacturers such as Brompton or Dahon. This is not true, though the Moulton design paved the way for such designs and various Moultons over the years have been made in separable versions allowing relatively easy dismantling for transportation or storage. Mass-appeal versions such as the Standard and Deluxe were complemented by Speed versions used in competition.
In the late 1950s, disillusioned with the design of the classic bicycle, Alex Moulton set about creating a new design. He believed the classic diamond frame was inconvenient to mount, difficult to adjust for size, and not suitable for both sexes. He also believed that classic bicycles were uncomfortable to ride without the use of wide, low-pressure tyres which increased rolling resistance. He also believed large wheels made a bicycle slow, and cumbersome to store.
He believed that small wheels with high-pressure tyres would result in less rolling resistance and less inertia and therefore greater acceleration. Alex Moulton developed a range of high-pressure tyres with Dunlop. Suspension for the front and rear was developed to give a comfortable ride.
The Moulton bicycle also featured a different frame design to the traditional diamond. It was often known as an F-frame or "Lazy F" due to its unusual structure. The F-frame had no top tube and could therefore be easily mounted.
The Moulton bicycle was ahead of its time. Suspension on bicycles would not become common for another 30 years.
When the design was released in 1962, it was one of the first major innovations in bicycle design since the "safety bicycle" in the 1880s, and made an immediate impact. The 1962 version (aka bicycle of the future) was the first production bicycle with suspension and the racing version was televised the same year in action by road race champion and Moulton employee John Ronald Tovey. Moulton bicycles became an icon of the Swinging Sixties and were sold around the world by the hundreds of thousands, and Moulton was briefly one of the largest bicycle manufacturers in Britain. The architecture and design critic, Peter Reyner Banham, known for often controversial views on technology and industrialisation, was a keen advocate and user of the original Moulton. Eleanor Bron's 1978 book Life and other punctures celebrates travels round France on an original Moulton.
The success of the Moulton spurred competitors to introduce similar designs, and competition led to the company being sold to Raleigh in the late 1960s. In 1974 production of the innovative cycles stopped. Raleigh produced the Mk 3 (previous Moultons were known as Series 1 and Series 2). The main differences were a re-designed rear suspension using a rubber ball instead of a block and a rear triangle replacing the swingarm of the earlier designs. Early Moulton bicycles are today collectors' items.
In the early 1980s, Alex Moulton bought back the rights to the Moulton design from Raleigh, and brought out a design along broadly similar lines to the original. Aimed at the high end of the market, this AM series (which remains in production) has a "space frame" allowing high rigidity and low weight. In 1998 the New Series Moulton was introduced. This, similar to the AM, incorporates a Flexitor front suspension , and a rear suspension based on the unified rear triangle principle. The New Series includes the Pylon and Double Pylon high-performance models: in the latter all large diameter tubes have been eradicated, resulting in a pure spaceframe design and low weight.
To bring the new design to a larger market, a cheaper variant of the AM bicycle design, the APB (All-Purpose Bicycle), was produced under licence by Pashley Cycles from 1992 to 2005. To reduce costs, Pashley use off-the-shelf components as far as possible instead of the custom components of the original Moultons: for example, specially manufactured 17 by 1 1/4 inch (ISO 369) wheels, tyres, and inner tubes were replaced by the more common 20-inch ETRTO 406 size. In 2005 the Pashley-Moulton design was updated to create the TSR series: high-performance, lighter versions of the Pashley-Moulton replacing the APB.
A newer model, stylistically and structurally similar to the original Moulton design, was manufactured by Bridgestone. Known as the Bridgestone Moulton, it was built in Japan and those sold in the UK were assembled in England at the Moulton factory. Like the original Moulton, the AM, and the APB before it, it is available in separable and rigid performance versions. Though a hark-back to the original design, it is nevertheless a contemporary performance bicycle and features advanced design and components. Links to the Bridgestone Moulton page have not appeared on the company's website since February 2009; the page remains.
- Cycle magazine, December/January 2005
- The Moulton Bicycle Club
- Alex Moulton Bicycles
- Bridgestone Moulton
- Pashley-Moulton TSR bicycles
- The Folding Society
- Sir Alex Moulton on the engineering of the NS bicycle