Two rival youth cultures that clashed several times at Brighton in the 1960s, the most infamous occasion being the so-called ‘Battle of Brighton’ at the Whitsun holiday, 17-18 May 1964. The Brighton police were prepared for trouble as there had been clashes at Clacton and Hastings at Easter, but the town was invaded by up to 3,000 youths. The leather-jacketed ‘Rockers’ arrived on their motor-bikes on the Sunday morning, but were challenged in the afternoon by a much larger number of the neatly-dressed ‘Mods’ on their motor-scooters.
Several small scuffles broke out, but the most serious trouble was around the Palace Pier where hundreds of deckchairs were broken, pebbles were used as missiles, and the Savoy Cinema windows were smashed. Eventually 150 police and a police horse quelled the disturbance, but the violence was repeated the following morning with several thousand spectators watching the confrontations from the Aquarium Sun Terrace and marine Parade; the sea-front traders, however, rapidly boarded up their properties. Twenty-six youths appeared in the juvenile court the following week and were handed stiff sentences, but fortunately no-one was seriously injured.
– Encyclopaedia of Brighton, by Tim Calder, 1990
WW1 and WW2 feature prominently in the Oldbike Museum. Obviously landmarks in British history, social attitudes were markedly different before and after each war, and this was reflected in bicycle design. 1963/1964 was a similar pivotal time of change: luckily, this time without a war. The Profumo Affair swept Harold Wilson into power. Carnaby Street provided the gear; we tapped our toes to the Beatles and Stones; and Mods and Rockers contributed some light entertainment.
The revolutionary Moulton had a similar effect in the world of bicycles.
1963 Moulton Standard M1
Frame No 430379 (K63)
S-A Hub dated December, 1963
Manufactured in October, 1963
This very early Moulton Standard is in excellent original condition, and rides well. It’s unrestored cosmetically, retaining its original transfers (decals). The bike has a sort of laid-back down-at-heel androgynous Brighton feel about it, so I photographed it at Jump the Gun in Gardner Street, a pilgrimage spot for aspiring modernists and one of those places you can’t help looking in the window as you walk past.
I value unrestored bikes much more than repainted. They’re only original once. I’ve left this rare early Standard exactly as I found it, with a broken front mudflap, and I’ve not polished it. I do not treat it like a prize poodle just to display at shows. Despite its pedigree, rare original parts and value, I love to ride a bike with character, and this is a fantastic bike to ride.
Back in 1962, nobody had seen anything like the Moulton before. Everybody was amazed that the diamond frame bicycle design, which seemed perfect from a functional point of view, could be improved upon. Alex Moulton thought differently about big wheeled bicycles, recognising their limitations. Conventional bicycles were difficult to mount and dismount. The wheels were cumbersome and easily buckled. It was difficult to carry loads safely and easily and carriers were always a bolted on afterthought, not designed in. Socially, bicycles had a serious image problem, being associated with poverty and lacking in stylish appeal.
The first bare Moulton prototypes had two upright tubes connected by a larger diameter horizontal round tube, the classic ‘F’ frame. It is so simple that we can easily overlook the cleverness of this solution. Moulton had consciously thrown away the conventional thinking of triangular structure in order to achieve his aim of creating an easy-to-mount open frame. This was a huge creative leap.
As the new bicycle did not have the triangular architecture of the diamond frame, it had to derive most of its strength and torsional rigidity from the single horizontal main tube. When we consider that eighty years of development, aimed at refining the size of tubing to reduce weight to the minimum, had gone into bicycle architecture, Moulton’s debut really sparkles with brilliance.
What’s so great about old Moultons?
Top of the list must be the suspension, fitted to both front and rear. You may say, “Big deal; loads of mountain bikes have suspension.” This may be so, but they are designed for mountains really, not for road riding. Alex Moulton was a rubber suspension innovator who designed the Austin Mini’s suspension, and with Issigonis, invented the hydrolastic system that was used on millions of cars.
Moulton bicycle suspension is both supple and subtle. It isn’t made for jumping over logs or careering down mountains. It’s for smoothing out the vibrations that you would find on different road surfaces. The older bikes are particularly good, having a coil spring at the front surrounding a column of rubber. This provides a perfectly damped ride. There is also a rebound spring to take out the clang when the forks extend.
Apart from being the obvious solution to the problem, front and rear rubber suspension was, in the 1960’s, an entirely new departure for bicycle design which promised to marry high efficiency with higher levels of comfort. Importantly, it was this dual improvement that allowed the Moulton to be a superb sports bicycle and a comfortable utility bicycle.
But I’m making the suspension sound like a technical thing to stroke your beard over as you examine the graphs of reduced amplitude vibration. This isn’t the point. It’s the sensation of riding the bike that is of most worth. They really are great fun. Going up and down ramps in the street and over speed humps puts a grin on your face when you are new to Moultons. And they really take the sting out of rough surfaces.
Alex Moulton spent a lifetime refining his revolutionary bicycle design, which, in 1986, broke the world speed record for the fastest bicycle of conventional riding position.
Born into engineering and invention, his great-grandfather, Stephen Moulton, acquired the rights to the process for the vulcanisation of rubber from American Charles Goodyear, and made his fortune developing new uses for this new material, such as rain capes for British soldiers fighting the Crimean War. Stephen bought The Hall in Bradford-on-Avon in 1848, converting the adjacent cloth mill to rubber production, later sold to the Avon Rubber Company in 1956.
His great-grandson would also turn to rubber for his innovative designs. After studying aeroengines at the University of Cambridge, Alex founded Moulton Developments Limited, focusing on the design and development of rubber suspension for vehicles such as cars and trailers research which culminated in the development of his acclaimed suspension systems for the Mini, as well as the Austin Allegro, Princess, Metro and Ambassador.
In the aftermath of the Suez crisis in 1956, the ensuing oil shortages encouraged Moulton to examine the bicycle. Moulton noticed that as vehicles evolved, their wheels continually became smaller, with the exception of the classic bicycle, which had stalled at 26 or 28in. His calculations showed that a smaller wheel would go faster with less effort due to lower rolling resistance, lower aerodynamic drag and faster acceleration.
With support from Dunlop, Moulton began testing small wheels. The design of the original Moulton featured a unisex, Lazy-F step-through frame, 16in high-pressure tyres, front and rear rubber suspension, and increased luggage capacity with front and rear racks. After a sensational launch in 1962 at the Earls Court Cycle and Motor Cycle Show, Moulton went on to become the second-largest frame maker in the UK, at its peak manufacturing more than 1,000 bikes a week.
CLOSE-UPS of MIDDLEMORE SADDLE and FRAME NUMBER
According to Moulton enthusiast Ian, frame number 430379 means that it was the 379th machine made in the 43rd week of 1963, ie the week of Monday 21st October)
On the other side of the seat tube it shows the number K63, which indicates it was built at the Kirkby plant in 1963.
The Sturmey Archer three speed hub shows a date of 63 12, ie December 1963.
From the CROSS FRAME STUDY GUIDE, 1962
I particularly liked the comment written under the above newspaper article in 1962, contributed to the Study Guide. 50 years later, the Moulton ‘ultra-modern cross-frame’ is indeed of interest to ‘future’ historians.
The rear forks on early Moultons were a weak point, prone to cracking: as you can see above and below, this example is in good condition.
1963 v 2013
I was eleven in 1963, too young for winklepickers. At my primary school, I was constantly accosted by other boys demanding: ‘Are you a mod or a rocker?’ as well as ‘Do you prefer the Beatles or the Stones?’
The Mods and Rockers began attracting attention in 1963; the Mods as a developing group (they were actually beginning as early as 1962), the Rockers as a yet-unchristened continuation of earlier strains, the Teds and, more particularly, the Ton-ups (the two terms are now used synonymously). The Mods (Modernists) originally favored short hair, wool shirts, casual suede or corduroy jackets, lightweight ankle-length trousers and casual sneaker-type shoes – very much of the continental type. Mod girls wore collaborateur-type hair-styles, drape leather overcoats and calf-length dresses which came up as time passed but were, in the early days, extended to ankle length for visits to clubs etc. The Rockers were the entrenched traditionalists of teenage fashion – long Ted-style hair, sideburns, jeans with turn-ups, leather jerkins or bum-freezer jackets and winkle picker shoes.
The girls’ clothes echoed those of the boys – at least out of working hours. At work they were in the teenage fashion mainstream. Rockers were barely a group as such; they were put together by the Mods as ‘them’ figures; hot, breathy, archaic squares to the Mods’ ice-cold, up-to-the-second hipsters. In 1963 the first fights between the two groups broke out in The City of London during lunch hours. What usually happened was that a group of Mods began jeering at – and later bundling with – a Rocker delivery boy. But such fights were nothing to those which broke out at the various seaside resorts during public holidays the following year. By then the Mods were a large group and their outlook was formed.
1964 MOULTON SALES BROCHURE
Mods & Rockers intro – http://www.mybrightonandhove.org.uk/page_id__8300_path__0p116p167p.aspx (click on the link to read more)
Mods & Rockers photo: England (Brighton) Rocker 1964. Photographer: George Rodger – http://www.thescooterist.com/2012/08/some-old-pictures.html
Mods & Rockers historical info – http://www.the59club.com/pages/situ.html
Alex Moulton article (obituary) – http://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/alex-moulton-inventor-of-moulton-bicycle-dies-aged-92/8640016.article
Mouton article – http://www.bicyclehub.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=112 (click on the link to read more)