Most owners have found that the All Purpose Bicycle really lives up to its name – you probably wouldn’t choose it to go racing on road, track or off-road, but otherwise it does most things very well. However, the versatility of the bike is further enhanced by the way in which its luggage carrying capacity is an integral feature of the design – as it has been on all Moultons. Unlike the Moultons of the 1960s and ‘70s, the carriers for the AM and APB series are not part of the main frame, but are attached via the mounting points provided on the frame, and not only does this give the option of riding without any carrier at all, but it also means that it is possible to use carriers other than those provided by the manufacturers. This article will take a look at what is currently available in the way of carriers for the APB, and will suggest how the different carriers suit particular needs.
Most people start loading their bikes – whatever the type – from the back, since this avoids the extra weight having too much effect on the steering. The only current common exception that springs to mind is the Brompton, for which the standard luggage is carried on the front. In the case of the Brompton this has the benefit that it does not interfere with the parking/folding mechanism, and the quick mounting of the front carrier is one of the many ingenious features of the design – even if the result is decidedly unaerodynamic! Brompton enthusiasts like the Henshaws (of Folding Society and A to B fame) and the Edges carry enormous bags on the front of their Bromptons, without any apparent ill effects on teh handling, although personally I find the that a Brompton ridden without any front bag does feel noticeably more sprightly than when the standard front bag is used – even if the bag is empty.
Moulton owners though are advised to follow the normal rule of starting loading from the rear, not least because the effect of a heavy load on the front with the small wheels and suspension can be to induce a very alarming shimmy (although this is much less of a problem with the APB than with the smaller wheeled and softer sprung AMs).
The options for rear carriers which are summarised below.
Fitting no carrier at all saves weight, and makes it easier to bag the bike if you need to; you may either be managing without any luggage at all on a short ride, you may be using a conventional saddle bag, or perhaps a bum-bag. It is generally regarded as better practice to carry the load on the bike than on the rider’s back – far more stable and more comfortable. I cannot understand the prevalence today for cyclists carrying large bags on their backs – except that perhaps their (non-Moultons) do not provide any way of carrying the load on the bike! However, a bum-bag up to the size of the Kirtland Twin Bottle Pack can be quite effective for very small loads, and has minimal negative effects. Although it is not fashionable at present, the traditional saddle bag attached to the saddle is very effective for carrying modest loads. Although many modern saddles do not have mounting loops, bolt-on loops can be bought which mount on the rails of the saddle. Cost, excluding the bag itself, is zero if your saddle has mounting loops, or about £2.50 if you need to buy mounting loops.
AM owners are lucky enough to have a day bag carrier and bag available to them, but there is no equivalent factory option for the APB – one problem is that the on the AM no mounting strut is needed, but with an APB some support strut is required to prevent the carrier pivoting down.
Two neat solutions are available for the APB to provide an equivalent to the AM day bag carrier. The first of these is Steve Parry’s day bag carrier, modelled closely on the AM version, but with a support strut (which needs to be shaped to clear the brake cables, different versions being needed for V brakes and for normal cantilevers). The carrier seems to be made out of steel rod, so is relatively heavy for its size, but as it is quite small anyway, the weight is quite acceptable. The carrier is very neat in appearance, fits the style of the bike, and is intended for use with a bag of similar style to the extraordinarily light (if rather flimsy and pricey) AM day bag. Cost, excluding the bag, is under £20. Additional comments on this carrier can be found at the end of this article.
The second alternative is Malcolm Lyon’s mounting bracket and strut which enables a Pletcher carrier to be mounted, inverted. This is a remarkably light and strong combination, and will take quite a reasonably sized camera bag, rack top bag or the like. It mounts very low, and although it doesn’t match the styling of the bike, it is an extremely effective solution. Cost excluding the bag is under £30.
Next up comes the factory rear carrier. This is probably the best overall compromise, and takes the large Moulton expandable bag (or anything else that will fit on it). It’s fairly robust, and will support other types of bags, piles of magazines for posting etc. The only things to be said against it are that it increases the width of the bike so that it needs to be removed when bagging the bike, it is a trifle heavy if you don’t need to carry much, and this carrier and bag are not particularly well suited to camping, when you have a tent and other luggage to carry.
Quite a lot of people still find the conventional cycle touring arrangement of twin panniers very convenient. This is particularly true if you are touring with a tent – a conventional pannier arrangement makes it easy to carry the tent on top of the rack, with sleeping bag and other luggage in the panniers on either side. I certainly find that the standard Moulton carrier, excellent as it is for many purposes, is not particularly suited to cycle camping. Doug Pinkerton can supply a rack which attaches to the existing APB mountings and which is ideal, taking two large panniers on either side, with space for a stuff sack or tent on top. The carrier is quite slim – narrower than the standard Moulton one, and if anything the styling suits the bike better than the standard Moulton one. The design means that the load is actually lower on the bike than with the standard Moulton carrier, which is useful for stability with a heavily loaded bike. As it is made of 531 tubing the weight is quite low, and it is very strong.
The price (excluding any bags) is about £130 – not cheap, but it is quite substantial, uses 531 tubing, and the racks are hand made and customised to suit the individual buyer’s requirements in terms of pannier type and other special requirements.
As mentioned earlier, the load on the front of a Moulton should be kept to a reasonable amount, or it can have a detrimental effect on the handling. The options are described below.
Personally I try to avoid carrying any load at the front of my Moultons. The equivalent of a saddlebag – a bar bag – is not desirable as the weight high up on the bike, with the small sprung wheel, does not inspire confidence. However, a number of people have made a simple bracket to allow a bar bag such as the Carradice or Karrimor to be mounted on the top carrier mounting tube, and this seems to work quite well. As the bag is small, one is unlikely to be tempted to overload it. Non one seems to supply such a bracket commercially, and although construction is quite simple, for most people the biggest problem will probably be finding suitable materials.
This is the one carrier described which I do not have for my APB, although I have the equivalnet for the AM. I’m not very keen on them, as I find that the effect of them hiding the front wheel, and not turning as you steer, is a bit unnerving.
One of the first attempts to mount conventional small front panniers on an AM or APB was the Packhorse carrier devised by Paul Lund. This is extremely light and uses the existing mounting points, but supports the panniers alongside the front of the frame and projecting forward. Although the panniers are moderately high, the effect on handling is if anything less pronounced than the standard carrier (as the load is further back), and quite a reasonable volume can be carried. However, I would still avoid carrying anything heavy there (my AM7 shimmied in a very alarming way when I put too much in these carriers, although the effect is much less pronounced with the APB). Paul does not supply these carriers commercially, as he (very sensibly in my view) has decided that the state of product liability legislation is such that he does not want the trouble and risk. Paul’s Packhorse works well, is very light and occupies minimal space, although when the panniers are mounted and loaded they can slightly impede knee movement just as you are mounting and starting away from rest. The appearance is the only possible down side – they are attractive in their simplicity, but being made from metal plate, rather than tubing, they do not look in keeping with the rest of the bike.
A number of people have made their own equivalents of the Packhorse type of carrier. Doug Pinkerton has also produced a fairly substantial version, which not only takes the panniers and a lamp, but can even provide a mounting point for other items such as a pump (see photograph). Although it is made of 531 tubing, it is somewhat heavier than the original Packhorse, but it is very sturdy, and by carrying the bags slightly further out sideways and to the front the impact on knee movement when mounting is reduced. The Pinkerton carriers are hand made from 531 tubing, and customised to meet the buyers requirements, which means that inevitably the price is quite high at about £120, but you get what you pay for, and this is still good value.
I use nearly all the carriers mentioned at various times, and it would be inappropriate to say that one is better than another – they all work well in their intended mode. Clearly the day bag sized racks are not suited to heavy touring with a large load, while you can use the more substantial racks for short unloaded trips, albeit with a weight and bulk penalty. If you never go long distance touring, don’t have any panniers at present, and don’t like panniers, then the Pinkerton rear carrier is an overkill.
I’m happy to be able to choose the ideal carrier for any journey I’m planning, but if I could only have one, then it would be the Pinkerton rear carrier, with a saddlebag for short lightly loaded trips, and a Packhorse at the front.
Earlier this year I had a couple of weeks in Scotland with the bike. I often camp nowadays, but this particular trip was on a photographic holiday – one week on a course, the rest doing my own thing, and I had accommodation arranged. Although I didn’t need the tent, sleeping bag etc, this was more than made up for by the need to take quite a lot of photographic gear, including quite a substantial tripod (other items include 3 35mm camera bodies, a range of prime lenses from 24mm to 135mm, plus 2x converter, two meters, 35mm film, Yashicamat 6x6cm camera and 120 film). Unfortunatley the APB was not available for this trip, and so for the first time ever I used a conventional touring bike for the trip. While it performed adequaately, it left me convinced that the APB makes a superb tourer, and it would have been far better for the job than the bike I actually used. I say this particularly from the point of view of carrying this sort of load. While the conventional bike with two large panniers and a bar bag could carry everything I needed (I didn’t even need front panniers), I found it much less comfortable and secure than the APB would have been. A particularly telling feature is that with an APB, especially when heavily loaded like this, it is much easier to get on and off with the step through frame, and with the rear luggage so much lower down. Mounting the conventional tourer, particularly with a tripod mounted so that it is on top of the rear rack, sticking out a considerable way at the back, is quite tricky. On the APB the tripod would be far lower, would not project out as far, and anyway you can step through the frame.
For this trip the APB with its Pinkerton rear carrier would have been perfect – camera gear and other luggage in the panniers, and the top of the rack forming a perfect location for carrying the tripod. I shall certainly make sure that for any future touring expeditions I don’t let my self get in a situation where the APB or another Moulton is not available.
AM owners have a very similar set of options to those available for the APB. At the rear the main differences are that the day bag carrier is a factory item, and is nowadays supplied with many of the models as standard. The Pinkerton rear carrier is available for the AM range, the price being about £130 (higher than the APB version due to the slightly more complex rear mounting strut fixing). The options at the front are the same as for the APB – again the Pinkerton carrier is available. I would recommend AM owners to restrict front loading weight to avoid affecting the handling, in particular the shimmy mentioned earlier.
The annual gathering of Moultoneers at Bradford-on-Avon is always an event to meet up with friends made at previous meets and, of course, to see Moultons old and new – no two bikes the same, as all seem to have some ‘improvement’ by way of modification.
This year I was rather taken by a day rack fitted to a bright orange APB. (To be truthful it was the bike that first caught my eye!) Am I alone in finding the spacious rear bag on the APB carrier a little too much for a day run? A smaller, lighter rack carrying the AM day bag seemed a sensible option.
I spoke to the bike’s owner, Steve Parry, who had made his as a one off. Being a bit cheeky I asked if he could make me one as well He promised to do so and two weeks later my rack arrived. It was very well finished in a black powder coat and came complete with all the necessary screws and bolts. It took a few minutes to fit – fixing in much the same way as an APB rear rack – and I took the bike on a very bumpy off-road ride to see how it faired.
I am pleased to report that it performed perfectly, finishing the ride as firmly fixed as it was at the start. It looks good on the bike and functions well In short a very useful APB accessory.