First full road test

The Sunday of the Launch Weekend had been set aside for a ride by Moultoneers and others who were attending the event. Due to the difficulties of finding a suitable venue for lunch, the start was scheduled for 11.15, riding from The Hall to The Mill at Rode for lunch at 2.15pm (the same location as for the lunch stop last September) and then returning to The Hall. A coffee stop was also included in the program, although some people missed this out and went direct to the lunch stop. This made a total distance of 25 miles – enough to be able to get a reasonable impression of the new bike.

The day dawned with weather showing signs of fitting the description applied to the month in the UK – ‘April showers’. I went down to my bike at about 7.15am, and decided that it was dry enough for a short early morning ride, but within 20 minutes I was overtaken by a very heavy shower, and returned to my B&B very damp. Things looked much better on arrival at The Hall for the start of the ride – not only was the weather better and the sun coming out, but I was privileged to be allocated one of the New Series bikes (which I will abbreviate as NS in the rest of this report) to ride (the white 531 model which had been in a separated state during the previous days of the launch). I was, however, asked to let others try the bike during this ride, so Ray Racy and Chris Dent also tried this bike, although I rode it most of the way. This arrangement was very good for me, as it allowed me to switch from the NS machine to older AMs, providing a better basis for comparison.

The weather at the start of the ride flattered only to deceive, and we had a number of heavy showers, and even hail, during the outward section of the ride, and everyone arrived at The Mill soaking wet. The return to The Hall was accomplished later in the afternoon in much better conditions.

But of course what was most important on this ride, and what you want to read about, is how the NS performed. I think the thing which most clearly struck everyone was the smoothness of the bike – not just the ride which results from the new suspension (though that is certainly tremendously impressive), but everything about the bike. It just seems to glide along, so that you felt you could sit on it and ride all day. The very progressive operation of the suspension was ideal for me, although it was my impression that heavier riders were using up more of the suspension travel. The Moulton/Lepper saddle was extremely comfortable – I simply didn’t even notice I was on an unfamiliar saddle. In fact, returning to my own bike at the end of the ride, it was that old familiar saddle which immediately made its presence felt.

The general impression of smoothness makes this an exceptionally enjoyable and effortless machine to ride. The narrow, high pressure tyres must contribute to the low rolling resistance, and they handled all the conditions encountered during the day very well. Hill climbing on this bike is particularly impressive, but the bike also handles descents in a way that inspires complete confidence. The bike feels very stable, and as Chris Dent demonstrated briefly, riding hands off would be quite possible technically, although of course undesirable and not recommended. The roads we used on the ride varied in surface from very smooth to badly worn, and the bike handled all of these beautifully. We did make a very short excursion down a muddy track, and the bike felt reasonable on this, but to avoid getting the bikes and ourselves too dirty we carried the bikes back to the road, which served to emphasise how very light the NS Moulton is.

The new handlebars were generally liked by riders, although some felt that they were rather too narrow. Personally I rather liked the width, although it would probably take rather longer than this ride to become fully used to them.

Not only are the brakes very powerful and smooth, but the lever position is very good for normal riding (although Chris Dent felt they might be angled a little further out, and after some thought I’m inclined to agree with him). The anti-dive characteristics of the suspension help to inspire complete confidence under braking. The position of the gear lever on the bars suited me very well, and made for extremely easy changes, although some of the riders of the other demonstration bikes felt they would like slight repositioning – it seems to be rather a matter of taste.

The range of gear ratios was just about ideal for the ride – I spent a lot of time in the top 3 ratios (but I didn’t need anything higher than was available), but for one quite steep hill I did use bottom gear briefly. I think that for my riding I would probably slightly lower the overall ratios by opting for a slightly smaller chainwheel. The range would certainly be quite enough for me, and I prefer not to be encumbered by a second chainwheel, which is why I like my existing AM7 (now fitted with 8-speed indexed Shimano gears) so much: the double chainwheel on my Jubilee L only adds about one extra effective gear to the overall range. However, I think it is possible some riders might like to have one more higher gear without losing out at the bottom of the range. The gears changed very smoothly throughout, and generally the ratios between the two extremes are well chosen, although I did notice one step fairly close to the middle of the range which was rather greater than I would like. There seems to be a similar step from 4th to 5th gear on my Jubilee L and 8-speed AM7.

Were there any things to dislike? Apart from the few minor points mentioned above, all of which come down to personal preferences on detail settings, there was really nothing that could be categorised as strongly as a dislike. Chris Dent commented on the difficulty of mounting a bar bag due to the suspension design (he normally uses a low-mounted bar bag located at the upper mounting point for the front carrier on his AM), and I too feel that for some situations, notably touring, it is a pity that front luggage carrying seems to be ruled out. The clearance between the mudguards and tyres is about the same as on an AM model, and at one stage some mud attached itself to the tyre, and could be heard rubbing against the mudguard on every rotation. It didn’t hinder progress, but was irritating, and continued until I stopped and wiped it off. Personally I would prefer slightly greater clearances on both the older AMs and the NS.

There was no ocassion to split the frame on this ride, but separating the bike into two parts to put in a car boot should be if anything easier than with an AM. The further dismantling into a smaller package, so that it can be taken by air, for example, is useful, but likely to be too slow to make it suitable for frequent use.

Overall I was most impressed by the bike. When I first saw it, read the specification and discovered the price, I concluded that it was a beautiful piece of engineering which I would love to own, but which lacked the folding capability for use with trains and the (front) luggage facilities which I ideally need for my own purposes. So in view of the price, at that stage I just felt that it was a nice machine, but I wouldn’t be getting one. But now I’ve ridden it I’m hooked, and I know others who tried it feel the same. This bike is wonderful to ride, and spoils you for anything else. Owning and riding Moultons can be, as many of us know, addictive. One of the Japanese visitors at the launch event apparently owns 44 Moultons! The NS Moulton is going to raise this addiction to new levels.