Report on a visit to the Bradford on Avon Weekend 29-30 September 2001

Last year’s BoA event was rather special, coming at the end of a week-long celebration of Dr Moulton’s 80th birthday (which was actually back in April).  Following that was quite a challenge, and for a while it even looked as though there might be no formal BoA 2001 event. Arthur Smith finally stepped in to organise the event, although naturally on a smaller scale than in 2000.

The late date at which the details were finalised was probably also the reason why the event was moved to a little later than usual in September – for many years we have been extraordinarily lucky with the weather, but the forecast this year was not promising when I left early on Friday 28th. I find it a bit of a rush to get down by train on the Saturday, so since giving up the car I usually opt to go down on the Saturday, and delay coming back until the Monday.

This year the choice of which Moulton to take was fairly easy – both the New Series and APB were out on loan, the single-speed Stowaway is not really a serious contender, and the Jubilee L is clearly preferable to the old AM7. Initially I started filling the big rear bag, ready to put on the large rear carrier, but then it occurred to me that this was, after all, a weekend event, and as I was not involved in organising, and therefore had limited luggage, I should consider the weekend bag. There was another, more important reason though, and that concerned getting it on the train. Due to uncertainties of travelling time, I hadn’t booked a space on a train for the bike, so it looked as though I should need to bag it, and that means removing the large rear carrier – a tedious operation; the day bag carrier can be left on the bike when it is bagged. Unfortunately the bags themselves are relatively bulky and heavy if you are trying to fit everything into a weekend bag, especially as I was also taking a Brompton cover (for reasons I won’t bother to explain), a computer (to type this report), an SLR camera, data CD, floppy discs and some printed copies of a report on the new Bridgestone Moulton. I managed it in the end, putting the camera and some odds and ends in a bum bag, and using a Steve Parry frame bag to carry tools and essentials needed en route. The carry bags were actually bungeed onto the back of the weekend bag – which made them reasonably accessible. Had I not needed to take the extra Brompton cover, and the copies of the report, it would have been a fairly easy fit in the weekend bag, carrying minimum additional clothing for only 3 nights away.

When I reached Tipton station, I found it was not manned (most unusual), so I had to delay buying my ticket until I reached New Street (I had a pass for the local train). Since I was buying the ticket at New Street, I also booked the bike on the outward train to save bagging it – trying to book a bike at a smaller local station tends to be very time consuming, so this was not part of the original plan. I might be tempted to try to book the bike on the return journey when I am coming back from Bristol – it would mean that taking the bags will have been redundant, but this way I have flexibility.

The plan was to cycle from Bristol to Bradford on Avon using the cycleway to Bath, and then the towpath, and do the reverse ride on the Monday. This has the advantage of giving me a pleasant ride and saving on the train fare. The weather on Friday was fine, so this reinforced the plan, though the forecast for the Monday was less good. However, it would be quite easy to take the train back from Bradford on Avon to Bristol if weather conditions made this necessary – more flexibility which is possible with a folder or separable.

I must admit that I usually enjoy travelling by train, especially if I can combine it with some cycling. However, the rail fare structure is most extraordinary – I had travelled from Birmingham to Glasgow and back earlier in September for just £14.30, but a return from Birmingham to Bristol costs £38.50 (both prices exclude the bike). Taking the train all the way from Birmingham to Bradford on Avon earlier in the week had cost £41.50. At these prices rail travel loses some of its appeal!

We arrived more or less on time at Bristol, and the bike was unloaded and immediately ready for action – which made me glad I had booked it on, rather than having to unbag it and reassemble it.

I was soon on the Bristol to Bath cycleway, contending with cycle commuters travelling the other way, school children sprawling over the entire width of the track, etc. In the warm conditions it soon became evident that I was wearing far too many clothes, but as I only had the small carrier fitted, and a very full weekend bag, there was nowhere to put any clothes I might remove, so I had to ride as I was. By the time I reached Bradford on Avon, I was very overheated. I removed the sweat shirt I was wearing and left it in the sun to dry – 4 hours later it was still quite damp!

As a result of my exertions in the heat, I wasn’t feeling very energetic, so I spent the time mooching around the site, chatting to one or two other early arrivals, looking at the several examples of the Bridgestone Moulton which were being readied for members to try over the weekend, and taking some photographs. Towards the end of the afternoon, I was pressed into service to take some photographs of an interview which Jack Yamaguchi was conducting with Dr Moulton – a most interesting discussion, even if it related to cars rather than bicycles!

After that Arthur Smith and John Auckland presented Dr Moulton with a couple of particularly interesting examples of early Moultons, for use in the forthcoming collection in the museum: by this time, the light was failing, and photography was becoming difficult, so excuse the quality of the photograph.  The availability of camping facilities at The Hall for the Friday night again proved popular, with a considerable number of ‘wigwams’ (as Dr Moulton refers to them) already on the lawn when I left at the end of the afternoon. Then it was back to my B&B, and an evening meal at The Beehive, before retiring to bed to get a good night’s sleep in preparation for the exertions of the weekend.

A very grey morning greeted me when I awoke, and the weather prospects were not promising, especially bearing in mind that this year’s sale of Moulton bicycles and parts on the Saturday morning was to be held in a field a few miles from The Hall, with no protection from bad weather (the lateness of arrangements this year meant that St Margaret’s Hall was not available). I was in two minds whether to go to the sale, as I’m not all that interested, I (fortunately?) can’t buy anything anyway as I couldn’t carry it on the bike, the weather did not look promising and I wasn’t too sure about finding the place. In the end I decided that I should go, if only to take some pictures, and I set off. It turned out to be quite a bit further than I expected, and had I not been passed by a local, who I was able to follow, I don’t think I would have found it. However, it was well worth the effort – the weather by now was superb, so the outdoor conditions were an advantage rather than a drawback, and a very good collection of parts, bicycles etc were on display.

Unusually, Dr Moulton himself attended the sale, and seemed to thoroughly enjoy himself. He is seen here talking to Graham McDermott.

After the sale, I had a pleasant ride back to Bradford on Avon in the sunshine with Peter Evans, on his electrically assisted APB (described in The Moultoneer issue 62), and Graham McDermott.

As usual, the gates of The Hall opened to visitors at 2:00pm on the Saturday afternoon, and in glorious, warm, sunshine, MBC members began to gather to chat, inspect one another’s bicycles, have test rides, or partake of refreshments. Although there were less organised activities than on some previous years, these did not seem to be missed, and the weather and the relaxed atmosphere made for a most enjoyable afternoon. Although Shaun Moulton and Dan Farrell had devised a treasure hunt around Bradford on Avon, regrettably it did not attract all that many participants – most people were enjoying relaxing around the grounds so much that they did not want to stir from there. Even without organised activities, there was lots to occupy people – the four Bridgestone Moultons (all pre-production models, one of them being a non-separable version), were a particular attraction; most people got to try riding them, and in addition printed copies of the test report from the web pages were also available for people to take away and read at leisure. Our picture shows Pat Strachan descending the drive at speed on one of the Bridgestone Moultons – obviously enjoying herself!

Although the Bridgestone Moultons may have been the most obvious new items on display, there were several other very interesting new developments, including a reincarnation of the older, larger diameter tubing, AM series in the form of an 18-speed model incorporating some features from the NS Pylon, including the rubber pivot joint for the rear suspension.

I heard that some people spotted an NS model fitted with a new Schwalbe tyre (I had heard rumours of such a development some weeks earlier), although I did not see it myself, and it would seem to have been a prototype tyre – we will let readers know if/when it becomes available. A more definite development for NS owners was the front rack, which is along the lines of Paul Lund’s Packhorse design, or the new APB front carrier – it uses panniers slung alongside the front of the frame. Special pannier bags to go with this rack were on display, and this looks a very interesting development – I can’t wait to get hold of one and try it out! It seems an effective and smart-looking system. With this, the possibility of an alternative tyre, and the considerably larger clearances between the tyres and mudguards on current production models than on the earliest examples, the NS is now becoming a very attractive option for those undertaking tours – in its original form, the NS had some potential shortcomings for this type of use, for which the AM series were perhaps more suitable.

Front carrier and pannier on a New Series

The evening dinner was, like last year, held in a marquee on the lawn – the marquee is also available to provide shelter should the weather turn bad in the afternoon, though fortunately this was not the case. The caterers provided good food and very efficient service, and with wine included, plus additional drinks which many brought along with them, it was a very convivial occasion. After the dinner, Chairman Aynsley Brown announced the setting up of a system of recognising the efforts of some of the people involved in the Moulton story and the Club’s activities, including Dr Moulton himself, Shaun Moulton, Jack Lauterwasser, Tony Hadland, Ian Hodgson, Nigel Sadler, and yes, even MFH! Aside from my obvious self-interest in approving of this, I do think it is an appropriate gesture recognising the huge amount of effort which many people have put into making the Moulton bicycle and the Club such a success. There was, however, one glaring omission from the list, namely Michael Woolf; I suspect the reason may have been associated with his continuing active involvement in the Club, and perhaps a role in promoting the idea, but I hope that the committee of the Club will see fit to ensure that he too receives the same recognition in the near future.

Dr Moulton’s talk was as always very interesting, and seemed to benefit from being perhaps more relaxed and informal than usual. The newest products were described, and Shaun Moulton and Dan Farrell were on hand to brandish them aloft for all to see!

After the wonderful weather of Friday and Saturday, it was perhaps inevitable, bearing in mind that the forecast for the weekend had not been all that good, that the weather took a turn for the worse. However, despite the fact that the roads were damp, and we did have some rain, conditions were not all that bad, and considerably better than we might have feared a few days before. The format and route was very similar to other recent years, with a family ride and a main ride, the latter having a longer option around the half way point of the outward stage. Despite the deterioration in the weather, there was a good turn out for the main ride, but only about 10 people opted for the longer loop. These included Moultoneer editor John Auckland, who had managed to get hold of the new 18-speed AM – so a report should be appearing in The Moultoneer soon!

As our picture shows, conditions were a bit damp for the ride this year!

Dr Moulton did not do the whole ride this year, but naturally joined us at the lunch stop.

The ride back after lunch was completed – by some of us – just in time to avoid heavier rain, though unfortunately some did get caught in it. More refreshments were available on our return, and then it was just a case of packing the bikes away, saying goodbye, and starting to look forward to next year’s event!

Although Monday’s weather was not as good as on Friday, it was not raining, so I chose to ride back along the towpath to Bath, and then along the cycle path to Bristol. When I arrived at Bristol Temple Meads station, I attempted to book the bike on the next Birmingham train, but was told that it was too late to book, and I would have to talk to the conductor on the train. Making my way to the platform, I found John Pinkerton there – he had taken the train from Bradford on Avon – so I was able to have some company on the way back. The bike went on the train without difficulty, and when I asked the conductor about paying, he said « Don’t bother » – a very satisfactory arrangement!

This has been a very enjoyable BoA Weekend – as usual (except when I was organising it!) – and I am sure I express the feelings of all those who were able to get there in extending my thanks to Dr Moulton, Shaun Moulton and all at Alex Moulton Bicycles, organiser Arthur Smith and all the others who contributed to the planning and running of the event.