Dr. Alex Moulton CBE of The Hall, Bradford on Avon, has died, aged 92. Active to the end, Dr Moulton was a suspension expert who worked on both cars and bicycles. In the 1950s he designed the suspension system on the small wheel Mini, and in the 1960s created the Moulton small wheel bicycle which benefitted from a new suspension system that was noted as the first major leap in bicycle development since the evolution of the Safety bicycle by JK Starley in the 1880s.
Dr Moulton’s small wheel, full-suspension bicycle was launched in November 1962 and quickly became a 1960s style icon.
"The Moulton bicycle was born out of my resolve to challenge and improve upon the classic bicycle, with its diamond frame and large wheels, which has locked bicycle design into that form since the pioneering work in England of Starley and others at the end of the 19th century," said Dr Moulton of his creation of his small wheel bicycle.
The great-grandson of the rubber pioneer Stephen Moulton – who had rubber factories in Bradford on Avon – Dr Moulton was educated at Marlborough and later at King’s College, Cambridge where he graduated in engineering.
During the Second World War he was employed in the Engine Research Department of the Bristol Aeroplane Company where for two years he was personal assistant to Sir Roy Fedden, the Chief Engineer.
After the War he joined the family rubber company, Spencer Moulton and Co., where he became technical director and established a research department specialising in rubber suspension systems for vehicles.
In the late 1950s the family business was sold to the Avon Rubber Co. and Dr. Moulton founded Moulton Developments to concentrate on creative design and suspension systems for vehicles. One of Moulton’s notable achievements from this period was the design, development and production of the suspension system for the Mini, designed by his friend Sir Alec Issigonis. The combination of conical rubber springs and small wheels was one of the many innovative developments which allowed Issigonis to achieve the Mini’s overall small size.
In 1956, inspired by his automotive developments and prompted by the oil shock caused by the Suez Crisis, Dr. Moulton started work on the small wheeled bicycle and eventually in 1962, at the Earls Court Cycle Show, the first Moulton Bicycle was launched.
In the late 1950s, Dr Moulton’s design ideas were at odds with the accepted norms of the cycle industry. His development activities extended to construction methods and, whilst many of these are commonplace nowadays, the large section tube, extensive use of pressings and lugless construction of the original Moulton bicycles were revolutionary in 1962.