Restoring a Moulton M5 Stowaway


  One of the bikes that had a great impact on the bicycle industry, but that hardly can be found in the Netherlands, is the Moulton. It's a design by the famous Brittish engineer sir Alex Moulton.

The Moulton was the forerunner in a group of "mini-bikes" or "unisex-bikes", in the 1960s and 1970s. Though the Moulton M5 Stowaway is not a folding bike (just separable), the design has contributed a lot to the concept of "the folding bike" in a broad sense, of a small bike which can be used with other forms of transportation.

   In April 2009 I bought a Stowaway from Series 1 (made in 1964) on 'Marktplaats'  (marketplace), a dutch auctionsite owned by E-bay (see FIG.1a and FIG.1b) ; this design is called the "F-frame". The sticker "Motorhuis Maasland, Den Haag", and the partly white rear-fender, show it's a Dutch import from that era. For a 45 years old bike, it was in good shape without too much rust ; everything was original, but the tail-light was damaged (brittle plastic) and the bell and pump were missing. The Moulton head-badge, shown in small photo FIG.1b at top right.


      MOULTON SERIES 1 & 2  

             FIG.2  The M0 / M6 Moulton models of Series 1 & 2 with information about parts .      


     During the early design phase (in the 1950s) it was planned that Raleigh would do the production of the Moulton, but the large conservative firm backed off, around 1960. The marketing-experts of Raleigh thought that the public would not accept such a novel construction.

  So Alex Moulton took the production in his own hands in 1962 ; they had a few workshops in Bradford-on-Avon, where Mr Moulton was located. Most of the production was done in a factory in Kirkby, near Liverpool. This used to be a BMC car factory. In Bradford-on-Avon skilled mechanics were building bicycles, but in Kirkby unskilled labourers were putting bikes together. The labourers would hardly use grease when working, because they didn't want dirty hands. The frame number showed that it was a Kirkby bike ; mostly the numbers had 6 digits, and sometimes there was a letter "K" in front of the number, you can find something like "K65" (= Kirkby 1965) on the side of the seat tube ; sometimes the K is missing. Bikes made in Bradford-on-Avon have longer numbers.

  Because the small wheels fall into any pothole, the Moulton had a front and a rear suspension. The wheels of Series 1 were 16 inch, (in ETRTO size 37 x 349). In combination with high pressure Dunlop tyres, it was a light and comfortable ride. But the bikes were more expensive than the cheap clunker bikes that dominated the market (such as those made by Raleigh).

  The wheelbase of the Moulton was almost the same as that of a standard bicycle, and so was its behaviour on the road. The step-through frame made the model suitable for both genders. The success led to many imitations. Lots of factories started to market these modern "Unisex bikes" ; they discarded the expensive Moulton suspension design, and used wide low pressure tyres. The rolling resistance of most of these bikes was gigantic, and the “mini-bike-hype” soon was over. Large Dutch factories ; like Batavus, Gazelle, and Magneet, marketed a clone of the F-frame Moulton.

  Moulton produced tens of thousands bikes ; so it was a successful design, but it didn't bring about the change in the bike-industry, that its designer had aimed for. That was because hundreds of thousands of inferior clones cast their shadow over the original. After the hype, everybody was convinced again that small wheels ran heavy, though the Moulton had shown that wasn't necessarily the case. But there were a few problems with the design and the production quality, of the Moulton of Series 1. A batch of front-forks built by a contractor, (between November 1963, and July 1964), was recalled because of bad brazing work. An old bike from the Kirkby production line is often rusty because of the lack of grease, and nasty during restoration                                


 THE MOULTON SERIES 2  (1965 TO 1967)

  The Series 2 models (from 1965 and later) had slightly bigger wheels ; in general the quality was better, but they were even more expensive. A small number of bikes of Series 2 were built in Bradford-on-Avon, with extra light parts. These were known as the "S-range", and by pre-order they could be fully chromed.For children they introduced a "Mini" model ; scaled down to 7/8 (88 %) with 14 inch wheels (14/16 = 7/8 = 88 %).  Alas the Moulton market had peaked, and was over the top by that time.


FIG.2a The Moulton S racer.


The Moulton Speed M6 was a racing version that has been ridden by pro cyclists like Tommy Simpson in the sixties. There were track and road models. It  could be fitted with small tubular tires, and standard racing parts of those days.


But of course it was not UCI approved, so it never was used in the TdF. Local "non UCI" records, like "London-Brighton" were for a long time held by this bike.




   In 1967 Raleigh took over the Moulton, and the new Moulton Mark 3 became a Raleigh product. In FIG.3 we see developments at Raleigh. To save costs in the production of the Mini, the front suspension was discarded, to the dismay of the designer. It proved to be a wrong choice; many Mini bikes cracked at the head tube!

   The Mini De Luxe was a model for smaller women, and the Minx replaced the Standard model. The top of the line was the Mark 3, with an innovative new triangulated rear-fork suspension design. The new Mini had been given the same name as the popular British small car of that era, so presumably Raleigh had chosen the name to try cash-in on the cachet of the fashionable small car.  In 1974 (after 7 years) Raleigh stopped making the Moulton series.



  For a 45 years old bike, the M5 was in good shape ; everything was original, but the tail-light was damaged (brittle plastic) and the bell and pump were missing. The frame number is 64130003 (Bradford-on-Avon 1964 - week 13 - third bike = 64 13 0003). Week 13 was at the end of March 1964, and being the third bike, meant it was probably made on Monday 23rd March 1964, probably in the morning ?


  I checked the front-forks, because this was from the period that had quality problems. I also took the headset bearings apart ; there were some damaged balls but the bearing races were fine, and that's a good thing, because it is hard to find replacements ; it is not a standard bearing ; the lower-race is far larger. The front suspension still works good ; everything is well greased. The cotter-pin in the right crank was very hard to remove ; the bearing races of the front hub were damaged, probably it was tightened too much. The quality of the paint in general was poor.


  The 1964 Dutch importer, had omitted the front brake (not legally required in Holland), but I will mount a new side pull brake, because I think it is safer. The Perry rear coaster brake will be replaced by a F&S Duomatic hub, (which was often used in the Stowaways). So the bike will not be restored to the original factory equipment. We can discuss about it, but the bike will be a classic, that I use for riding, not a museum piece only to be put into storage. I will use old parts though, it could have been riding around like that in 1964.


  There will be a new saddle post without rust, and a British Brooks B17 leather saddle, from the early sixties (like on the Moulton Safari M3) ; I will use a longer stem and straight aluminium handlebars (like on the Moulton Speed M4). The original front wheel lock won't frighten thieves in Holland, so I will not be using it, after re-spraying the bike ; the same with the original lighting system. The Dunlop tyres will also be replaced ; I think they were still original. Schwalbe makes this size, but it is very uncommon in Holland, and difficult to find.

  On the website of the Moultoneers ( ) there are guidelines for dismantling the front and rear suspension (see: "Tech Topics").

  The rear-fork of Series 1, can develop cracks over the years. I will strengthen mine by brazing steel strips, and fitting a reinforcement under it, like recommended on the Moultoneers website.


  Two strips of steel (3-4mm thick) strengthen the pivotholes. The third strip should have improved the sideways stiffness, being mounted under the fork. But Moultoneers craftsmen claim, that this could be better improved by brazing a box underneath.

  So I chose 2 50mm pieces of T-profile 20mm , carefully filed smooth and fitting, and brazed them under the fork. After priming (see FIG.6b), I re-sprayed it in a darker shade of blue, and built the bike up again (FIG.7b).


My M5 bike was little used, and in reasonable shape. Whoever starts with a scrapheap bike, will have more work to do. This bike has many unique features, the Moultoneers club can provide information, support and parts. If you want to ride a Moulton, you should join the club. You get access to the English market of Moultons; there is none in the Netherlands. If you import Moultons from England, they are not that expensive, sometimes even free ; if the English say, it needs "TLC" (tender loving care), this usually means that it is very rusty !


  There is even a club that acts as "saviours of British heritage", they collect Moulton wrecks and parts, and sell them for a small fee : Moulton Recycling (of course for restoring). All restorations are acts of love ; you should not think in hourly wages, when you start to rebuild an old bicycle.






  When buying Moulton in 1967, Raleigh also bought the rights to the trademarks of Moulton. Years later, when Raleigh had stopped the production (in 1974 after 7 years), Alex Moulton bought back the rights to the trademarks.

  He started selling again in 1983, on a small scale, with a new production line of his own in Bradford-on-Avon : with the Moulton 'AM-series'. These had an unusual new frame design : the "Space-frame" ; made from many high quality lightweight steel tubes brazed together, in a complex and unique structural design (these bikes were expensive, costing as much as a top racing bike).



  After the AM, came the 'APB-series', in 1992, built by the British company Pashley, (located in Stratford-upon-Avon, near to Moulton) ; these were produced in larger numbers, and were more affordable than the AMs. The models included an MTB version, with wide fat tyres, for off-road use. Nowadays they are continued as the 'TSR-series'.

  The newest high-tech models from Moulton (1998 and later), are called 'New-series' (NS) and are very exclusive, and expensive !  Some of the modern Moultons are fitted with 20" wheels, for a smoother and more comfortable ride.  Alex Moulton even developed a prototype named the 'MDev 90', (when he was 90 years old), this featured a new frame design, with some parts made of carbon fibre. The MDev 90 has not yet been put into production, Alex Moulton was considering licencing the design to another company.





In 2000, Alex Moulton made a design for the big Japanese firm Bridgestone, that looked a lot like the original F-frame, that he first designed more than 50 years earlier, way back in the 1950s. With this bike he made his own retro style model (see FIG.8).

It was made from lightweight aluminium alloy, (and not steel), and fitted with derailleur gears. (Notice ; the front-fork hinged suspension brace, fitted above the front wheel).  So the Bridgestone Moulton differs from the original Moultons in several important ways; the tyres are 17" (not 16"). In fact all the main parts of the Bridgestone Moulton are made from non-rusting aluminium, and not from steel, as the original Standard Moultons were, in the 1960s.

  In style-conscious Japan, the original British vintage Moultons are cult bikes, and can be expensive to buy second hand

Certainly the Moulton M6 and S-range models are sought after.

FIG.8b  The Moulton  book of Tony Hadland 

 information on the Internet:

 Moultonriders of the world unite:  

 Tony Hadland, Moultoncollector and writer of the book " the Moulton Bicycle": 

 The website of the current Moulton models:    

 Photo's of Moultons : en 

 Moulton Recycling :  Unwanted/ Unsaleable Moultons accepted & available at Moulton Preservation; nonprofit prices.  Clive Fletcher, 11 Buckland Lane, Maidstone,  Kent ME16 OBJ    or   Andy Scaife, 9 Suffolk House, Lowther Terrace, York Y024 4AQ