The Moulton Brooks ‘Earl Grey 1866’ is the result of Alex Moulton’s design philosophy pared down to its elemental purity – in effect a return to the ethos of the AM2 . The lightweight (3/8” tube) space-frame was originally developed for the world’s toughest bicycle race, the Race Across America. As well as being over twice as stiff as a conventional diamond frame, it can be separated into two parts in a matter of seconds to allow easy transportation by train, car or taxi. The two-speed automatic gear is ideal for the square mile, the city and the University town; a return to essential simplicity. In a similar vein, the grey finish is typical of the aesthetes mindset – judge by form, by comfort, by performance, but not by colour. It does, however, complement the Brooks Cambium saddle perfectly. After all, what better match for a bicycle designed and manufactured in the cradle of Europe’s rubber industry than the vulcanised rubber Cambium saddle?
Each Moulton Brooks ‘Earl Grey 1866’ bicycle is individually numbered. To commemorate 150 years of Brooks saddles, these numbers range from B 1866 to B 2016. Each will only be used once, so those of you who would like to choose a significant year, please order early (via moultonbicycles.co.uk or Brooks' B1866 Stores).
And why ‘Earl Grey’, you may ask? To be succinct, Wednesday afternoons working with Alex Moulton were punctuated by Digestive biscuits and Earl Grey tea. And whilst J B Brooks was making his first saddles, the Great Tea Race of 1866 was underway. Clipper ships, sharp-lined and built for speed, raced from China (principally Fuzhou) to England. The first cargo of Tea to arrive each season was the most valuable to merchants, and so the Captains were motivated by an extra 10 shillings per ton if they docked first. In a remarkable turn of events, three ships – the Taeping, the Ariel, and the Serica – all left Fuzhou on the same tide. 99 days and 14,000 miles later, they arrived on the river Thames in London on the same tide on the 6th September 1866. Taeping entered London Docks at 9.45 pm, half an hour before Ariel passed through the gates of East India Dock. It is a pleasant diversion to spin down from Brooks’ B1866 shop to Waterloo Bridge and along the Thames to Docklands. If you do so, honour those tea-bringing ships’ masters and crews by keeping up a good clip along the Embankment. The more energetic may wish to continue down the river to Greenwich where the Tea Clipper ‘Cutty Sark’ is preserved. Don’t forget to stop for tea.