Moulton Bicycle’s AM range is held in high regard among the members of the small-wheeled fraternity due to its classic styling, excellent craftsmanship and all-round balance of performance and durability. But the Moulton AM18 has just been knocked from the lofty perch it has enjoyed for so many years by this new offering, the Esprit.
Esprit means liveliness of mind or spirit, and it’s a very apt name for the new bike, as you find out once you sling a leg over it and take it for a spin. There is a sense of refinement and urgency that mixes together to make a bike with a character that surpasses every other Moulton we’ve ridden, aside from the outstanding Twin Pylon.
The non-separable type tested here is partnered by a separable version. The front and rear of that bike’s frame can be separated into two halves by removing a pin running across the frame and a nut at the bottom – both located in the centre of the main frame spar section.
Ride & handling: in safe hands
The new Esprit gives a spirited and yet controlled ride. The steering and stability manages to keep up with the high standards of every other Moulton, and in some respects the frame seems to track better, offering more stability over very rough road at higher speeds.
It handles like a 700c bike, which is a trait of all Moulton bicycles and part of the reason they are so successful. The rubber suspension system at the back is clearly able to react a little faster to bump forces than the Hydrolastic version, but this comes at the expense of it being a little less controlled.
For lighter riders who enjoy staying smooth on the bike this isn’t a problem – and could be seen as a benefit in experienced hands. But stick a heavier rider on with some luggage and things do start to feel a little on the wayward side. Only then is it apparent how much the Hydrolastic system contributes to controlling the movement of the rear suspension.
This is still a wonderful bike to ride, though, and typical of all Moultons it’s a fantastic example of just how well a small-wheeled bicycle can be engineered to perform.
Too many people see Moultons simply as folding city bikes for short journeys between the car and the train station or office, without looking at the performance potential of the smaller wheels.
The Esprit is a fine addition to the range, and at the lower price point it also presents a chance to pay sensible money for a great piece of British craftsmanship. Moulton has led the way along the path of small-wheel bikes for decades and thankfully continues to do so today.
Frame: new to its class
As it sits in the current Moulton range, the Esprit might look like a revamped AM series frame, but it’s too different in too many ways to be a simple brushing over with a magic redesign wand.
For starters the frame is wider – and thus a little stiffer – in places than previous AM series frames, but the Kasei tubing is smaller diameter (though still not as small as a stainless Moulton).
The top-tubes wrap around the head-tube and the seat-tube (as seen on the APB and Pashley TSR). The rear suspension is a traditional single pivot design and not a unified rear triangle – the bottom bracket is part of the sprung chassis, not part of the swingarm. There’s a new fork geometry and tapered tubing, with a straight down-tube on the non-separable version.
The rear suspension spring and damper medium is a less complex rubber unit than the Hydrolastic fluid-damped unit used on other Moultons. It has a non-Flexitor swingarm pivot, and there’s a list of other smaller changes to keep keen Moultoneers interested.
The Esprit then is a full rubber suspension Moulton with a single pivot rear end and classic Moulton style forks. It’s available in separable and non-separable formats for less money than an AM18, but costing more than a Pashley TSR of similar spec. It’s also lighter than the AM18 and the TSR at 10.75kg, and comes in two versions with either drop bars and a double chainring set-up, or Mosquito bars as seen here with a single ring set-up.