Engineers are celebrating the centenary of a man who invented one of the world's most iconic bicycles.

The Moulton bike, famous for its small wheels, is still produced in Wiltshire nearly six decades after Dr Alex Moulton launched it at Earls Court Cycle and Motorcycle show

Alexander Eric Moulton CBE, FREng, who died in 2012, specialised in suspension design for vehicles including the innovative rubber cone suspension system for the original Issigonis Mini, and the later Hydrolastic and Hydragas interconnected systems on millions of British cars from 1959 to 2002.

Gareth Slater, volunteer steward at the Bradford on Avon Museum, said the machine became became as much an icon of the 1960s as the mini-skirt. “The standard bicycle was now out of date; riding a Moulton became a symbol of belonging to the new age, part of Harold Wilson’s ‘white heat of technology’, of Concorde and the high-speed train.”

After his early work on aero engines Dr Moulton worked on car suspension systems. Did the Mini’s small wheels suggest a fresh look at the bicycle? Small wheels with high pressure tyres gave less rolling resistance, but made for a rougher ride on a bumpy road, compensated in a car by good suspension.

So the new bicycle would have to be sprung. At the front, this required a long head tube to contain the spring; at the rear a pivoted fork acting against a rubber buffer. New types of steel tube made it possible to replace the traditional diamond frame with a radical new design, the ‘F’ frame.

It seems that Dr Moulton was surprised at the popularity of his bicycles and the surge in demand. He ordered that the new factory being built in the grounds of The Hall in Bradford on Avon should be doubled in size. A shop was opened in St Margaret’s Street. The Standard model cost £25 9s 6d, going up to £43 19s 6d for the Safari - more expensive than ordinary bicycles, but well worth it for those hooked on the new cycling fashion.

With frames being made by BMC at Kirkby (Liverpool) production surged to 1,000 a week with more being made abroad under licence.

Bicycle makers Raleigh countered in 1965 with their own small wheeler, cheaper than the Moulton but without the springing. Sales of the Moulton dropped and in 1967 the company was sold to Raleigh.

His new Mark III was made by Raleigh until it was dropped in 1974. Cycling went out of fashion as more people owned cars and in the early 1980s Alex bought back the rights from Raleigh.

The Moulton still had its enthusiasts and new more refined designs were developed and made in the workshops in the stables of The Hall, with a test track laid out in its garden.

New Moultons with their space frame construction, costing from £1,250 to £16,950, still have an enthusiastic following, especially in Japan.

The Bradford on Avon Museum’s website gives details of its openingtimes and events.