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  1. #1
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    Anyone around during the Bike Boom of the 1970s? Tell me about your story!

    Does anyone have any stories or memories from the 1970 bike boom? If you could answer any of these questions I'd love to hear your ideas.

    What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?

    Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?

    Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
    Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?

    Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?

    Was the bike boom just a fad?

    Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?

    Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?

    Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?

    What prompted your interest in bikes?

    What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Retro Grouch's Avatar
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    My experience with cycling in the 60's and 70's was about as far from "elitist" as you could possibly imagine. Bicycling for transportation was big. Bicycling for recreation was big. There was a hippy element involved. Everything was super low key.

    There wasn't any real bicycle raceing where I lived in Ames, Iowa. There were a few bicycle racers, but they had to go somewhere else to race. Now that I think of it, maybe it was a little elitist. Michael (somebody) owned Michael's Bike Shop which eventually sponsored a national level raceing team. I tried to buy a Michael's cycling cap they not only wouldn't sell me one, but they were snotty about how they said it.

  3. #3
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    I experienced the 1970s bike boom as a graduate student at the Universitry of Washington in Seattle. I commuted daily from my house to my office.

    What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
    Utility. Typically, the nearest car parking places were far from the universities offices and classrooms.

    Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?
    It wasn't a sport -- it was transportation. People saw bikes as a sort of car. There were no communities. Recreational and sport cycling were vastly less well known than today.

    Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
    It was routine transportation. We didn't think of ourselves as cyclists - it was just how we got around the campus area. We took bikes for granted.

    Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?
    I recall thinking of the 10-speeds as a bad thing, because they were less convenient to use than normal bikes.

    Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
    People bought bikes because they were necessary appliances. They didn't give it much thought. Bikes were bikes.

    Was the bike boom just a fad?
    Yes.

    Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
    No

    Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
    I knew one person who raced, and it seemed very odd, sort of like competitive lawnmowing. Cycling was rarely considered a sport.

    Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
    No more than they were attracted to cars for that reason.

    What prompted your interest in bikes?
    Scarce and inconvenient parking

    What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
    Never had any interest in competitive cycling.

  4. #4
    A might bewildered... Dudelsack's Avatar
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    I couldn't afford a car until 1980.

    Cycling seemed noble.

    I bought a Puegeot AO8.

    Someone ripped it off.

    Thats it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member locolobo13's Avatar
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    What bike boom? I got my first bike as a tyke in the mid 60s. I loved the psuedo freedom it gave me. The freedom to go all over the neighborhood and beyond. "Psuedo" because my Mom gave me Heck for staying out too long.

    As a teen and 20something in the 70s the bike gave me another freedom. Freedom from car payments that a lot of my friends were going thru. Most of the kids I grew up with just HAD to have a car. "You can't get laid on a bike!" Yes they said exactly that to me. Not true but using Mom and Dad's vehicle for such purposes always had it's problems.

    As far as a sport? Never raced. To me the bicycle was a great, fun way to travel. Maybe there were elitist cyclists back then. If so I never met them.

    BTW: At that time the bike also gave me an unintentional benefit, fitness. Nowadays I ride at least partly to get fit. Back then, NAH!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Terex's Avatar
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    My wife and I rode for pure enjoyment. We didn't need to get fit. We were fit.

    Started in HS on hand-me-down beaters, bought 10 spds in college, bought a tandem when we graduated and got married, sold it immediately, and bought two really nice 10 spds. Then the kids arrived, and I didn't really ride much again until my youngest daughter was off to college. Did my first century in '76, and my next 30 years later.

    And escape from pressures of society? Seriously? Riding bikes was sexy.
    "It could be anything. Scrap booking, high-stakes poker, or the Santa Fe lifestyle. Just pick a dead-end and chill out 'till you die."

  7. #7
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    I have no clue about a bicycle boom in the 70's. I am definitely old enough to remember the 70's.

  8. #8
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    Three things seemed to lead to the boom. First, the "baby boomers" became young adults. Second, there was a gasoline crises about 1974. Third, the derailler became popular in America making the bicycle a serious means of transportation/sport.

  9. #9
    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by locolobo13 View Post
    What bike boom? I got my first bike as a tyke in the mid 60s. I loved the psuedo freedom it gave me. The freedom to go all over the neighborhood and beyond. "Psuedo" because my Mom gave me Heck for staying out too long.

    As a teen and 20something in the 70s the bike gave me another freedom. Freedom from car payments that a lot of my friends were going thru. Most of the kids I grew up with just HAD to have a car. "You can't get laid on a bike!" Yes they said exactly that to me. Not true but using Mom and Dad's vehicle for such purposes always had it's problems.

    As far as a sport? Never raced. To me the bicycle was a great, fun way to travel. Maybe there were elitist cyclists back then. If so I never met them.

    BTW: At that time the bike also gave me an unintentional benefit, fitness. Nowadays I ride at least partly to get fit. Back then, NAH!
    Pretty much the same story (except that I was a tyke in the late 50s). Had a bike as far back as I can remember. I remember my first solo ride without training wheels. My dad was "holding on" for me and when he felt I was balanced and wouldn't fall, he let go.

    I looked back and he was 200' behind me.

    My first adult bike was a nice little Motobecane Nomade that I got in the mid 70s. No urge to race, I just wanted a nice road/touring bike for vacations and such. Where I grew up--they weren't road or touring bikes--they were "10-speeds".

  10. #10
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    My sister bought a Raleigh Super Course in 1973. I think the main driver of the bike boom was technological, in that bikes that would get you somewhere in a reasonable length of time were now available. Before that, the only adult bikes any of us had seen were the 3 speed English utility bikes that inexplicably were called "English Racers".

    I didn't see any racing or anyone being particularly elitist. People just rode to ride, or to get somewhere. Hardly anyone had bike specific clothing. It wasn't like now where you see very average riders kitted up like they were pro team members.
    Only mad dogs, Englishmen, and triathletes go out in the mid day sun.

  11. #11
    Senior Member gcottay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cychologist View Post
    Three things seemed to lead to the boom. First, the "baby boomers" became young adults. Second, there was a gasoline crises about 1974. Third, the derailler became popular in America making the bicycle a serious means of transportation/sport.
    To those three I would add following the crowd.
    George
    Laissez les bon temps rouler

  12. #12
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    I was a "On Any Sunday" http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0067527/ guy during the 70s. 1971 Blue Honda CL350. The biking boom for me, was 2007.

  13. #13
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    I think cycling and running, which both boomed in the 70s, came about from individualistic attitides as well as caring about fitness. People wanted to be more self sufficient and take care of themselves. Cycling allowed both.
    You're just trying to start an argument to show how smart you are.

  14. #14
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    I hope this thread gets a lot of responses. I would appreciate it if people would also let us know where they were during the second bike boom of the '60s/'70s. I would like to know because I keep meeting people who grew up somewhere other than the coasts who totally missed this bike boom. I wonder if it was confined to the coasts and mostly skipped the south and midwest.

    What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
    In the Bay Area, it appeared to me to be a combination of the "ecology" movement and the fact that it was just plain superior as a means of transportation on roads that were becoming clogged with cars, at least in the '60s. After the Arab oil embargo, it was often just a cheaper means of getting from A to B.

    Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?
    There were small groups who rode together, but it was mostly an individual thing. (Unless you count Davis, CA, where we had thirty thousand bikes on the road every morning in a city of forty thousand. One couldn't avoid riding with a "community".)

    Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
    Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?

    Very few of the people I knew participated in races. In the East Bay, the derailleur definitely made a huge difference, not so much in the flatter Central Valley.

    Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
    Most folks on bikes were relatively young. Not many first-timers since almost every boomer child where I grew up used bikes from a very early age. (The roads were safe enough for children to ride on.) The boom was more about young people refusing to become car-bound than about people who were already car-bound making a change.

    Was the bike boom just a fad?
    Well, when the oil shocks ended and the boomers became more interested in their portfolios than the environment, the bike boom ended everywhere, including Davis. I'm not sure that makes it a fad. There were other factors in the demise of the second bike boom. Locks weren't up to the task, especially when thieves would just pull a flatbed truck up and swipe entire full bike racks in Berkeley, rack and all. Everyone had at least one bike stolen. Also, as the '80s progressed cars got bigger and traffic enforcement became underfunded, which made it more dangerous to ride.

    Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s? No.

    Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?

    Not really. Sure, there were a few folks who were full of themselves and their expensive bikes, but they were the exception rather than the rule. Considering that cyclists today have a nearly identical socio-economic profile to society at large and cyclists of the '60s/'70s were largely young people, it was less elitist then than it is now.

    Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
    Societal pressures in the '60s/'70s?
    You obviously weren't there.

    What prompted your interest in bikes?

    Initially, the transportation aspects. Later on, the environmental aspects. Since I never did get off the bike and become car-addicted, I guess my contrarian nature must have played a role somewhere.

    What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?

    Nothing did. I have done almost every type of riding, but I don't race in anything but the occasional informal time-trial. For me, riding is for joy, training, exhilaration, transportation, camaraderie, and transportation. My competitive urges are met elsewhere.

  15. #15
    George Krpan
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    I graduated from high school in Orange County, Southern California in 1971. There was no evidence of a bike boom there. Lots of interest in muscle cars and vans but not bicycles. I didn't know anyone who cycled, never saw a racing bike. Only kids rode bikes. I don't think I ever saw anyone ride a bike to junior high or high school. I can't recall ever seeing an adult riding a bike. I have a vague reminiscence of a moped and beach cruiser boom in the beach cities only. Surfers used to tow their boards on homemade trailers with beach cruisers. I don't recall any bike shops although a high school friend recently told me that his dad had owned one not far from where I lived.

  16. #16
    Erect member since 1953 cccorlew's Avatar
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    ccc diablo 1975 or so by ccorlew, on Flickr

    I bought a bike to ride to college. My friend was into riding and got me hooked. This photo is mid-seventies, on my first ride to the top of Mt. Diablo.

    I grew up on a Sting Ray knockoff, and riding was just plain fun.
    WANTED: Not a darn thing. I've got it all. Life is good.
    Website at curtis.corlew.com —— Bicycle blog at ccorlew.blogspot.com

  17. #17
    Senior Member Mobile 155's Avatar
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    “What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?”

    People and the nation had started to move away from the powerful cars of the 60s for one thing. But there was starting to be a social pressure to move away from big block cars to something different. The new econo-boxes simply didn’t get peoples heart pumping like the cars of the 60s did and Bicycles simply seemed like a good alternative. Plus Schwinn was still considered a good bike. They sold a boatload of those old Varsities and while heavy they were dependable. I rode one to work for about two years.

    “Was cycling, in the 1970s, an individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?”

    Like some said college students seemed more than happy to ride a bike, but so did High School students. And back then parents didn’t like to pay for your car insurance or your gas. And entry level jobs only paid about $1.50 an hour.
    In my area the jobs moved to industrial parks in the Suburbs where many young workers could easily reach a job by bike. It wasn’t as much a sport as a form of transportation.

    “Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?”

    We didn’t see than many people racing. There were some but they seemed strange with bike names most people didn’t know and strange tires with something called Sew-ups. They were a minority. But I did know a few and they were good people as well.

    “Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?”

    The Derailleur extended the range and made riding up a hill possible. It was like having a 4 speed on the floor in a car. All of the big stores sold Ten Speeds, Sears, Wards, Western Auto. Schwinn, Kent, Huffy all had reasonable priced bikes and you could buy bike parts at most auto parts stores.

    “Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better? “


    I think it was a mixture of both. Not many parents had a bicycle and most kids had heavy balloon tired bikes. But for some reason adults decided to get bicycles. One ride on a ten speed was like driving a sports car compared to the Station wagon feel of the old single speed cruisers many were used to.

    “Was the bike boom just a fad?”

    Not so much a fad as a trend that came to an end because of changing times. People started to make more money. People started to move in larger numbers to the Suburbs and so had more distance to cover to get to work. People started to make more money so buying that, “commuter” car was easier. In my state there was a big freeway building program so here you could afford to work up to 60 miles from where you lived. And bike racks started to vanish from in front of every store. In the 70s just about everyone from the burger shop to the bank had a bike rack.

    “Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?”

    I used to drive a truck delivering carpet and I rode my Varsity to works every day. No place to park my car where I worked, there was no0 mandate for parking in those days. I would see another rider on a Kent about once a week. Every now and then we would get into an impromptu race. Sometimes he would win sometimes I would. Then one day I got my hand on a Schwinn Continental and when I pulled up next to him at a light he refused to race because he thought the Continental was much faster than the Varsity. The truth was it was almost the same bike with different paint. I didn’t get a real “race bike” till the 80s. I still wasn’t that fast.

    “Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?”

    No, whole families would ride on the weekends, go to the parks or the beach have a Bar-B-Que and ride bikes.

    “Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?”

    No, people seemed less concerned with what society thought and were just trying to make a better life for their families. Cycling was just something people could afford to do and do as a family.

    “What prompted your interest in bikes?”

    Depends on what decade you are talking about.


    “What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?”

    Some of the people in this forum.
    Last edited by Mobile 155; 05-22-12 at 01:07 AM.
    Life is like riding a bicycle - in order to keep your balance, you must keep moving. ~Albert Einstein.

  18. #18
    Time for a change. stapfam's Avatar
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    Running in the 60's and into the 70's- Bikes cost money and I didn't have any. But to be honest- the 60's were a long time ago. Early part I was riding but then the Marines- then a car and marriage and mortgage and family and still no money. Took till 1990 before I decided to try cycling as a form of retaining the fitness I still had.
    How long was I in the army? Five foot seven.


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  19. #19
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    There was no racing where I grew up in Illinois. I was working in an office in the evenings and taking college classes in the daytime. I started to get a break from the totally sedentary lifestyle-going from bed to car, from car to class, from class to car, car to office etc. It was the only way I could get some activity into the schedule. I never stopped.

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  20. #20
    Senior Member
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    I don't remember much of a bike boom in the 70's. At that time, I was living in the woods of New Hampshire and pretty much out of the realm of popular culture. Running was the real boom for me back then. 10-speeds had just come in. They were sporty but hairy machines. The stock components on most affordable models were pretty bad and they were always going out of wack so you had to have a working knowledge of bike mechanics or you weren't going to ride for long. You rode because you had to and I rode my share of long hilly rides because I lived in the country and couldn't afford a car. There was nothing like cycling jerseys or shoes and helmets were rare. The whole scene with four figure bikes, and clubs and bike fashion was unimaginable then. Put on a pair of shorts or jeans and a pair of sneakers and head out the door.
    Last edited by GeezerPete; 05-22-12 at 09:52 AM. Reason: typo

  21. #21
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I can only speak for myself. I can guess about other people but I don't really know.


    What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
    I was always a bike nut. My dad was a bike nut and commuted via 10-speed in the mid-60's. I had a 3-speed Raleigh growing up, but it got stolen in junior high. I borrowed Dad's bike occasionally after that. In 1973 I went back to college and my parents bought me a used Raleigh Gran Prix for my birthday. I rode that bike for decades.

    Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?
    For me it was mostly individualistic. I'd occasionally go on rides with other people. There were no centuries or fondos back then - not that I was aware of.

    Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
    I don't know. I watched a local criterium every year so some people were racing. Not me. I rode for transportation, fitness, and recreation.

    Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?
    I think it did. I remember the 10-speed being a fad. People from that era still refer to road bikes as "10-speeds."

    Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
    I was upgrading. As for others, who knows?

    Was the bike boom just a fad?
    It was a fad, but not just. It was also a movement, and a continuation of something that had started decades.

    Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
    I've never raced.

    Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
    I'd say just the opposite. It was a "people's" sport. (Power to the people, right on!)

    Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
    Maybe a little, but not much.

    What prompted your interest in bikes?
    My family were cyclists. Sunday afternoons in good weather we would ride around Green Lake in Seattle as a family. My dad was a big bike nut so I sort of inherited it. I liked bikes because they are fun, economical, good for both physical and mental health, and an excellent mode of transportatioin.

    What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
    I've never been interested in competitive cycling, except to watch others compete. Greg Lemond got me interested in the Tour de France.

  22. #22
    Have bike, will travel Barrettscv's Avatar
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    At the age of 15, I graduated from cutting lawns to start my first real job at George Garner Cyclery in Northbrook, IL. George Garner Cyclery was a performance oriented shop with a large volume of racing bikes sold.

    Northbrook has a Velodrome. A wide range of competition fixies, road bikes and touring bikes were always available to demo. I worked with frame builders & racers including Ron Boi. It was demanding but fun, I was very lucky to be there.

    I spent 80% of my summer & weekend income on a Road Race Paramount bicycle. Fully lugged, top of the line Reynolds tubing, Full Campagnolo Neovo Record group, wood filled tubular rims.

    New in 1972, I had the bike rebuild at the Chicago factory in 1983. It has been lightly used since. I kept the bike for almost 40 years, but sold it a year ago for $1200.00. My other bikes are more practical and fit well, so I only miss the aesthetics and craftsmanship of the vintage bike.















    Last edited by Barrettscv; 05-22-12 at 06:42 AM.
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  23. #23
    What??? Only 2 wheels? jimmuller's Avatar
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    About the "10-speed derailleur bike" question, when I first though about buying a 10-speed my dad told me a bike shop employee had told him they were just a fad, that nobody really needed them. But I'd been up and down hills enough to know that a SA 3-speed hub wasn't enough gearing. I was 23y.o. when I bought the UO8 and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven when it came to gearing, except that on the steepest hills I still wished for lower gears, and I still never need the highest. A lot of first-time cyclist back then never got the hang of shifting, which is perhaps one reason they didn't keep riding. But once you learned, it was the ticket to going fast.
    Real cyclists use toe clips.
    jimmuller

  24. #24
    Senior Member volosong's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barrettscv View Post
    ...I kept the bike for almost 40 years, but sold it a year ago for $1200.00...

    That's one awesome Paramount. One of the best of the best, in its day. Every bit as good as anything out of Europe. I can't believe that you sold it! I remember lusting over those many, many times at my local bike shop.

    For the OP...

    Looks like you're doing a research project.

    Bike boom???

    Didn't know there was a bike boom. (Grew up in the Los Angeles area.) Since the mid-late sixties, bicycles were my transportation since my parents would not let me have a driver's license and they didn't haul us around like parents do for their kids these days. If I wanted to get anywhere, it was either walk or ride my bike. I was fortunate to live about two blocks away from a very highly respected, (at that time), pro bike shop. They sponsored a really hard-core cycling club, but I never joined because as said, my bike was my main mode of transportation. Cannot remember anyone else my age who cycled as much as I did. Surely there were. Did race once. Got third place, and a nice little medal, in a public race at Griffith Park in Los Angeles that was put on as part of a USAC racing event.

    Spent the early 70's in Viet-Nam, then the mid-late 70's in school and establishing my career. By that time, a motorcycle and auto were my main transportation. I still rode for fitness and recreation, but was unaware of any "cycling boom". Sounds like your definition of a cycling boom corresponded to the tennis boom. A time when the tennis courts were fulled to overflowing and finding a free court was next to impossible. It was just part of the baby-boom fitness mentality. It's just what we did and who we were.

    Then we started becoming workaholics and started having kids. We didn't have time for physical endeavors anymore and got most of our exercise mowing our lawns or playing softball on weekends. We got fat, dumb, and happy. Now, our kids are grown, we make enough money to pay a gardener to take care of our grass, and a large percentage of us have let ourselves go to the point where obesity and adult-onset diabetes is a major national health concern. We hear about high school classmates who won't be attending any future reunions because they have passed on and we are scared about our own mortality. That has woken some of us and we now have returned to cycling for health and fitness. We remember the freedom and joy that cycling provided in our youth and embrace those feelings today. We cycle because it feels good and makes us youthful again.

    p.s. Still have that bike from the early 70's. A Super Mondia with Nuovo Record. I think that I had the first compact crankset. My chainrings are 47-42 and the rear cluster (we called them "clusters", not "cassettes" - cassettes were those little plastic things what we put music from the radio onto) is a 14-34 with rings that meant I had to shift the front derailleur at every shift. We made our own gearing in those days.
    Last edited by volosong; 05-22-12 at 07:37 AM.
    Deut 6:5

    ---

    "Ha ha! You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is 'never get involved in a land war in Asia'".
    - Vizzini during his "battle of wits" with the Man in Black

  25. #25
    Senior Member donheff's Avatar
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    I remember a bike boom in the early 70s. I picked up a used Raliegh 10 speed cheap because the derailleur was damaged in an accident. As I got a bit into riding and discovered how many bikes were being stolen I concluded my bike was probably stolen and sold to me. In any event, I liked the bike and kept it until I moved to DC in 1980. By that time I wasn't riding much and assumed the bike wasn't worth much so I left it with a friend. If I recall correctly it had lugged steel tubes so it probably was a better bike than I knew. Wish I still had it. Most of the boom as I remember it consisted of 20 somethings riding for recreation and transportation. No racing, no spandex, no peletons.
    Every man is, or hopes to be, an Idler. -- Samuel Johnson

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