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What brands went belly up when the USA's bike boom busted in the 70's?

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What brands went belly up when the USA's bike boom busted in the 70's?

Old 07-25-16, 09:48 PM
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What brands went belly up when the USA's bike boom busted in the 70's?

I was reading retrogrouche's blog piece on the US 1960's-70's bike boom. He states that many of startups that took advantage of boom years of the early 70's, found themselves with tons of unsold bikes in 1975, and went belly up... I was wondering if anyone could recall any specific brands that seemed to pooter out then?
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Old 07-25-16, 10:09 PM
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There was a noticeable slackening in 1974-75 in California where I am located.

Many of the folks who got in with too little too late found themselves in difficulty. They had entered thinking the boom would go on and would bootstrap them to solvency and even success.

The big shakeout year for retailers here was 1977 with lots of bike shop going out of business sales. Can recall attending two or three of these. Most of the closures were boom startups as opposed to shops of long standing which had a thorough familiarity with the trade.
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Old 07-25-16, 11:08 PM
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I can name a few, Huffy, Murry, Ross, Schwinn. I think AMF and I think Kent used to be US made.
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Old 07-26-16, 12:26 AM
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The US Bike Boom came to a screeching halt by the end of summer 1974!

Between 1970 and 1974 there were a lot of people who got into the bike importing business hoping to make a fast buck! Almost all of them went belly up!

At the peak of the boom there were maybe 50-70 brands of imported "10 Speed Racing Bikes"! Quite a few were private labeled brands (from both Europe and Japan).

By 1975 the main European players in the US market were Peugeot, Raleigh and Motobecane. Gitane Pacific took over importing Gitanes from Mel Pinto in 1974. From my experience with them they were a group of Southern California folks hoping to cash in on the boom. They didn't have a clue about the light weight bicycle business.

There were also 5-6 Japanese brands that continued on but the US market was changing. The demand for imported sub $100 gas pipe bikes had topped out and many purchases after that were for upmarket bikes (cheap department store bike sales continued on for a few more years).

The majority of boom era bikes were bought by or for high school or college students. Those who continued riding their bikes 3-4 years on were looking for a little better quality model. Mid range bikes became the target market - $150-$200 was the sweet spot.

The cosmetics and componentry on most of the Japanese made bikes far surpassed the entry level European brands which was the death knell for most of those bikes in the US market.

By early 1975 there was a shortage of lower priced European made bikes available in the US. The big 3 - Peugeot, Raleigh and Motobecane had established dealer networks, many of whom survived the bike boom crash so they didn't have a supply problem.

We sold Gitane as our entry level bikes up through 1974. When Gitane Pacific took over distribution, they priced their European made Gitanes WAY out of the market. They imported some CHEAP Japanese and even cheaper Taiwanese made bikes to fill the gap.

In early 1975 we went to Cycles Andre Bertin in France and placed an order for a container load of mostly lower priced models. They arrived in mid summer just in time for the back to school rush!

Our company/shop imported Bertins until the early 80's.

Between 1975 and 1977 we still ran into supply problems between Bertin shipments. We scoured the US looking for left over European (mostly French made) bike boom inventory.

We were able to find quite a few old stock bikes at closeout prices: Stella, Torpado, Zeus, Liberia and so one. We even found a bunch of Motobecane Noblys! We even bought out the some of remaining Gitane inventory when Gitane pacific rolled over in 1977!

Except for Fuji, prior to 1976-77, most Japanese made bikes were poorly designed! They were made to the specs of the US importers who didn't have a clue about bike ride or handling! The frame geometry was bad plus they they used heavy gage tubing which made for clunky riding bikes!

These was no light weight sporting bike tradition in Japan! Most Japanese rode 19"-21" 50 Lb. single speed, rod brake clunkers. There were very few people in Japan who could ride larger frames so they had no experience building those bikes!

Example, someone brought in a new ~1974 top end Centurion that their parents shipped to them from out of state. We assembled in and were astonished by how heavy the bike was! It was a 58cm with a chrome-moly steel frame and all alloy components. The bike weighed in at over 32 Lbs. The Frame was made with HEAVY gage tubing plus the top tube was only about 54cm C-C. The angle were all wrong too. It rode like a tank and handled like a wheelbarrow!

By 1977 most of the Japanese bike importers had the frames made to specs devised by people in the US who knew something about light weight bikes.... But this is getting off of the subject of bike brands that disappeared after the demise of the bike boom.

BTW, entry level bikes were never more than about 40% of our business. Most of our sales were in the $150-$250 range,

verktyg

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Old 07-26-16, 05:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Mobile 155 View Post
I can name a few, Huffy, Murry, Ross, Schwinn. I think AMF and I think Kent used to be US made.
Huffy is the cycling cockroach that survived the thermonuclear war.
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Old 07-26-16, 05:27 AM
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Originally Posted by OldsCOOL View Post
Huffy is the cycling cockroach that survived the thermonuclear war.
Then they got involved with the resurrected Raleigh name in the 80's, and had some really nice bikes. They had already brought in re-branded Raleigh 3-speeds (the Sportsman) in the 60's, though.
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Old 07-26-16, 05:37 AM
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By the mid 80s, it was the ramping strength of the JY that created the resurgence of the fledgling cottage US bike industry.
Specialized, Trek, Ritchey, et.al. could out-compete with exchange rate and import duties against Fuji, Vista, and Bridgestone.
It also drove the Japanese to Taiwan manufacturing, which turned out to be a good thing in the long-run for the quality of frames and components manufactured there today.

I'm not sure the bike boom ever died, but understand there were big changes and a glut of old models in the mid-70s
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Old 07-26-16, 06:00 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
By the mid 80s...

I'm not sure the bike boom ever died, but understand there were big changes and a glut of old models in the mid-70s
The mid 80s had some of the best production bikes..IMHO. Definitely big changes..for the better.. in the mid-seventies. Forget the three-speeds, lower-end ten-speed road bikes were starting to use more lightweight alloy components. Forget cottered steel crank sets, steel rims, steel brake calipers, etc. The Fuji Special Road Racer (S-10-S) is probably a good example of the way things were evolving. Take a look at the specs in the catalogs, which go back to 1971, posted on the Classic Fuji website. It kind of says it all. Both informative and fun to look through.

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Old 07-26-16, 06:12 AM
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Japanese bikes and Japanese components ran past the Europeans in the late 70s. Motobecane was using SunTour on their higher grade sport touring bikes in '71 but it took Raleigh to '77 to put these on their food group models (GP and Super Course). By then it was too late and the snob factor of European over Japanese totally evaporated. Shimano got a big prestige jump when 600 was used on Italian racing bikes.
Campagnolo will always be the benchmark for racing bikes, and Sachs survived by eventually moving to Taiwan.
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Old 07-26-16, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
Japanese bikes and Japanese components ran past the Europeans in the late 70s. Motobecane was using SunTour on their higher grade sport touring bikes in '71 but it took Raleigh to '77 to put these on their food group models (GP and Super Course). By then it was too late and the snob factor of European over Japanese totally evaporated. Shimano got a big prestige jump when 600 was used on Italian racing bikes.
Campagnolo will always be the benchmark for racing bikes, and Sachs survived by eventually moving to Taiwan.
True. As Chas. observed and I experienced with a 1971 American Eagle (Nishiki) Semi-Pro (Competition), Japanese frame development lagged behind Japanese component development. The Japanese were not exporting world class frames to the US until well into the 1970s, but the SunTour slant planograph, patented in the very late 1960s, was a winner from day one. Most of the other Japanese components, such as DiaCompe centerpull brakes, Sugino Mighty Compe cranksets, Kuokoto Pro Ace pedals, and Sunshine (Sanshin) hubs, were copies of popular and well-regarded European components, although Sugino came out with a few innovations, such as the Mighty Victory outer-specific chainring. The Japanese learned quickly and kept innovating, eventually leaving the more conservative European firms behind.
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Old 07-26-16, 07:08 AM
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Suntour patent was 1964. Suntour made a marketing mistake, trying to sell themselves as bargain rather than prestige.
After '84 everyone began copying their RD design (Campy in '91)

I still have my KKT Pro VicII pedals functioning perfectly after 25,000 mi.
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Old 07-26-16, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg View Post
The US Bike Boom came to a screeching halt by the end of summer 1974!
A good summary, and nice to hear from someone else who was "in the business" back when.

Schwinn opened the door to a world wide supply chain by specing & importing "World" and then "Schwinn Approved" models from Panasonic in Japan in the '70's.
Properly designed for our customers they were a great value, attractive in a contemporary style, properly packed for international shipment and high quality.

The Euro-models were dowdy, under-spec'd and a bit shoddy in comparison.
It was the death knell for the Euro industry with it's antiquated mfg facilites, labor unrest and "take it or leave it" attitude.
We left and Japanese models from the likes of Miata & Panasonic replaced the Euros in our shop.
Someone else should have been listening to Deming instead of just the Japanese.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._Edwards_Deming

BMX racing arose and the demand for the rapidly evolving sport, and Dads willing to fund $,$$$ for junior's equipment, was a huge part of our business (yes, a business not a hobby) with Mongoose, Redline and GT.

Skateboards were a fad in the 70's and sold them by the truckload.

The "high end" was always part of our operation because we were actively involved in racing on the road, track, 'Cross, BMX and later MTB.
From a profitability standpoint only BMX actually paid the bills.
Redline vs. CIOCC on a GMROI shootout? Not even close.

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Old 07-26-16, 07:47 AM
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Nice history here, thanks guys. I also had a '71 American Eagle Semi Pro. I never rode a European bike to compare its ride characteristics. Picking it up it did feel a bit heavier than a high end Raleigh a friend rode. It was my upgrade from a Schwinn Varsity, so comparatively it was quite light.
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Old 07-26-16, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by bulldog1935 View Post
By the mid 80s, it was the ramping strength of the JY that created the resurgence of the fledgling cottage US bike industry.
Specialized, Trek, Ritchey, et.al. could out-compete with exchange rate and import duties against Fuji, Vista, and Bridgestone.
It also drove the Japanese to Taiwan manufacturing, which turned out to be a good thing in the long-run for the quality of frames and components manufactured there today.

I'm not sure the bike boom ever died, but understand there were big changes and a glut of old models in the mid-70s
Trek, yes; not Specialized and Ritchey. Specialized sourced all of their bikes from Japan and Taiwan until they began building a very few high-end frames in the U.S., much later than the period under discussion, and Ritchey bikes were built by Tom Ritchey in very small numbers, so his bikes don't pertain, either. Specialized and Ritchey components were all sourced from Japan.
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Old 07-26-16, 07:56 AM
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Thanks to vertyg for your insight on the retail side of the bike boom that I experienced from the consumer side. I should apologize to an entire decade's worth of bike shop owners who had to put up with a young kid who pestered them with questions all winter long.

I think the cause of the bike boom bust was not the shoddiness of the entry level 10-speeds but that nearly everyone teenager and twenty year old that wanted one now had one. They worked great and lasted a long time. Enthusiasts moved on to mid and higher level bikes by the late seventies after their entry level bikes were trickled down to lowest rung riders through the theft method.

Now everyone had a bike and it was a glorious start to a new era! As warm and glowing as that time seems when looking back through my rose tinted glasses I have to admit that I think bike culture today is even better.
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Old 07-26-16, 08:51 AM
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Old 07-26-16, 09:53 AM
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70's shogun, azuki.... and I am sure a lot of other small japances marques no longer made or at least imported to us (2 different things)

80's

torpado, Miyata, Nishki, Centurion, pansonic, bridge stone, univega

note Nishiki and Miyata-koga are still being made but as best I can tell are not imported into USA

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Old 07-26-16, 10:09 AM
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There is no doubt that the boom crashed in 1975, but all it did was return to pre-boom sales levels. Ignore the three year blip of 1972-1974 and the industry shows a nice, relatively steady upwards trend from 1945 with the expected peaks and valleys. 1975 was only really bad in comparison to the the 3 preceding years.

After 1975, a lot of the players had a diminished presence in North America but I don't think that nearly as many totally disappeared as implied by the blog. The problem was that lush market conditions had attracted a lot of new players and after 1974 the market couldn't sustain all of them.

One of the big changes during the mid-1970s was that of bicycle distribution. Prior to the boom, most non-domestic brands had been distributed via an importer. In order to maintain profits, many of the larger manufacturers eliminated the middle man and set up their own USA based sales division. In some cases, they bought out the distributor, which ended distribution for many smaller brands that had been carried by these distributors. .

Many of the smaller manufacturers could not afford their own USA sales network and abandoned the USA market as the remaining independent distributors were forced to pare down their brand selection. However, most of these simply retreated to their local markets and survived. Some even re-entered the USA market during the mid-1980s resurgence.

There also appears to have some paring down of brands by manufacturers. Often, manufacturers would import under multiple brand names. This was a way to get their bicycles into several shops in one area with out infringing upon "protected" territory. With the smaller market, surviving shops were picking and choosing among the more popular brands and lesser brands were being dropped by shops and manufacturers.

It's quite easy to compile a list of brands which abandoned or at least had a severely diminished presence in the USA market. However, unless you're intimate with the manufacturer's local market, it's hard to say which ones actually disappeared.
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Old 07-26-16, 10:37 AM
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The Follis importer was on shaky ground, I think ended in '78 or so, or cut back so much it was essentially over.
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Old 07-26-16, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by verktyg View Post
...Except for Fuji, prior to 1976-77, most Japanese made bikes were poorly designed! They were made to the specs of the US importers who didn't have a clue about bike ride or handling! The frame geometry was bad plus they they used heavy gage tubing which made for clunky riding bikes!

These was no light weight sporting bike tradition in Japan! Most Japanese rode 19"-21" 50 Lb. single speed, rod brake clunkers. There were very few people in Japan who could ride larger frames so they had no experience building those bikes!...
My take on this is slightly different. While the Japanese bicycles did initially tend towards the heavier side and non-sporting handling, I maintain that this was a conscientious decision. Japan had come out of WWII with a reputation for poor workmanship and unreliable, inexpensive products. As a result, the Japanese bicycle industry set up a system of agencies to govern manufacturing standards, testing and inspection of exported bicycles. To ensure that Japanese bicycles were viewed as safe and reliable product, they were designed conservatively.

During the early 1970s, many Americans viewed the initial European offering as fragile. They certainly couldn't take the abuse of the Schwinn roadsters that most had grown up on. The Japanese product was designed more along the lines of a traditional American bicycle, in order to appeal to the average American, buying an entry level model.

The Japanese advanced the designs of their bicycles only after they had established their reputation and the American public had become more educated about the lightweight bicycle.
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Old 07-26-16, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
My take on this is slightly different. While the Japanese bicycles did initially tend towards the heavier side and non-sporting handling, I maintain that this was a conscientious decision. Japan had come out of WWII with a reputation for poor workmanship and unreliable, inexpensive products. As a result, the Japanese bicycle industry set up a system of agencies to govern manufacturing standards, testing and inspection of exported bicycles. To ensure that Japanese bicycles were viewed as safe and reliable product, they were designed conservatively.

During the early 1970s, many Americans viewed the initial European offering as fragile. They certainly couldn't take the abuse of the Schwinn roadsters that most had grown up on. The Japanese product was designed more along the lines of a traditional American bicycle, in order to appeal to the average American, buying an entry level model.

The Japanese advanced the designs of their bicycles only after they had established their reputation and the American public had become more educated about the lightweight bicycle.
Speaking as someone who was already riding tubulars in 1965 and began working in bike shops shortly thereafter, this take seems less likely than verktyg's.

Until the late '70s, most of the Japanese 10-speed bikes exported to the U.S. used the same parallel frame angles and the same top tube length throughout the size range of a given model---making the bikes easy to braze and keeping factory inventory costs down but making the frames difficult to fit for customers who needed the smaller and larger sizes.

So at least some, and probably most, of their design choices were the consequences of ignorance and expediency. If the Japanese bikes were "designed more along the lines of a traditional American bicycle," that was just because the bikes ridden by Americans and Japanese cyclists until the early '70s were similarly heavy and clunky and because sport cycling such as was seen in Europe barely existed in those two countries.
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Old 07-26-16, 11:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Bandera View Post
BMX racing arose and the demand for the rapidly evolving sport, and Dads willing to fund $,$$$ for junior's equipment, was a huge part of our business -Bandera
To continue the thought from a dealer's perspective...

Those brands developed exclusively for the BMX market like Mongoose, Redline, GT and Diamondback became hugely important in the unforeseen sea change of demand just over the horizon: the Mountain Bike.

The conservative & Euro brands missed out on the volume production and profits from what they saw as a passing fad in BMX and were doomed by that decision with what came next from Marin county.

In '77 Gary Fischer was telling us about riding "bombers" in CA at the 'Cross Nat'ls, very interesting/crazy why not?
And an Explosion happened.

Caught flatfooted once again the conservative brands like Schwinn and the Euros had no credibility with the young aggressive early NORBA racers, many of whom came straight from BMX into MTB racing. Mongoose, Diamondback and most other BMX brands jumped into MTB production, had the cache' of "Rad" already and the brand loyalty of the young style leaders.

The "lightweight" 10 speed market was dead, and so were the brands that missed the MTB boat early on.
It was great business for us since we were well positioned from our involvement in BMX that translated easily and seamlessly in nurturing another new bicycle sport.
Consumer demand followed for the sturdy, reliable, comfortable and so very stylish new breed of bike with a whiff of adventure, daring & Rad.

And in '78 there was this "Ironman" race in Hawaii......

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Old 07-26-16, 12:03 PM
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Anyone remember Stanyan street SF during this period. 2-3 bike shops each block. When the bust happened, I noticed a lot of European bikes disappeared but did not know if they just stopped imports or they went under. Some bikes I no longer saw in the shops were Stella, Frejus, Aquila, Atala, Le Jeune, Dawes, Batavus.
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Old 07-26-16, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by T-Mar View Post
There is no doubt that the boom crashed in 1975, but all it did was return to pre-boom sales levels.
What needs mentioning is the real key to The Bike Boom: The OPEC Oil Embargo, 19731974

https://history.state.gov/milestones...76/oil-embargo

Embargo Over: Bike Boom Over.

-Bandera
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Old 07-26-16, 12:39 PM
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gugie 
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Originally Posted by Wulf View Post
Anyone remember Stanyan street SF during this period. 2-3 bike shops each block. When the bust happened, I noticed a lot of European bikes disappeared but did not know if they just stopped imports or they went under. Some bikes I no longer saw in the shops were Stella, Frejus, Aquila, Atala, Le Jeune, Dawes, Batavus.
It was like this even in the early 80's when I was a sales rep. I'd just park my van in Golden Gate Park and ride from shop to shop.
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