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40 Years Ago: April 1981 in Bicycling magazine

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40 Years Ago: April 1981 in Bicycling magazine

Old 04-11-21, 02:09 PM
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40 Years Ago: April 1981 in Bicycling magazine

Articles included in this post are:
On Tour: "So You think Fenders Are a Drag? Think Again"
"Cycling Enters a New Age"
Backcountry Bikepacking: "Your Rack and Bags"
"Technical Q & A"

Road Test Barrett Side-by-Side was posted earlier here: Road Test/Bike Review (1981) Barrett Side-by-Side


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Just send me a PM that includes your email address and I'll send you a pdf of your requested article or insert it later in a separate post to this thread.




















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Old 04-11-21, 03:10 PM
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I enjoyed the letters to the editor (Lambert death fork, chrome plating a PX 10, and cotters). Everytime I see an ad for a skid lid, I think I'd like to have one to mount on the wall of my work room. I actually used one of those things BITD and survived.
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Old 04-11-21, 05:46 PM
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I've been going through some of my old issues of Bicycling of this era, and the change from the mid 70's is distinct. The cover photo of rather preppie looking folks really strikes me. Riding in LaCoste polo shirts, with a matching sweater? I suppose it happened somewhere, but hardly seems representative of the hobby/sport. Perhaps it was intended to make the sport more accessible to beginners?

Other details are unchanged... i.e. the recommendation to use Pletscher racks! I had one, back in that era, and it was marginal at best. The Blackburn rack was a huge improvement, as was the family of Tubus racks many years later.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 04-11-21, 09:05 PM
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Bikepacking, computer generated riding routes, fenders on touring bikes...are you sure this is the 1981 issue?
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Old 04-11-21, 11:01 PM
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Interesting article about loading up for bike touring. The article recommends the way I did my cross-US tour the summer before (1980): rear panniers, sleeping bag and ground on top of the rear rack, and a handlebar bag with the rack that hooked over the handlebars with shock cords down to the front drop-outs. It worked just fine.

By the mid-90s, when I did a 500 mile trip from Mt. Shasta to Yosemite and some shorter tours, low-rider front racks had come to be. They were a distinct improvement, allowing much better fore-and-aft load balance while having negligible adverse effect on handling (when the load is high in the front, handling definitely suffers). Also, on my cross-country trip, the rear wheel was the bane of my existence. I broke I don't know how many spokes, had to have it completely rebuilt in Lincoln, Nebraska, and several times talked a shop into letting me use their vise (for removing the freewheel: I had to tool, but not a vice) and truing stand. That wheel came on the bike (Sekai 2000) and it really was not intended for fully loaded touring, so I can't really blame it, but the vast majority of the weight (luggage and rider) was borne by that rear wheel, and I suspect moving some of the weight to front panniers mounted on low riders would have made a significant difference.

The article did have one good piece of advice I wish I had known or thought of for my trip - thread lock compound for rack bolts. I made it from Livermore CA (my hometown) to 50 miles or so short of Washington DC (my final destination) when one of the rear rack bolts at the rear dropout decided not to see the trip all the way to the end. Fortunately, I had spare spokes and pliers. (Gawd I carried a lot of weight in tools for that trip - with no regrets, I might add.) I was able to attach the rack using a spoke and twisting it with the pliers like a twist tie on a loaf of bread. Elegant? Heck no. Effective? Well, it got me to DC with no further issues.
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Old 04-12-21, 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
<snip> Pletscher racks! I had one, back in that era, and it was marginal at best.
Funny that the author says the best rack ever was the Claud Butler. (Actually he mis-spelled it as Claude, a common mistake).

In 1976 I rode across Canada with two friends. We rode East to West — they were heading to Oregon to join a Bikecentennial group to ride back to the East Coast.

I had a Claud Butler steel rack, "the best one ever made", and my two friends both had Pletscher racks. We were camping the whole way and fairly heavily loaded. Guess whose rack broke? The steel one, of course. Those darn Pletscher racks lasted all the way across the continent twice, and they weren't new at the beginning of the ride and they weren't retired afterward either. My steel rack broke near where the upright part attached to the dropout. I was able to get it welded in the next little town, by a guy who did mufflers and trailer hitches, which is a nice thing about steel. It didn't break again, even though I was about halfway through my trip. But I'd still rather have the rack that never breaks, over one that's repairable if it does. Well, really, I want both, and that's not too much to ask.

Those Butler racks (actually made by Tonard of London) were super low tech and not very well made IMHO. Solid steel wire (not tubing), with too-thin steel strips to attach to the dropouts, where mine broke. "the best one ever made"?! Had this writer seriously never seen (or even heard of) a Herse, Singer, Routens, Pitard, Charrel, Jack Taylor? (the list is much longer.) Their racks were tubular steel, hand-brazed to properly-sized (strong) fittings. Probably twice as stiff and strong as a Claud Butler rack, and maybe lighter too (as if light weight matters on a touring bike...) True, those constructeur bikes didn't make it to the US in very large numbers, but some of them had been written up in Bicycling Magazine, so this guy's ignorance of them is a bit disappointing. I made my first tubular Cr-Mo racks in 1977 as a 20-year old apprentice at Santana. I'm pretty sure Jim Merz and Bruce Gordon were making tubular racks then too, probably even got written up in Bicycling. Then there was that whole scene in Japan of artisanal builders making faithful reproductions (only better) of French constructeur bikes, with tubular racks of course. All very well established by the late '70s, so not new when this article was written

I still have a Tonard rack on my grocery-getter, out of nostalgia I guess, but I'm under no illusions about it being any kind of "best one ever".

Here's a pic of a Butler bike with a Tonard rack As you look at it, remember it is solid steel, not hollow, not tubular. If you don't know about 'moment of inertia' and all that sciency stuff, just trust me that there's a good reason why bike frames and forks use tubing instead of solid steel bars. Racks should be made that way too, and the good ones have been made that way for over 80 years — or over 40 years at the time this article was written.

Mark B
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Old 04-12-21, 06:25 AM
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Mark, I have one of those Claud Butler racks, currently mounted on a Ted Williams Free Spirit. A friend gave it to me when he moved out of town and unloaded lots of bike crap. I’ve used it for hauling groceries, but never for touring. Can’t say it particularly likes having lots of weight on it (though that might be more of an issue with the bike’s geometry than the rack).


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Old 04-12-21, 10:27 AM
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I rode my first TOSRV in 1981. My second in 2001. I assume the tri-fecta is cancelled.
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Old 04-12-21, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by bulgie View Post
..... Those darn Pletscher racks lasted all the way across the continent twice, and they weren't new at the beginning of the ride and they weren't retired afterward either. ....

Mark B
I never burdened my Pletscher rack to any degree, but recalled stories of them surviving pretty serious use.
I was thinking that Jim Merz had used them in the trip that he wrote up for Bicycling. He and his wife used a Raleigh Pro and an International to do a long tour, complete with tubulars, Campy NR gearing, etc. Not the sort of set up that we would use now! However, re-reading the article, I see that he built his own racks! I should have known.

Steve in Peoria
(copies of the article below... not sure who scanned these, but it wasn't me)



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Old 04-12-21, 01:34 PM
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Whoa!! I recognize that front rack design from @merziac 's bike!


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Old 04-12-21, 01:54 PM
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Another WHOA for the SkidLid ad... worst helmet ever.
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Old 04-12-21, 03:00 PM
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As usual, seeing scan of an old Bicycling issue brings back memories, most of them good. It's especially nice to see April, 1981's issue. My first ride in Chicago was 3/17/81, which was probably about the time this issue was arriving in mailboxes and on news stands. Thanks.

I still remember that 3/17/81 ride, BTW. It was my first ride of the season. Heading North on the Lake Shore path, I felt as if I was flying. After many more miles than I expected, it hit me - maybe I felt so strong because I had a tail wind. Yup - the wind out of the South made the ride back to my temp corporate housing difficult. I seem to be OK with the wind this year. If that continues, I now know how long it takes me to get used to wind ... 40 years.

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Old 04-12-21, 06:39 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
<snip>Jim Merz <...> built his own racks! I should have known.
Yes, and William Sanders (who wrote the article in 1981 saying a Claud rack was the best ever) should have known too, since his own magazine had covered the Merz tubular Cr-Mo racks in 1972! (Jim didn't offer them for sale until later, but still well before '81.)

I remember reading the Merz article BITD but I didn't remember details, like the gearing. Their bikes came with 52/45 chainrings and 14-22 freewheels, so of course he changed that for heavily loaded bike camping, right? But what he changed was to make the high gear much higher (54 by 13)! He kept the 45t inner rings, and added only a single tooth to the large freewheel cog, changing from 22 to 23t. Seriously? That line about low gears for touring bikes being "useful mainly as a substitute for physical conditioning" was a gratuitous slap in the face to almost any normal human being. Even when I was a racer (true, a lackluster Cat.3, but still a racer) I wanted lower gears than that for any kind of loaded touring. And this is the same guy who, a few years later, made and sold those 31t granny rings and triplizer rings to lower the gearing on Campy cranks.

I'm not seriously complaining about the Merz article, in fact I loved it. Needless to say, I've said or written a few things over the decades that I might phrase a little differently today... And being able to pedal a loaded touring bike over mountains, with those gears, truly is something to be proud of.

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Old 04-12-21, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott View Post
Another WHOA for the SkidLid ad... worst helmet ever.
You're kidding, right? (I can't tell.) There have been plenty worse. The original Bell Biker had those air scoops molded into the rigid shell that formed basically a sharp-edged can opener pointed at your head. If you hit hard enough to compress the styrofoam, which was designed to happen, your scalp would be pressed against this sharp edge as if it were designed for penetrating your skull. Bell recalled them later but didn't do much to get the word out, and I saw people still wearing them long after the recall.

Then there were the leather helmets — surely you agree a Skid-Lid is better than that?! When I first started riding, helmets were required for amateurs, optional in the pros so almost no pros wore them other than for certain events. The "leather hairnet" is what everyone wore, because there wasn't really anything else. And yes, they were considered helmets, and satisfied the helmet requirement for amateurs.

Or the ones that were never intended to pass any kind of testing, like a Brancale. For people who wanted the "helmet look" I guess, but without any actual protection to speak of. Look at this guy's forehead and imagine how much padding there could be in there. Less than with a leather hairnet.



When Tom Broznowski won the US National Championship Road Race (amateur) in '81, he was sponsored by Pro-Tec. It was the first major US race that I can recall where the winner wore a helmet with a shell, what we think of as a "real helmet" nowadays. Those Pro-Tecs were worse than a Skid-Lid in my opinion, but at least the shell was closed on top, which seems to be what bugs people most about the Skid-Lid. Remember though, the Skid-Lid's main competition back then was from leather hairnets, which left as much or more of your head "uncovered".

When the Pro-Tec came out, I kept using my Skid-Lid, mostly for ventilation reasons. I think they're pretty similar in protection, since they both use squishy foam rubber instead of more rigid styrofoam-type stuff that all modern helmets use. That rigid stuff collapses permanently in a crash, absorbing energy as it does. Squishy foam just stores energy temporarily, then returns it to your skull as it rebounds. Which is still better than nothing, but only the crushable kind can pass today's helmet standards, I think (I'm no expert).

Maybe I just don't want to admit I was an idiot for ever wearing a Skid-Lid? I even had a Bell Biker before that, starting in about '75 I think, and I raced in a Brancale (before the Skid-Lid I think). Proving that I'm a sucker for bad helmet designs. The Bell, Brancale and Skid-Lid are all still around here somewhere... man do I have a hoarding problem. I still have an original Giro too, the one with a lycra cover and no shell at all, just the styrofoam. You could get the lycra covers in all sorts of garish '80s neon colors and roller-disco patterns. Giving all cyclists a bad name, to anyone with a shred of good taste.

Mark B

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Old 04-12-21, 08:29 PM
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Originally Posted by bulgie View Post
You're kidding, right? (I can't tell.)
Well no... exaggerating maybe. Certainly all helmets were bad in the early 80's. My first was a V1 Pro (late 80s') which was actually OK.

SkidLids had a reputation for fitting so badly that they'd fall off before your head could hit the ground. Also like you said, they had a funny squishy foam instead of hard styrofoam designed to crack on impact.

Leather hairnets were not intended to absorb an impact but the better ones would at least help with abrasions on a long skull skid.

I never knew anyone with a Brancale, but they had a lot of ads. Did you know the photo you posted was from American Flyers? Brancale probably paid them to use it.
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Old 04-12-21, 10:31 PM
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I am most impressed by the slickness and appeal of the Specialized Sequoia ad. Sinyard and crew knew what they were doing. Answers a bunch of questions/negatives indirectly but very effectively.

Why spend serious money on a frame/bike from a relatively unknown brand, with little history in the bike biz, few products in their line and very limited distribution? If the frames are any good, why don't my local shops have any?

All the answers are there in the ad copy, layout and frame/bike photos.

Also found it interesting that the happy/healthy/yuppie riders on the cover are on bikes with no visible branding. I wonder if the publisher wanted their editorial approach to seem neutral, or if they just hadn't yet acquired the skills to extract ads from bike makers by featuring their branded product on covers.

And I agree it's fun to see tech questions about cotter pins, Sturmey-Archer hub brakes and Lambert death forks.
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Old 04-13-21, 04:57 AM
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In 1980, my junior year in college, I managed to bike head on into a Belgian block curb, throwing me over the bars and I landed on my face, knocking myself out (as well as several teeth). I wasn’t wearing a helmet and don’t remember much of anyone wearing one back then. I promised my parents I’d wear one from then on, and bought a Skid Lid, probably because it looked the least uncomfortable of the various options. I must have worn that for the next 10 years, including once I moved to the SF Bay Area after college and rode a ton. For commuting in the occasional rain, I attached a shower cap to the helmet snaps, a look that drew several comments. I probably sold it off in a yard sale around 1990 or just tossed it out.
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Old 04-13-21, 09:54 AM
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Geeze,.....Campy belt buckles at 100 bucks each??........
Even today, that would be silly expensive.....
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Old 04-13-21, 10:42 AM
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Originally Posted by gugie View Post
Bikepacking, computer generated riding routes, fenders on touring bikes...are you sure this is the 1981 issue?
Yeah, but I think I feel your pain, or confusion, or angst, or whatever it is that makes this issue feel weird to me too.
At first I thought of it as an issue by committee with various factions being appeased.
Now I think of it as an issue that offers a glimpse of a cultural transition in progress.
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Old 04-13-21, 11:16 AM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by bulgie View Post
You're kidding, right? (I can't tell.) There have been plenty worse. The original Bell Biker had those air scoops molded into the rigid shell that formed basically a sharp-edged can opener pointed at your head. If you hit hard enough to compress the styrofoam, which was designed to happen, your scalp would be pressed against this sharp edge as if it were designed for penetrating your skull. Bell recalled them later but didn't do much to get the word out, and I saw people still wearing them long after the recall.

Then there were the leather helmets — surely you agree a Skid-Lid is better than that?! When I first started riding, helmets were required for amateurs, optional in the pros so almost no pros wore them other than for certain events. The "leather hairnet" is what everyone wore, because there wasn't really anything else. And yes, they were considered helmets, and satisfied the helmet requirement for amateurs.

Or the ones that were never intended to pass any kind of testing, like a Brancale. For people who wanted the "helmet look" I guess, but without any actual protection to speak of. Look at this guy's forehead and imagine how much padding there could be in there. Less than with a leather hairnet.



When Tom Broznowski won the US National Championship Road Race (amateur) in '81, he was sponsored by Pro-Tec. It was the first major US race that I can recall where the winner wore a helmet with a shell, what we think of as a "real helmet" nowadays. Those Pro-Tecs were worse than a Skid-Lid in my opinion, but at least the shell was closed on top, which seems to be what bugs people most about the Skid-Lid. Remember though, the Skid-Lid's main competition back then was from leather hairnets, which left as much or more of your head "uncovered".

When the Pro-Tec came out, I kept using my Skid-Lid, mostly for ventilation reasons. I think they're pretty similar in protection, since they both use squishy foam rubber instead of more rigid styrofoam-type stuff that all modern helmets use. That rigid stuff collapses permanently in a crash, absorbing energy as it does. Squishy foam just stores energy temporarily, then returns it to your skull as it rebounds. Which is still better than nothing, but only the crushable kind can pass today's helmet standards, I think (I'm no expert).

Maybe I just don't want to admit I was an idiot for ever wearing a Skid-Lid? I even had a Bell Biker before that, starting in about '75 I think, and I raced in a Brancale (before the Skid-Lid I think). Proving that I'm a sucker for bad helmet designs. The Bell, Brancale and Skid-Lid are all still around here somewhere... man do I have a hoarding problem. I still have an original Giro too, the one with a lycra cover and no shell at all, just the styrofoam. You could get the lycra covers in all sorts of garish '80s neon colors and roller-disco patterns. Giving all cyclists a bad name, to anyone with a shred of good taste.

Mark B
I think those guys bought child sized Brancale helmets and tore our any padding there was in them, thus the tight skull cap look....
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Old 04-13-21, 01:08 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by SpeedofLite View Post
Yeah, but I think I feel your pain, or confusion, or angst, or whatever it is that makes this issue feel weird to me too.
At first I thought of it as an issue by committee with various factions being appeased.
Now I think of it as an issue that offers a glimpse of a cultural transition in progress.
Actually, my post was just saying that it seems like everything we think is new has been done before.
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Old 04-13-21, 06:50 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by seedsbelize View Post
I rode my first TOSRV in 1981. My second in 2001. I assume the tri-fecta is cancelled.
It looks like 2021 is a go. (2020 was cancelled)
https://tosrv.org/ Due to venue restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic, TOSRV’s date for 2021 will be rescheduled for September 25-26. Registration will open in a few weeks, once we have venue confirmations.
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Old 04-13-21, 07:06 PM
  #23  
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54-45/13-23 gearing for touring?
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Capo: 1959 Modell Campagnolo, S/N 40324; 1960 Sieger (2), S/N 42624, 42597
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Old 04-13-21, 07:18 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
54-45/13-23 gearing for touring?
yeah, I had the same thought.. but then I realized that this is an excellent way to learn to pack light... really light!

Steve in Peoria
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Old 04-13-21, 08:35 PM
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I've received a few requests for the "Bicycle Workshop: Building Your Own Wheels" article by Sheldon Brown.
It's ~41 MB and spread over 14 pages, so here's a link: https://1drv.ms/b/s!AgHfxA8atbGnl0Il...1BQ9a?e=bU9doy
First page below to wet your beak.

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