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

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Fifty Plus (50+) Share the victories, challenges, successes and special concerns of bicyclists 50 and older. Especially useful for those entering or reentering bicycling.

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

Old 04-30-15, 09:06 AM
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What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s? - I am not sure? Likely because there was some cool new stuff rather than just cruiser and such. "Ten Speeds" to Choppers and home modified choppers - fun stuff

Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around? - Community for me but one rode alone as well

Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?- not racing at all "enjoyment" , culture,etc
Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?- Yes !

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

Was the bike boom just a fad? - I don't see it that way

Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s? - No as noted no one "raced" around me but, besides 10 speeds we built "choppers" welded up in garages with help with neighborhood millwrights/maint with welders in their garages..... forks,etc

Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s? -No

Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?-No

What prompted your interest in bikes?-fun,simple,culture,excersize,expression,crativeity,latter mountain biking as in riding technical,,,,,lots of stuff

What prompted your interest in competitive cycling? - zero for me except a bit of interest in the highest level Cross Country Mountain Bike'in, XC MTB Marathon's, Down Hill etc. if/when they are on TV - thats about it. I watch a little of the Tour DeFrance now and then but the whole blood dope thing ......just to win really turned me off......plus I am not big on following anything French/France
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Old 04-30-15, 10:17 AM
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In the mid to late 60's we rode the Stingray style in Monroe, Louisiana. We rode them everywhere without regard to terrain and even carried a passenger. No high tech and no worries about the right saddle or other gear.

In the 70's in Monroe, bicycles were rarely used by teens and adults. You could rent a tandem at one of the local rental shops. It was a little odd they rented tandem bicycles when their other merchandise was tools and such. I did spend a year in San Jose and bicycles were everywhere. If you were a teenager, you most likely had one. They mostly came from Montgomery Wards, JC Penny's and Sears. I had a Montgomery Wards 10 speed and it was great. I rode it everywhere without consideration to terrain and wish I still had it.

I really didn't ride after that and years later in my 50's needed to do something about my health. I bought a Jamis Ventura Comp and made a resolution to ride. I rode it maybe 3 times. I began running and the inner competitive athlete in me came out of the locker.

I started riding late last year and applied the same strategy I did with running. I registered for a race and let the momentum carry me.

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Old 04-30-15, 06:14 PM
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I guess I'll add something.

I started riding because of the gas shortage. Long lines and rationing. We had a small child and could only afford 1 car. So I commuted to work. I also liked the idea of using less gas. I wanted to make a T-shirt "Pedaling my ass to save your gas. Don't hit me!"

Saw the movie "Breaking Away" thought it looked like fun to race. I live near the Trexlertown Velodrome. It just happened that Eric Heiden was makiing an appearance with hs sister Beth. Well the racing was great. So I tried racing for a few years. I wasn't very good but liked the sport and became an official. I was able to work up the ranks and worked some pretty big races, Tour DuPont, many National Championships Amateur, Pro , road, track including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Yes I am proud of that!

All through those years, 25 or so I commuted most of the time. Still ride of course.

Bill
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Old 04-30-15, 09:00 PM
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I started riding as an adult in 1972 because I could get from my home to the UM(ich) library (5 miles) faster by bike than by car, and I never had to fear a parking ticket. I started with a used Sears 5-speed. The rear wheel was stolen while I slept one night, so ... I tried a Raleigh Record, but it seemed like a lemon, so I got my $ back. Then a Gitane from Mike Kollin/Denise de la Rosa's store in A2. (I fell in love with a royal blue & white Atala Competezione at their store, but it cost too much, had tubular tires, etc. I bought one used in 1980, converted the wheels to clinchers, only to have it stolen on Labor Day 1981.)

I road alone because I couldn't find anyone who rode at my slow pace. No interest in competition at that time. I didn't think the boom was a fad, but for me it started as a practical thing, then turned into fun.
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Old 05-01-15, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by LongT
I guess I'll add something.

I started riding because of the gas shortage. Long lines and rationing. We had a small child and could only afford 1 car. So I commuted to work. I also liked the idea of using less gas. I wanted to make a T-shirt "Pedaling my ass to save your gas. Don't hit me!"

Saw the movie "Breaking Away" thought it looked like fun to race. I live near the Trexlertown Velodrome. It just happened that Eric Heiden was makiing an appearance with hs sister Beth. Well the racing was great. So I tried racing for a few years. I wasn't very good but liked the sport and became an official. I was able to work up the ranks and worked some pretty big races, Tour DuPont, many National Championships Amateur, Pro , road, track including the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Yes I am proud of that!

All through those years, 25 or so I commuted most of the time. Still ride of course.

Bill
Originally Posted by philbob57
I started riding as an adult in 1972 because I could get from my home to the UM(ich) library (5 miles) faster by bike than by car, and I never had to fear a parking ticket. I started with a used Sears 5-speed. The rear wheel was stolen while I slept one night, so ... I tried a Raleigh Record, but it seemed like a lemon, so I got my $ back. Then a Gitane from Mike Kollin/Denise de la Rosa's store in A2. (I fell in love with a royal blue & white Atala Competezione at their store, but it cost too much, had tubular tires, etc. I bought one used in 1980, converted the wheels to clinchers, only to have it stolen on Labor Day 1981.)

I road alone because I couldn't find anyone who rode at my slow pace. No interest in competition at that time. I didn't think the boom was a fad, but for me it started as a practical thing, then turned into fun.
I love reading stories like these! Cycling can impact our lives in so many ways, and on so many levels!
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Old 02-14-16, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by FlatSix911
My first 10-speed ...

do you know any more info on the bike? I just found an identical model in an old dilapidated abandoned house. It's in rough shape but should be salvageable. I know it's not really valuable, but lugged steel and made in italy.
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Old 02-14-16, 08:37 PM
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That was my first 10-speed bicycle, a Sears labeled, made by Puch/A-D in Austria. The rear derailleur has been changed from the original Simplex delrin plastic nightmare to what looks like an early Shimano, same as I did when the original went south. I rode many hundreds of miles on one of these bikes, kept it a year then got a Bottecchia and never looked back. It was some kind of heavy, and those brakes and the chrome rims wouldn't stop you if you threw out a boat anchor. And I loved every minute of riding it.

That isn't lugged, its got simple stamped drops on gas pipe tubes, the seat is a Troxel, it looks like, the crankset is an Ashtabula forged 1 piece, heavy and stone simple, the Schwinn Continental and Varsity and Super Sport had these type of crank on them. Sorry for getting technical, it shocked me to see the picture of it, I never have seen one since I sold mine when I got the Botty.

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Old 02-14-16, 09:04 PM
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Originally Posted by abadyam
do you know any more info on the bike? I just found an identical model in an old dilapidated abandoned house. It's in rough shape but should be salvageable. I know it's not really valuable, but lugged steel and made in italy.
Um... I don't see any lugs there. What I DO see is the seat stay crimped to the dropout. Hopfully soldered, but that's not a given.
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Old 02-14-16, 10:10 PM
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Looks like the OP never followed up on either thread asking the same question. But what the heck...

What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
In the US it started earlier, in the 1960s, with gradual recognition of competitive cycling as a valid sport. Probably helped that Eddy Merckx was the dominant cyclist, charismatic, ruggedly handsome and photogenic, enough to gain a little attention in the US on TV and sports magazines and newspapers.

US pop culture -- celebrities, movies, etc. -- began to show cycling as sexy, something vigorous youthful people did, rather than the dowdy pursuit of old Europeans in wool caps and bonnets fetching loaves of bread and bottles of wine in city bikes with baskets.

And James Coburn cut a dashing figure in the Dutch bike he swiped to make his getaway in The Great Escape.

Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?
Both. Neither. The US is too large, diverse and spread out to generalize. There are some US metropolitan areas larger than some entire European countries. As a kid in New York in the 1960s, many kids rode bikes. Some adults did. Schwinn began to appeal to older teens and 20somethings with sleek, stylish, racy looking bikes with decent performance.

Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race? Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
In the US it was mostly leisure, recreational and transportation. As kids, bikes took us places the buses didn't go. In cities it was an alternative to public transportation for younger adults who couldn't afford cars.

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

Maybe. It seemed high tech, probably appealed to the same urge as custom car parts that didn't actually improve performance but made the tweaked cars seem "boss".

Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
Depends on the age group. I'd been riding various bikes as a kid since the 1960s. My first 10 speed with derailer was around 1976. It mostly seemed more practical for the distance and hilly roads of my daily commute.

Was the bike boom just a fad?

Nope, it was just the beginning. Books like Tom Cutherbertson's "Anybody's Bike Book" helped ensure lasting popularity by making bike maintenance seem accessible to almost anyone with the inclination.

Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
I rode a few crits and time trials. Fun, good experience, but I didn't have the strength or stamina to be competitive above the intermediate level.

Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
Yeah, it could be described that way. My main competitive sports experience was amateur boxing, which was very accessible, cheap, with a diverse demographic, a sport that rewarded individual effort -- with the occasional exception of poor judging, the best boxer always won, regardless of whether his team was strong or weak overall. Competitive cycling was primarily the sport of upper middle class to wealthy whites, expensive, with certain abstruse codes for the culture, and with an almost incomprehensible melding of group effort and individual accomplishment in team competitions.

Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
There are always eccentrics and outsiders, but no, that wasn't the primary attraction of bicycling in the US. I know several folks who ride bikes because they have no other transportation due to having low income, losing their drivers licenses for whatever reason, or being too eccentric to fit in. They don't drive the marketplace or bicycling culture. They mostly ride barely functional bikes from pawn shops and yard sales.

If anything the post-gas crisis late '70s and early '80s, along with Reaganomics, drove the motor vehicle culture. Bicycling became a pursuit independent of transportation for most folks.

What prompted your interest in bikes?
As an adult, I was a young guy in the Navy with a family, not enough money to buy a car, and needed transportation to and from base. I also needed a way to stay in good physical condition, and didn't have as much time for exercise as the single guys. Bicycling combined transportation and exercise. Perfect solution for southern California.

Didn't hurt that my first serious bike, a 10-speed Motobecane Mirage, seemed so very French, don't you know. Add some toe clips, Detto Pietros, a water bottle and Zefal pump, and I was tres chic.

What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
Just curious to see how I'd do. I didn't have the stamina or strength to be competitive above the intermediate level road races and time trials. But I read the magazines and followed the exploits of American racers like Jacques Boyer and Greg LeMond.

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Old 02-15-16, 06:25 AM
  #185  
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
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 track, road 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.




I recently added a 1972 Paramount to my collection. This one is a 24 inch size, and fits perfectly. It's in excellent ready-to-ride mechanical condition.

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Old 02-15-16, 07:20 AM
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I remember going into Stemples Schwinn in Elmhurst Illinois and seeing Paramounts for $350. That was probably 1970ish. Any idea what your 1972 retailed for when new?
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Old 02-15-16, 08:08 AM
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I remember seeing bar-end shifters the first time (74). Prior to that the riders in our bunch had yammered on about them but actually seeing them was a sight to behold. I was 16.
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Old 02-15-16, 08:32 AM
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On top of the gas crisis, there was the influx of inexpensive Japanese 10-speeds. Prior to that, the only options were heavy gas-pipe Schwinns or expensive imports.

Remember sitting in line for gas? 5-gallon limits? Odd/Even rationing? That alone was enough to get more people on bikes.
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Old 02-15-16, 09:10 AM
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Tank tops and ten speeds
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Old 02-15-16, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by abadyam
do you know any more info on the bike? I just found an identical model in an old dilapidated abandoned house.
It's in rough shape but should be salvageable. I know it's not really valuable, but lugged steel and made in Italy.
My first 10-speed was from Sears and was my pride and joy at age 11.
Heavy as hell with a Simplex plastic derailleur that was soon replaced along with the suicide brake levers. Great memories on that bike ...
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Old 02-15-16, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by BlazingPedals
Um... I don't see any lugs there. What I DO see is the seat stay crimped to the dropout. Hopfully soldered, but that's not a given.
yeah i did catch this after posting, jumped the gun but otherwise looks identical, color and stickers, etc...
mine is made in italy and lugged (HEAVY) steel
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Old 09-24-16, 07:27 AM
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40+ year old bike

Originally Posted by FlatSix911
My first 10-speed ...


That looks exactly like my bike... right down to the BMA Certificate on the seat tube. I bought it from Sears more than 40 years ago and I still have it and ride it 15 to 17 miles 3 times a week.


I live on Long Island and started riding the bike path along the Wantagh Parkway to Jones Beach the week the bike path opened and I've been doing it ever since. I'm 70 years old now and I live a good distance away from the start of the bike path at Cedar Creek but I take the long ride to Cedar Creek from the next county anyway just because that bike path is an old friend that I will never leave.


I locked the front derailleur on high gear years ago because 10 speeds is about 5 speeds too many. Just 2 days ago my rear derailleur went south and that one I'll need to replace. Believe it or not the original chain is still on the bike. Maybe it's true that they just don't make things to last like they did years ago. Having said that, the new alloy wheels I put on the bike this season made the bike feel like new. I guess after 40 years of going round and round the old wheels weren't exactly round any more.


Years ago the bike path was crowded with those funny looking contraptions that you lay down on instead of sit on but I haven't seen any on the bike path in about 10 years now.


I finally replaced the old torture device they called a seat 45 years ago with one that has that family jewel saving feature. It's a miracle I was able to have 4 kids after what that old seat put me through. You really had to love cycling for you to sit on that thing for 15 miles a second time.


Back when I starting cycling in the late 60's there weren't any of those egg crates people put on their heads these days and lets face it, when they first decided to turn bike riding into the equivalent of the OSHA cowboy you couldn't keep those things on your head standing still in your living room let alone peddling hard into a headwind. I didn't wear them then and I don't wear them now. Never have and never fallen either. I can't say the same about when I'm riding my 1982 Yamaha 650 Maxim (bough new and I still ride). The ruling class in Albany don't believe in wind in your hair.
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Old 09-24-16, 08:38 AM
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Two things happened in the early 70s. First baby boomers were at an age they wanted to exercise, and there was the manuf gas crisis.

Bike suddenly became popular and stores sourced their bikes from anywhere they could. I bought my bike from Wards. What was strange was the fact the lugged frame was built in Austria, and was actually quite light. The components were not great, but all things considered is wasnt a bad bike at all.
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Old 09-24-16, 09:32 AM
  #194  
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Originally Posted by rydabent
Two things happened in the early 70s. First baby boomers were at an age they wanted to exercise, and there was the manuf gas crisis.

Bike suddenly became popular and stores sourced their bikes from anywhere they could. I bought my bike from Wards. What was strange was the fact the lugged frame was built in Austria, and was actually quite light. The components were not great, but all things considered is wasnt a bad bike at all.
As an active enthusiast of that era, I note that in about 1968 Kenneth Cooper made Aerobics (book of same name) popular, triggering the excercize boom well before Jane Fonda. I was swept up into "10 speed" cycling in 1970, about three years before the gas crisis, as I recall.
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Old 09-25-16, 12:52 AM
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My memories of the bike boom? I was a kid back then, but what I remember is that sometime around 1971, "ten speeds" suddenly became cool. All the Sting-Rays and all the department-store knock-offs in the bike rack in front of my elementary school started disappearing, and were replaced by the more modern-looking, more capable road bikes that were hitting the stores at the time. I was riding a J.C. Penney "Swinger" (a Sting-Ray knock-off) that seemed soooo cool when I was eight years old in 1970, but I lusted after something bigger and more grown-up -- like the Schwinn Varsity. You'd see them advertised in every issue of Boy's Life. And when my friends started riding them to school, I just had to have one.

Actually, I never did get one. Instead, with my paper-route money, I kept getting bikes that had been rebuilt by a older guy down the street in his garage. I think he was mainly glad to see a kid who was more interested in his hobby than his own kids were. He showed me how to true up wheels, rebuild bottom brackets, replace axles, adjust brakes and derailleurs. The bikes he sold me never lasted, because they were big and heavy and cheap to begin with. I remember, on one bike, the front fork snapped in two -- thankfully, when I wasn't going fast. But whenever one of those bikes wore out on me, he'd always give me a good trade-in on something else.

The fact that he devoted his garage to bicycles was probably one indication of the popularity of bicycles at the time.

I remember the press coverage pretty well -- I read everything I could about bicycles (and these stories are easy enough to look up today). Suddenly every magazine seemed to have a story about the booming popularity of bicycles. I remember a story in National Geographic in about 1972 or 1973 about a couple (and a friend or two) who set out riding from Alaska to the U.S., and who planned to reach Tierra del Fuego. This first-person story ran about the time they reached San Francisco -- I kept waiting for the story about the trip through Central and South America, but it never appeared and I finally figured they must have aborted somewhere along the line. But the idea that you could ride a distance like that captured my imagination. I could do it, too, when I got old enough.

You have to know a little about the context of the time. In about 1970, the big theme in the media was "ecology and the environment" --we had the first Earth Day in 1970, and everyone suddenly cared.

So most of those articles at the start of the boom played off the fact that bicycles did not pollute, with the added advantage that you could ride one and get fit, too. What a bargain!

There was another trend in media coverage -- physical fitness. This was also a period when gyms started sprouting up everywhere, and jogging took off in popularity. Suddenly you saw stories about the "benefits of endorphins" and the value of exercise for its own sake. And of course, bicycling was a part of that, too.

Then in 1973, we had the oil crisis -- a genuine shock for the country -- and suddenly the point of many of these magazine stories was that bicycles did not consume fuel. Wow! Such a way to save money. It was a little absurd, when you think about it now. Gasoline went from about 35 cents a gallon to a little over 50 cents. Even when you account for inflation it's hard to see why so many people got so worked up. But it definitely seemed important at the time. Bicycles were one way to beat the high cost of motoring.

So bicycling really had a higher profile in the media than ever before. Every mag had some sort of an angle. When Nixon went to China, there were stories about how an entire nation traveled on two wheels -- remarkable! There was a cover story in Scientific American, from 1975 or 1976, that did scientific calculations on various modes of human-powered transportation (walking, running, roller-skating, etc.), calculated energy consumed and distance traveled, and concluded that bicycling was the most efficient way to get around. My thought: Duh.

I remember parroting these articles, in conversation at the dinner table. I would tell my father, a community college professor who always had nice things to say about the environment, that if he really cared, he would buy a bicycle and ride the 10 miles to work, and he'd slim down and save money, too. He was bemused but unimpressed. We lived in Spokane, where the winters are intense, and he said he needed his car. I saw a story about a three-wheeler with a fiberglass car body for $500 and told him he could buy that. He never did. (I guess this is a little like the way my boys today try to convince me that there are redeeming qualities to videogames. I remain unconvinced.)

Now, the way the story is told today, the bike boom ended in abrupt collapse. I was a kid, of course, and I didn't notice. What I saw was that there were more bikes on the road than ever before. I did notice that there was less gushing coverage of bicycling in the national press than earlier. And I don't think it was that the nation suddenly repudiated bicycling. It was just that every magazine had already written the story to death, and it was old news, and the standard ten speed was such an amazing success in those boom years that virtually everyone who wanted a ten-speed had bought one. Suddenly it wasn't strange to see three or four bicyclists on the road on a sunny afternoon. Until the boom, it was rare to see anyone -- the moment you got your drivers' license, poof, you were done. But now it was acceptable for a grown-up to be seen on a bike. Of course, it's nothing like today. On a similar sunny afternoon, traveling the same route in a car, you might pass 50 bicyclists or more. But the seventies is really when it all began.

I remember that when the movie "Breaking Away" came out in 1979, the first big movie I can remember in which bicycling was an important element of the plot, it had been several years since the big media splash -- and I wondered, whatever happened to that? At the time I thought maybe bicycling had become so ingrained in our culture in the early '70s that maybe it wasn't remarkable anymore. (One question posed at the beginning of this thread was whether bicycle racing was a big deal in the '70s. Not at all. When I saw that movie, I thought, wow, people here race bicycles? I thought they only did that in France.)

You might get the wrong impression of what people were riding if you peruse the listings on eBay today. About half the bikes you see for sale are the high-end bicycles, made of lightweight steel, from exotic European manufacturers (and sometimes Japanese). But these are just the bikes that survived. What people actually rode back then was rather different. Everywhere you saw the Schwinn Varsity and the Schwinn Continental. There were thousands of other types of ten speeds on the road as well -- the vast majority of them just as heavy and cumbersome and low-tech as the entry-level Schwinn "lightweight" models. But honestly, in my town, my guess is that 40 percent of the bikes I saw ridden were Schwinns. Then there were all the department-store bikes -- the ones you got at Sears and Penney's and Western Auto. Maybe 10 percent were imports, and even then those bikes were pretty equivalent to the American models -- heavy and clunky by current standards, with components that rusted in the rain. My guess would be that just two or three percent of the bikes on the road were the sort that would interest an enthusiast of today. The more typical bikes of the era probably ended up at the Goodwill and eventually the dumpster. The thing is, even the low-end bikes of the time, even the Schwinn Varsity, represented a quantum leap over the bikes that had come before. The abrupt widespread acceptance of derailleur-equpped bikes, somewhat lighter than those that had come before, meant suddenly that it was possible to travel longer distances and climb hills without getting off and pushing. That, by itself, was a revolution.

The old Sting-Rays pretty well vanished from the bike racks by the mid-seventies, or when you did see them, they were old hand-me-downs, scratched and beat-up, passed from one member of a family to another when the older kids had moved up to a ten-speed. And it was actually kind of funny. In 1970, we all wanted the "Orange Krate" type bike, with the springer fork and the speedometer and the rear-view mirrors and the five-speed stick shift. But by 1975, if we saw one of our friends riding one of these, we'd laugh at him and tell him to get a grown-up bike like ours, with proper 10-speed derailleurs and hand brakes and racing handlebars. (Those old Sting-Rays and the heavy "cruiser" bikes, meanwhile, when they hadn't been pitched into the trash, lingered in the backs of garages, gathering dust, until the mid-eighties, when suddenly people just a little younger than myself started deciding they were cool again, started buying them up at yard sales, fitting them with knobby tires and calling them "mountain bikes.")

I probably rode longer and harder than anyone in my school. I actually rode my bike across the state, twice, when I was in high school, Spokane to Seattle. And I did it solo. My dad says now he was crazy to let me do it -- the first time I did it I was just turning 16. But I think kids were probably encouraged to be a bit more "free-range" in these days. And what my dad forgets is that it all started when he came home from work one day and told me over dinner about a couple of co-workers who had made the same ride. He was astounded. Such a thing was practically unheard-of until the mid-'70s. And he said, wouldn't you like to do that someday? Uh-huh, you bet!

For high school graduation in 1980, my dad offered to buy me a brand-new bike -- anything I wanted, within reason. How about a nice Schwinn Varsity? But by that point even I knew there were better bikes. And I think this ought to tell you something about the market in those days. Back when I started perusing bike ads in Boy's Life in the early '70s, the Varsity cost $100; by 1980, with inflation, it was $130. Over at the Sears store you might have gotten something equally clunky for $89. But I talked my dad into something quite a bit better -- a Centurion LeMans 12, a Japanese bike they'd started carrying at my local Schwinn store. The price was $235, on sale for $225 -- and it was at least 10 pounds lighter than the Varsity. The high-end bikes of the day -- the ones you never really saw on the road -- ran only a little higher. To this day, I wish I'd talked my dad into the Centurion Pro Tour, which cost $335 and weighed a few pounds less, because of higher-grade Tange steel. The one I really wanted was the Schwinn Paramount -- there was a 1979 model on the wall of the bike shop for a whopping $700. (The salesman explained there wasn't a 1980 model).

But a truly high-end bike was out of the picture. I told myself the LeMans was the best bike you could get with a factory kickstand. Friends ooohed and ahhed at how light it was. I actually rode it for another 35 years --probably some kind of a record. Today, when people try to lift it, they can't believe how heavy it seems.

The importance of these price points is that during the bike-boom years you really didn't see the dramatic difference in price between the lowest-end bike and the top-end bikes, the way you see you see today. Nowadays you can buy a cheap Chinese bike at Wal-Mart for about the same price as the ten-speeds of the '70s, and for a really high-end Olympic-quality bike you can spend $10,000 or more. But in those days, the very best bike you could buy was still a rather attainable product for everyone willing to save for a few months. And you could get a pretty decent bike, at least by the standards of the time, for around $200.

As for me, well, I grew up, went to college, found myself in a city with such heavy traffic and such narrow streets that biking seemed unsafe -- and I got a drivers' license. The bike was something I pulled out a few times a year. But a few years ago, when I started biking in a big way again, with my only real knowledge of bicycles coming from this "bike boom" era, I found myself walking into bicycle shops like a bewildered time-traveler. I learned about "index" shifting and brifters and "groupsets" and I found bicycles I could lift with a pinky. Prices started close to a thousand bucks. And I had to admit things really had changed.

Erik Smith
Olympia, Wash.

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Old 09-25-16, 06:11 AM
  #196  
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Hard to believe now, but back in that era Schwinn made and sold some really good lugged frame bikes. The first really good LBS bike I bought was a Schwinn LeTour. The frame was very light, and the components better than average.
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Old 09-25-16, 07:09 AM
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Learned to ride in the flat of Mobile, AL on a Sears Fliteliner - it was too big for me.
Moved to the rolling hills on the north side of San Antonio and pushed the Fliteliner every time to get home. Next bike was a Sears The Rail with 5sp derailleur - it was just right, and rode all over those hills. In 6th grade, met my friend Stevo riding home from school and we rode all over together. I'm still amazed today at the size of the hill we climbed every day after Jr. High.
Bikes were still Wish Book stuff, and I coveted the English Racer.
My high school bike was a Wards Open Road. Made by Murray, was a decent bike - excepting the asthabula crank the steel components were Nitto. It was too small for me, and rode it farther and farther into the hills away from town.

I went to school in Nashville in '75, and bike racks at Vandy were decorated with the most beautiful creations of the bike boom. Raleigh Grand Prix was the norm, and the few Japanese bikes were still inferior.
The most beautiful bike I had ever seen was the black and gold Raleigh Competition GS, next was the white and green Super Course.
I was not disappointed when the Open Road was lifted from a bike rack. While I lusted after Super Course, I left Cumberland Transit with a new Grand Prix sporting a suede Unicanitor saddle, and it fit me like a glove.
After moving to Austin, the swaged SR crank stripped on me climbing the last block home, and the rebuilds began. UT Co-op shop workers all raced, won parts, and sold them cheap in the Co-op bike shop. The GP was transformed with Mighty Comp crank, Zeus/Rigida wheelset, and narrower freewheel with Shimano 600 derailleurs. The bike stayed in this form Until the 20-naughties (this is the 90s saddle).

When still in school in Austin, I lived in "apartment city" south of the river, and could beat the shuttle buses into campus.
In PChem class, ran into my old buddy Stevo, and rekindled a cycling friendship - he lived in Deep Eddy and cycled into campus every day. After school, I stayed in Austin and he moved to Kerrville, spreading our cycling and fly-fishing turf wide through the Texas hill country.

He made a mistake selling his Vista Silver Shadow, and he bought into the cycling market of the 80s and 90s, eventually we both ended up with our families in San Antonio.
I kept pedaling my old GP until I could no longer reach over the long GB stem and maes bars, about the time my youngest daughter was old enough for her first full-size bike. That began the 2nd and 3rd rebuilds of the old Raleigh.

As far as me and my buddy Stevo, our daughters grew up together, kayaking the coast, hill country rivers and cycling together. He built his 80s90s frames into bikes for his daughters.


Our daughters then built their own bikes.

Now our daughters are beginning to outgrow us, but we still join a weekend group ride as activities permit. I've also built up other bikes, my Moser the dream bike I couldn't afford in college.
But for me, the bike boom never ended.

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Old 09-26-16, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by abadyam
do you know any more info on the bike? I just found an identical model in an old dilapidated abandoned house. It's in rough shape but should be salvageable. I know it's not really valuable, but lugged steel and made in italy.

I have the exact same bike and I found two numbers stamped on the frame. One was on the bottom of the bottom bracket shell and the other is on the rear bracket where the rear axle bolts to the frame.


The number under the bottom bracket shell is 502-474320 which looked like a Sears number to me so I did a Sears model# search and got a hit on a 10 speed that looks like the right bike, but none of the parts are available. The number on the rear bracket is 2H246670, I have no idea what that number represents.


If you or anyone else knows what rear derailleur can be used in place of the original, please let me know.
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Old 09-26-16, 01:35 PM
  #199  
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Mid to late 60's my bike was a Schwinn Corvette. 3 speed SA with chrome fenders. After graduating from high school in 1971 I purchased a brand new, lemon yellow Schwinn Varsity. Bought it strictly for transportation around campus in Lincoln, NE. I might have even seen Rydabent on my travels.
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Old 09-26-16, 02:37 PM
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Originally Posted by abadyam

do you know any more info on the bike? I just found an identical model in an old dilapidated abandoned house. It's in rough shape but should be salvageable. I know it's not really valuable, but lugged steel and made in italy.
The bike in the picture looks to be an American-built, department store bike. No lugs (welded joints), Ashtabula crank, etc.

If your bike is lugged and Italian built, it's something entirely different. Any chance of pictures?
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