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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 09-26-16, 04:38 PM
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I upgraded from a Huffy to a Motobecane Super Mirage in 1978 which I kept until selling a couple of years ago. A couple buddies were into cycling. One purchased a Schwinn Paramount and then purchased a Bob Jackson frame and transferred the Campy components over. Riding was not as nice as today with all the great trails we have.
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Old 09-29-16, 10:23 AM
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Originally Posted by a_morrow
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.
Great questions! Thanks for asking us old-timers.

I celebrated by 14th birthday in 1971 in a small town in southern Wisconsin. Badgered my parents into buying me a Schwinn Varsity 10 speed WOOHOO! that year. A few months later a friend shows up at high school on a Gitane. What a let down! Now I had this sled I had to sell and buy a cool European bike with paper route income. (Gitane Interclub, one step above my friend's bike).

What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
Bikes were basic transportation for teenagers and kids. Adults riding bike? What? Any adult riding a bike was kind of a freak, or communist, or someone who just graduated from hippy. That changed quickly in the mid 70's as the boom took off and bikes were marketed to adults.

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 in any sense that it is now. It was somewhat individualistic, but it was equally a social activity among friends. Clubs started to spring up as demand grew.

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?
Racers were a tiny tiny subculture. In the same class as competitive speed-walkers or canoe racers. 10-speeds, and particularly the lightweight bikes from Europe and Japan were a major factor. The ONLY 'real' 10-speed maker in the US in the early 70's was Schwinn.

Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
Lots and lots of adults bought their first bikes (post children's bikes) in the mid to late 70's. Upgrading? Upgrade was from a single speed balloon tire bike or a three-speed.

When my local bike shop had some Trek frames hanging on the wall in 1976 I was captivated. These things were being made by guys like me less than 100 miles from my home. But nobody in small towns were buying frames, so most of them were still hanging there 8 months later, and I got a deal on a TX500. Who cares that it was one size too big for me, I bought it, stripped the Gitane and bought a few new parts. That bike evolved over the next 7-8 years, rode it for 30, then bought an '83 Trek 500 on ebay, this one fits me, and did another transformation.

Was the bike boom just a fad?
Yes and no. There was a boom but not really a major bust. It just leveled off, slowed, matured, and morphed into mountain biking. About this time the marketers took over big time and here we are.

Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
I heard about a race that someone locally was organizing, I think they were going to race around the track at the local high school, and I had visions of me speeding along on my Schwinn Tornado (single speed 24" coaster brake kids bike) but I was delusional. This was just before I got the Varsity, but I am not a competitive athlete.

Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
If you consider teenagers, college students, hippies, unemployed guys, and your run of the mill nut-jobs elitist, then by all means yes, it was a very elite sport.

Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
The pressures of society, as we know them today, didn't exist in the 70's. One big pressure I recall was trying to get my sister off the phone (the only, corded, dial telephone that existed in our household) so I could call my friend. Oh, yeah, also having to walk over to the (black and white) TV to change the channel (one of 4 channels available) and change the volume. Turning records over to the other side was also a major source of angst.

What prompted your interest in bikes?
I am an engineer/mechanic/tinkerer by nature. And, bikes were a basic means of transportation and freedom for kids who grew up like me. Here's me at 10 - 12 years old (9:00 am on a summer morning): "Mom, I'm going over to Tim's house, see you later"... hop on the bike, ride with friends all over creation, including 5 miles or more out into the countryside, show up back at home in time for dinner.

What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
I have no interest in competitive cycling. I just love riding my bike. And then taking them apart and fixing them and building them from parts. I love machines that work well and ride well.
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Old 09-29-16, 11:33 AM
  #203  
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Here's another really big difference between 1970's biking and today:
At really no time before sometime late 80's or later did anyone other than racers wear special clothing for riding. It was really a much more casual enterprise. Yes, specialized clothing is nice, but I don't believe that better garb helped biking become more and more popular. On the contrary, clothing choices were really no barrier back then, and today I know some people are put off by feeling like they need to wear spandex to go out for a fun little spin.
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Old 10-07-16, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Wileyrat
I'll post to this old thread........

In Seattle around 1970 our Stingray's stopped being cool..............

I lived in the KC area. I had a faux Stingray. I'm surprised these haven't made a comeback as you could ride them all day long. In 1972 if you had a Stingray, some square toed Dingo boots with the buckle on the side, a blue short sleeve work shirt, and long flowing hair you were beyond cool.

Last edited by cb400bill; 10-11-16 at 08:34 PM.
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Old 10-07-16, 09:30 AM
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just got out of the USN.. owned a Honda CB350 . met my earliest Ex GF.
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Old 10-10-16, 05:55 AM
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I got a Varsity 10 speed bike for my 10th birthday in 1968. I was the only kid with a 10 speed in my school for 3 years. The mighty stingray ruled and was faster in a sprint but not in a longer race. My varsity went off road like a mountain bike and along trails and train tracks. It was my jet plane motorbike and my transportation about town. A freedom machine. Paul
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Old 10-10-16, 06:59 AM
  #207  
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Originally Posted by big chainring
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?

The $350 number for a new road-race Paramount in 1972 sounds right to me.
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Old 10-11-16, 10:33 AM
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For me it was transportation, recreation and a job as a paperboy. I enjoyed the 4 mile trip to High School each way, in snow, in Phoenix. I had to settle for my used Schwinn Varsity that I paid $20. for. I did have my paperboy special and a blue metal flake Sting Ray. I have often had more bikes than sense.
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Old 10-11-16, 05:50 PM
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Old 10-11-16, 07:03 PM
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Originally Posted by ridesoldtrek
Here's another really big difference between 1970's biking and today:
At really no time before sometime late 80's or later did anyone other than racers wear special clothing for riding. It was really a much more casual enterprise. Yes, specialized clothing is nice, but I don't believe that better garb helped biking become more and more popular. On the contrary, clothing choices were really no barrier back then, and today I know some people are put off by feeling like they need to wear spandex to go out for a fun little spin.
I think one reason there's more bike clothing now is there is a much larger cohort of older riders. When I was a kid, I rode in cut-off jeans with no underwear. In my late 50s now, I suspect I would find that terribly uncomfortable.

Not having ridden for over 30 years, when I started again about 5 years ago I really didn't think of bike clothing one way or the other. But once I started I quickly fell in love with riding all over again and as my rides got longer I decided to try bike shorts and found they were a lot more comfortable. Perhaps older bodies need the comfort a bit more and it does seem to me that the riders in kit tend to skew older than overall biking population.

I might also suspect that gear is relatively cheaper and better now than it was in the 70s. The technology in sports oriented fabrics has come a long way since then.
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Old 10-11-16, 07:12 PM
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I might also suspect that gear is relatively cheaper and better now than it was in the 70s. The technology in sports oriented fabrics has come a long way since then.
You're quite right, bike clothing available in the 70's (that I was aware of) was 'olde fashioned' racing gear: black wool tights with chamois and basic jersey's. Not much choice - actually not ANY choice - for casual riders, and that is a great improvement.

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Old 10-12-16, 03:53 AM
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I rode my old 10 speed Super course and a clunker I had for the beach, oh and my fav, a rigid Crazy Horse out on the hiking trails, took the clunker to Daytona and rode the beach.
Never gave the 'Industry' of cycling a second thought, never watched a race, never hopped up a bike.

Tennis shoes, gym shorts, no helmet, no gloves, often no shirt, Added a rear rack so I could carry a beach towel for a snooze if I got tired of riding.

I would spend the day outside, with my bike~~
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Old 10-13-16, 08:48 AM
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I bought a bike because of frustration. At that time i lived just off Wilshire Blvd and Western in Los Angeles. I worked for a company located in the pass in Monterey Park, about 18 miles away. When the gas crunch came, we could only buy gas every other day and only a limited amount. What that meant is that twice a week, I had to wait in gas lines for 2-3 hours.

So went and bought a ten speed at Sears and started commuting. I went down Wilshire Blvd to downtown then crosshatched over to East LA and then up to Monterey Park and the pass. What I found is that I could get to work in almost the same time span that it took to drive the freeways.......without the aggravation. At first I was the only one I saw riding down Wilshire in the AM or back in the PM. Within a few days there were 3-4 of us and within a week, there was over a dozen of us. I continued to commute via bike 2-3 out of 5 days until Sept. of 1976 when I left Los Angeles.
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Old 10-13-16, 10:00 AM
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We rode all over on Schwinn stingrays with 'skinny spreads' handlebars - not the wide spreads bars. Two speed kickbacks for accelerating and top speed. 36t front rings. 18, 19 or 20t rear cogs.
Banana seats for low, endless wheelies.
My first roadbike was a used Motobecane my dad got me. Nervar cottered cranks, lugged frame & Huret derailleur.
My dad had a Schwiinn Varsity tank and a very cool Hi-E Cosmopolitan aluminum roadbike. My mom had a five speed Schwinn womens bike.
We would do bike vacations in our '69 VW camper bus all over the place (west coast). My dad and I followed Merckx and various roadraces.
I didn't know it was a bike boom, and bikes went quiet when I got my drivers license in 1976.
Started riding again around 1983 and a purchase of a sweet Mondia roadbike. It was and is racer deluxe.
Fun days.

Today its superior shifting and bars and stem not slammed so low lol. 34/50 cranks saved my old a**.
Steel, aluminum and CF - I've owned one or two of each. Hell, I even have a rain bike.
My 19, 23 & 27 yr old boys all have roadbikes...
Still fun days.
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Old 10-16-16, 12:28 PM
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My first brand new bicycle was an "AMF" 3-spd with a Sturmey Archer "stick shift" on the top tube instead of a trigger on the handlebar. I paid $26.39 (24.99 plus tax) ..... The picture was taken just after I had ridden 52 miles to my grandparents home at the age of thirteen.

Bicycling was part of the "aerobic" revolution created by Cooper's famous book that created "jogging" for cardiovascular health. Endurance cycling rocketed in popularity - around 1982 - and until the triathlon stole many athlete from the "single mode" event.....
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Old 10-19-16, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
"AMF" 3-spd with a Sturmey Archer "stick shift" on the top tube instead of a trigger on the handlebar. I paid $26.39 (24.99 plus tax) ..... The picture was taken just after I had ridden 52 miles to my grandparents home at the age of thirteen..
That's got to be some kind of AMF record. 52 Miles! At 13!? Impressive! Great picture too - you don't look like you just rode 52 miles on an AMF. Thanks for sharing DH.
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Old 10-19-16, 09:43 PM
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I rode a bike to grade school and through college though I had a car in college as well. It was both sport and transportation and recreation. I had an E3S which I got for Christmas circa 1964. I rode it for many years even high school and into college and also got a "ten speed" mid 70s which I used even into my first job. I worked as a geologist for an oil company and the courtyard in front of the main office square was jam packed with bicycles and motorcycles in 1979, my wife and I cycled to work at least several times a week as long as the weather was fairly decent. By 1984 the waning boom had all but faded and biking moved into the sporting realm it has bumped along in ever since, oh, but we did all buy MTBs in the 80s and 90s.

One thing that certainly motivated me was the 1973 oil boycott and I pretty much parked my car for a long time. It also motivated my college major choice. But like the bike boom of the 70s the oil boom of the 80s also crashed and my second return to college for another degree found me riding a bicycle yet again for convenience.

Boomers were active, outdoors people. We jogged, back packed, hiked, SCUBA dived and did fun things (and still do) like ride bicycles unlike the current crop of sugar britches.
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Old 10-20-16, 02:10 AM
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Hmmmm....in college, I didn't have a car until my senior yr. First yr of college was spent @University of Miami('72). Hadn't had a bike since fifth grade. I was very ill advised as what to get. I bought a 3spd Columbia that I thought was grand...it wasn't according to my roommate who had a Peugeot 10spd. He was quite happy to show me all my bikes faults...he was an a$$ too. Nevertheless, Pandora was outa the box. Coral Gables was very flat and so I could go considerable distances in a day, although it was anything but a bicycling community back then. Took a lot of unnecessary chances with cars and was almost hit by a train-long story. Thanks to my roommate, I longed for a better bike and more speeds.

Then I transferred up University of Kansas in Lawrence-another long story. Still no car, but this new environ afforded some challenging biking. The university sits atop a very large hill...I lived always someplace at the bottom of the hill off campus. My legs must of looked like I was on steroids at that point. I don't ever remember being put off to go anywhere I wanted, even if it was raining or snowing(the snow part was interesting on a bicycle).

I had gone down to a bike shop and tried to get a better bike. I guess the guy working there read me wrong, 'cause i had money, but he was determined to sell me a used Raleigh GP. "Slightly used" he said. Well, yeah it was beautiful and all that, but used enough to have a seriously bent rear rim. I kept going back to the shop to accessorize the bike with better gear. Mostly top SunTour stuff. I probably put $300 worth of stuff on the bike and that was '70's dollars. I had no idea Raleigh had bikes above the GP, nor was I told they did. No Internet, no biking friends that knew more than I did...the guys at the bikes shops there were wholly snobs and not easy to befriend.

When I got my first car, I lost over 20lbs...I ate the same, so I figure it was from not biking anymore. Most of us guys back then didn't look at our legs in the full mirror...it was always about your torso. So honestly, I don't remember what my legs looked like before & after...lol.

Now that I understand the Raleigh line from back then, I looked for a decent Competition GS. Failing to find one, I settled for a well worn SuperCourse. Incredibly, this week I scored an original, Peal Silver, un-restored GS! The SC never got restored and now attention has shifted to the GS. I have other bikes, but I was riding a Schwinn LeTour, my only 10spd. Nothing special there, but a decent ride I was putting about 20 miles a day on.

I'm hoping to be absolutely slaved by the GS ride when I get 'er all done. I've never read anything bad about that bike's ride...some say they have better bikes, but nobody says it's a dog, or MEH.

Kevin

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Old 10-20-16, 02:26 AM
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Originally Posted by jon c.
I think one reason there's more bike clothing now is there is a much larger cohort of older riders. When I was a kid, I rode in cut-off jeans with no underwear. In my late 50s now, I suspect I would find that terribly uncomfortable.

Not having ridden for over 30 years, when I started again about 5 years ago I really didn't think of bike clothing one way or the other. But once I started I quickly fell in love with riding all over again and as my rides got longer I decided to try bike shorts and found they were a lot more comfortable. Perhaps older bodies need the comfort a bit more and it does seem to me that the riders in kit tend to skew older than overall biking population.

I might also suspect that gear is relatively cheaper and better now than it was in the 70s. The technology in sports oriented fabrics has come a long way since then.
I don't get the kid thing and no underwear...especially on a bike. I guess I tried going Commando at some point as a teen, but never on a bike, as you need a minimum of support.....lol.

I don't agree on the present bike clothing on older guys, which I am(63). I think it screams POSER and I hate that. I get what you're saying though about the comfort part. But I just don't understand why they don't make the same clothing without all the colors and Boy Racer stuff. I wear whatever is comfortable and low-key. I don't give a da*m about not looking the racer part. And those aero helmets on an older guy...really???

Kevin
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Old 10-20-16, 02:34 AM
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Originally Posted by boattail71
That's got to be some kind of AMF record. 52 Miles! At 13!? Impressive! Great picture too - you don't look like you just rode 52 miles on an AMF. Thanks for sharing DH.
It is very impressive for a 13yr old....even if you took lots of breaks and bummed around. I got into go carts in sixth grade and my bike disappeared. Like everything else, my dad gave it to the garbage collector. It was a simple Schwinn with a reverse brake......taped playing cards on the frame to make it sound like a small motorbike as they hit the spokes. Everyone did that as a kid, right? Lol.....

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Old 10-20-16, 02:42 AM
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Originally Posted by ridesoldtrek
Great questions! Thanks for asking us old-timers.

I celebrated by 14th birthday in 1971 in a small town in southern Wisconsin. Badgered my parents into buying me a Schwinn Varsity 10 speed WOOHOO! that year. A few months later a friend shows up at high school on a Gitane. What a let down! Now I had this sled I had to sell and buy a cool European bike with paper route income. (Gitane Interclub, one step above my friend's bike).

What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
Bikes were basic transportation for teenagers and kids. Adults riding bike? What? Any adult riding a bike was kind of a freak, or communist, or someone who just graduated from hippy. That changed quickly in the mid 70's as the boom took off and bikes were marketed to adults.

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 in any sense that it is now. It was somewhat individualistic, but it was equally a social activity among friends. Clubs started to spring up as demand grew.

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?
Racers were a tiny tiny subculture. In the same class as competitive speed-walkers or canoe racers. 10-speeds, and particularly the lightweight bikes from Europe and Japan were a major factor. The ONLY 'real' 10-speed maker in the US in the early 70's was Schwinn.

Were people buying bikes in the 1970s buying bikes for the first time? Or were they upgrading to something better?
Lots and lots of adults bought their first bikes (post children's bikes) in the mid to late 70's. Upgrading? Upgrade was from a single speed balloon tire bike or a three-speed.

When my local bike shop had some Trek frames hanging on the wall in 1976 I was captivated. These things were being made by guys like me less than 100 miles from my home. But nobody in small towns were buying frames, so most of them were still hanging there 8 months later, and I got a deal on a TX500. Who cares that it was one size too big for me, I bought it, stripped the Gitane and bought a few new parts. That bike evolved over the next 7-8 years, rode it for 30, then bought an '83 Trek 500 on ebay, this one fits me, and did another transformation.

Was the bike boom just a fad?
Yes and no. There was a boom but not really a major bust. It just leveled off, slowed, matured, and morphed into mountain biking. About this time the marketers took over big time and here we are.

Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
I heard about a race that someone locally was organizing, I think they were going to race around the track at the local high school, and I had visions of me speeding along on my Schwinn Tornado (single speed 24" coaster brake kids bike) but I was delusional. This was just before I got the Varsity, but I am not a competitive athlete.

Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
If you consider teenagers, college students, hippies, unemployed guys, and your run of the mill nut-jobs elitist, then by all means yes, it was a very elite sport.

Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
The pressures of society, as we know them today, didn't exist in the 70's. One big pressure I recall was trying to get my sister off the phone (the only, corded, dial telephone that existed in our household) so I could call my friend. Oh, yeah, also having to walk over to the (black and white) TV to change the channel (one of 4 channels available) and change the volume. Turning records over to the other side was also a major source of angst.

What prompted your interest in bikes?
I am an engineer/mechanic/tinkerer by nature. And, bikes were a basic means of transportation and freedom for kids who grew up like me. Here's me at 10 - 12 years old (9:00 am on a summer morning): "Mom, I'm going over to Tim's house, see you later"... hop on the bike, ride with friends all over creation, including 5 miles or more out into the countryside, show up back at home in time for dinner.

What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
I have no interest in competitive cycling. I just love riding my bike. And then taking them apart and fixing them and building them from parts. I love machines that work well and ride well.
^^^THIS is golden!!! Thank you, enjoyed the hell outa reading the whole bit! It would be absolutely unthinkable for a kid to leave home at 9AM today and reappear right before dinner. Honestly back then, our parents relished the 'break'.

Kevin
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Old 10-20-16, 07:02 PM
  #222  
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Thanks for all the "gushing" remarks - at the time - I had heard that adult riders had ridden the same route in a bicycle club, but I never met any of them. here I am two years later - don't be confused by the picture stamp dates - I'm on Schwinn Continental - 5speed- no front deraileaur - I bought it for $30 - used. A year later I would ride both ways of the route, a solo Century in 8 1/2 hours at 16 years old....

While this was going on -real riders were on Paramounts, Raleigh Super Course or Gitane or Vitus bikes. Of course these bikes were all beyond my price range - $250 to $500 ,,,,,

This was 45 days from my sixteenth birthday - on that day I bought my first motorcycle......
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Old 10-20-16, 07:30 PM
  #223  
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I missed the bike boom of the 70's. By then I was all about career and wasn't riding any more. Back in the 50's, my riding was all about transportation. In the 60's I got into road biking and longer rides. 7 hour solo century at 18. Ate 1 candy bar, one orange, and drank two 17 oz. bottles of water. T-shirt and cutoffs on a leather Italia saddle. At a 10,000 student university, I never met or saw anyone to ride with. Things are really different today.

Oh - my road bike was a full Campy Legnano, 48-52 IIRC up front and 5 speed in back of course with a wide spread on the freewheel. Beautiful machine. I took it apart down to every single tiny piece and put it back together a couple times. That was good.
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Old 10-20-16, 10:09 PM
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While I was riding around on Schwinn Stingrays in the early 70's, my dad got me a Yamaha Motobike for my birthday one year.
Damn my dad was cool!



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Old 10-20-16, 10:26 PM
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Great pic...us gushing young men in those days! When I consider the information pool today at your fingertips, I have to admire how resourceful we were in gathering what little info there was about bikes. I'm sure there were good biking mags then, just like with most things. But most of us were driven into things our friends were. I'm sure KU(30,000 students) must have had a heck of a bike team and no doubt I could have tried out for it with a better bike....but the thought about competitive bike racing never crossed my mind.

Now if I had know about the Raleigh Competition GS and seen their ad slogan;For the aspiring racer, that might have seeded something into my brain.

Yeah, I lived in cut-offs as well....couldn't wait to have holes appear in my jeans so I could cut them off above the knees. I still don't get the Commando part on a bike unless it was pre-puberty and yet my mom would have had a fit if she found out I wasn't wearing underwear as a boy. I can remember parents telling us to always wear clean underwear in case we got into an accident and had to go to the hospital....the family shame of being caught with dirty underwear.

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