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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 07-31-14, 02:16 PM
  #101  
Phloom
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Way back in the 70's I had a department store 3 speed mustang with a banana seat and chopper like handlebars. The poor bike was stolen twice, both times I was able to recover it. And one really bad crash going down a steep, oil covered gravel road. In 1972, I bought an Apollo 10 speed for $70. I drove that bike into the ground. It went through many tires. In 1976, I went to Europe and I picked up a Falcon in London England. I drove that bicycle all over Europe, mostly on day trips. It was a wonderful way to see the sights. The Falcon lasted until 1983 when a roommate decided my Falcon was nicer to ride than his 10 speed. He could not be bothered to lock it up so it was stolen. I replaced it with a Japanese mountain bike and rode it until it was a basket case. Last year I attempted a restoration but it was too far gone. Now I have a made in Canada Peugeot mountain bike which I my commuter and a mint Raleigh Competition GS from 1978. Kind of a replacement for my stolen Falcon.
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Old 07-31-14, 03:02 PM
  #102  
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I rode a Nishiki Pro with Nuevo Record circa 1975/76 for five years. At a police auction, I found a gunmetal Teledyne Titanium racing bike with Super Record. For... twenty five bucks.

Removed the Super Record and put it on my Nishiki Pro and gave the Teledyne to a friend. That was one very stiff frame.

All the while, rode vintage motorcycles like a KZ 500 Triple, Norton Commando, Triumph Bonneville and Yamaha 650 twin.

The bikes and motorcycles of today are light years beyond what we had in the 70's. Still had tons of fun though and much safer road conditions.

My Waterford R33 sport with Campy Record is the smoothest and most comfortable bike I've ever ridden.

The Harley Road King Classic that I recently sold was a much better motorcycle than anything I rode years ago.

Whatever you ride. .. enjoy!
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Old 07-31-14, 03:44 PM
  #103  
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Growing up in that period I didn't know it was a bike boom, and only have a few memories of adults riding bikes.

I have a vivid memory during a visit to my Grandmother's house, of a 10-speed flying by on the street out front. Up hill, a really steep one, and I was so flabbergasted at the speed that I studied his position and bike closely as he went by. I figured that it must be the bike, it wasn't possible otherwise. I was 7 or 8 at the time.
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Old 08-02-14, 01:49 PM
  #104  
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My first and last brand new "good" bike (owned several beaters since then) was a Gitane Tour de France bought in 1971 or '72 for a little over $200 ... think it was $204 or $206 ... plus shipping. That was a lot of money, since I had a full-time job paying $135 gross a week at the time, a year or two out of university. It was equivalent to the Peugeot PX10s of the era ... Reynolds double-butted and lugged frame, Stronglite crank, abominable Simplex plasticky derailleurs, Mavic rims, sew-up tires. As with the used PX10 I owned in the '80s, the paint and braising was pretty sloppy. Sold the Gitane a year or two later because of a pending cross-country move. Made a point of avoiding tubulars after that.
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Old 08-08-14, 02:30 AM
  #105  
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Bought a Cilo, all Campy, Brooks saddle, with silk sew ups, used, in 1974, from a girl who's brother was on the US ski team, and got the bike as a part of his training package. I rode that bike all over northern Colorado, from Ft. Collins to Boulder, and up the canyons. Had that bike for 20 years, and lost it somehow in a move? Sew ups were a pain! Happy to still be riding.
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Old 08-08-14, 08:54 PM
  #106  
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In the 60's I had a Sears bike built in Austria with a "Campy" groupo. I rode it to college and to work in the local lumber mills. I think I was the only 10 speed rider in Humboldt County. After graduation I ended up in SoCal. I bought a Peugeot PX10E with silk sew ups about 1970 or 71 and rode it around Orange County. There were very few serious cyclists at that time. After a few years bought some clincher rims which made life a lot better. Big miles didn't come until the bike boom around the Olympics in 1984. Rode and raced a Ciocc with full 50th Anniversary Campy Super Record. Still riding. Have all my bikes except the Sears. My wife gets more upset with each addition.
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Old 08-09-14, 10:54 AM
  #107  
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I loved cycling in the 70s!





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Old 08-09-14, 01:05 PM
  #108  
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I don't really remember not having a bike. In the 70s I graduated to a Raleigh 10 speed. Most of my friends rode for transportation and some recreation. I tried racing for a bit, until my friends all had crashes during their races. That took away the appeal. In college, again, most students used bikes for transportation. After college I moved back to the SF Bay Area, and found people to do longer rides with, and tried some centuries. What a blast. I rode to work through the Presidio and downtown SF. I used to take a lane on one of the big one-way streets and tried to beat the signal lights every day. I used a bike for transportation as much as I could.

I moved to a part of the city that made riding a real pain, so I gradually stopped. Then about 20 years later I got back into it, and shopping for the first time was outrageous! Finger tip shifters, clipless pedals, titanium and carbon. God knows we didn't get a 'bike fit' back in the 70s. It was a very strange experience, having a history on an activity that had transformed so much over the years. I'd say the best new things were mountain shifting and camelbak water systems!
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Old 08-14-14, 12:26 PM
  #109  
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What do you believe attracted people to bikes in the 1970s?
- it's human nature to want toys and back then there were no personal computers, internet or cell phones

Was cycling, in the 1970s, a individualistic type of sport? Or was it a sport that people built communities around?
- I biked with my friends all the time, everywhere

Were the majority of cyclists in the 1970s riding to race?
- I can't answer that

Or just for the enjoyment of getting out on a bike?
- well that was everyone I knew

Do you think the introduction of the 10-speed derailer peaked people's interest in biking?
- nah, we all had bikes before we got 27" bikes w gears

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

Was the bike boom just a fad?
- maybe, I remember when everyone had to have a "35mm camera"

Do you have any stories about your experiences racing in the 1970s?
- I beat my grandfather home from the bike shop the day he bought my 1st road bike

Was cycling an "elitist" sport in the 70s?
- nah, everyone had one (where I lived)

Do you think people were attracted to cycling in the 70s as a form of escapism from the pressures of society?
- sure but no more so that other activities

What prompted your interest in bikes?
- we just always had them around whether it was a tricycle everyone shared as toddlers, or other bikes we had access to. is was a part of the American lifestyle. you had a picket fence and a bicycle ...

What prompted your interest in competitive cycling?
- there's a racing thread I think
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Old 02-28-15, 05:45 PM
  #110  
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I think the bike boom was more of a bike-buying boom, than a bike-riding boom.

We rode bikes, because we were kids; and they were our transportation and entertainment. I always loved being on my bike- and spent a lot of time riding it.

c. 1975 an older relative got a geared Sears bike- that was the first case I had heard of, of an adult getting a bicycle. He rode it two times, than it sat for a few months, until he gave it to 13 year-old me! I heard of one other adult getting a bike- a relative of a neighbor; but it was reported that he had a "lot of problems with it" because it was one of them "new-fangled bikes with so many gears".

I progressed to a "10-speed" shortly after that. Kids rode bikes. it was the norm; you'd see it everywhere- but I don't recall ever seeing an adult riding a bike, except for one guy, who was a little ********, and went around doing odd-jobs, using his bike for transportation.

Bicycle racing? Club rides? Never heard of such things.

I had never even set eyes on a "good bike" back then. It was Schwinns; Huffy's; Ross's; Free-Spirits; Royce-Unions.....

Only wish I had stayed with cycling, or at least, would have taken it up again, sooner- 'cause I wasted 3 decades not riding!

[Ooooo-K, so RE- TAR DED gets cernsored areound here?!]
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Old 02-28-15, 07:09 PM
  #111  
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Never thought too much of the bike boom although I lived at the time where mountain biking was born in Fairfax in Marin county and I would hear quiet few stories from my bicycle friends but did not buy my first mountain bike until 1990!
Road cycling for many in the U.S. was and is for health conscious crowd--very different than in Europe where it attracts the opposite crowd to tennis or golf, although it is also for transportation! In french the bicycle is called "the little queen" because that was for so long and for so many the only form of transportation and recreation that one could afford!
The bicycle craze came to exist because a lot of people discovered that there was an alternative to the inexpensive 3 speeds bikes that Sears and the like offered! It was of course the beginning of a very healthy american bicycle industry which is highly prized in the rest of the world! Although again cycling was big in the U.S. with various velodrome or track races one in particular in New York!
Six-day racing - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Madison (cycling) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Old 02-28-15, 07:30 PM
  #112  
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My first 10-speed ...

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Old 02-28-15, 07:31 PM
  #113  
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As I remember things, in the 60s and *very* early 70s, the bikes we'd now think of as road bikes were either Schwinn or some expensive European brand. Then, Japan flooded the market with relatively inexpensive, relatively lightweight 10-speeds. It was good for the consumer, but it was the first step toward the cliff for Schwinn, who took a long time to realize that customers were no longer willing to put up with a 50-pound bike in the name of durability.

My first '10-speed' was a Raleigh Record. That didn't last long. As I found out, I liked riding but I hated that bike. It was clunkier than any brand-name bike deserved. Next up was a CCM Silver Ghost. It had a plain-gauge 531 frame, bar-cons, and tubulars. That one took me through my enlistment , early family years, and into the 90s.

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Old 02-28-15, 08:55 PM
  #114  
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Flatsix911, that is the exact first "10-speed bicycle" that I owned, too. I rode the wheels off of that thing. Got me hooked and led to my Bottecchia, and the current state of addiction I am happily in. You have very good taste, sir. I even changed the Huret RD (delrin plastic) to the same Shimano, Schwinn labeled for mine. Many, many, many happy miles were put on the old Sears-Roebuck orange ride. Thanks for posting the picture!


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Old 03-01-15, 11:17 AM
  #115  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
I think the bike boom was more of a bike-buying boom, than a bike-riding boom.

We rode bikes, because we were kids; and they were our transportation and entertainment.
For some of us entering adulthood the 70's bike boom was indeed about riding. Yes, many bikes were sold and never ridden as much as they might have been, but plenty of us rode for both fun and transportation.

My first derailleur bike, bought in '72 IIRC when I was 23y.o., which I rode all over for transportation (photo taken when it was new and I didn't know much):


I still ride it quite a bit. It went through stags of upgrades and restoration, and now wears the Sugino crank I first gave it around 1980. As it was in 2011:
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Old 03-01-15, 02:40 PM
  #116  
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The "bike boom" for me was more early to mid 60's


My younger brother had gotten a new bike for Christmas. Can't remember if it was a Schwinn or a Huffy, but it was red. On a Christmas day spin around the block I was distracted by the sight of a Helicopter passing overhead, (an extremely rare sight) and crashed into the back of a neighbors parked 40's Packard bending the front forks badly.

The neighbor across the street had an auto shop and a Christmas day repair was effected with an acetylene torch. The front forks wore a coat of red oxide primer from then on.

That spring a paper route opened and I lobbied for permission to go after it, but a condition was I had to buy my own bike with the first proceeds. (I think my brother still holds a grudge about wrecking his bike on Christmas day)

The Rich and a bit older kids all rode 10 speeds. Burgermisters (that may have been a local or a model name for a Pusch, never have quite figured that one out) from the local sporting goods store owned by the Chicks family were the thing to have. I thought the one next door at Western Auto was a better deal and talked me dad and the salesman into letting me buy it, even though I couldn't stand over it yet. Rode that bike everywhere all through high school.

In 69-70 I worked as a apprentice commercial photographer at a shop in Chicago that specialized in catalog photography of "hard goods" we did almost all of the catalog layouts for Sears and Wards for bicycles. Some of those got really complicated as all of the color shots were done on large format (8"X10") film with the entire page layout, with multiple bicycles in one shot. That much chrome and gloss paint all in one big shot presents all kinds of problems. One memorable one involved a kid on a bike suspended by piano wire in the middle of the page with a concerned mother in attendance.

The word of the "art director" was law and it was taken as far as making a tracing on tissue paper of the "art director's" sketch. Taping it to the ground glass on the camera and reproducing it exactly to the dimensions it would appear on the page.

The sketch for the Christmas toy catalog back cover arrived and it depicted a boy on the newly introduced banana bike with his hand on the nose of the saddle and angled up in a rather suggestive fashion with a big grin on his face.

After several phone calls and protestations to the flamboyant art director we were directed to proceed as instructed.


Shortly after the catalog was published he was fired.




The next farm catalog we put the manager of the retouch department on the back cover with his head on backwards, but that's another story.
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Old 03-01-15, 03:03 PM
  #117  
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Originally Posted by TGT1 View Post
The........ story.
Hehe, LOVED that story, TGT1! Bikes AND large-format photography, AND Sears catalogs- It doesn't get much better than that! All of those things hearken back to a wonderful time- probably the pinnacle of Western Society; the likes of which we will never see again.
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Old 03-01-15, 08:46 PM
  #118  
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In 1960, my folks got me what we now call a single speed bike with a coaster brake. It was a birthday present, it came from the local western auto. Felt like they had given me wings, wings of wheels. I could go all over town, to school with complete freedom. To go somewhere, at the time, one either walked or rode their bike. Parents did not schlep the kids everywhere, we had one car - my father would ride with a couple of other guys to work. My mother, worked for the phone company in afternoon/evening - she usually took the car to work. In 1971, replaced my western auto bike with a Schwinn Surburban. It was a 1X5, because we lived in a pretty hilly area - the bike shop had replaced the standard 45 t chainring with a 39 t, think the cassette was 14 to 32- seems it cost around $90. Color was green. The Schwinn was such an improvement over my first bike- rode it through university, grad school and on into life. Didn't think of the so called 70's bike "boom" as any sort of boom, a bike was how I got around - have been primarily a commuting/utility cyclist most of my cycling life.
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Old 03-01-15, 09:50 PM
  #119  
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Originally Posted by Stucky View Post
I think the bike boom was more of a bike-buying boom, than a bike-riding boom.

We rode bikes, because we were kids; and they were our transportation and entertainment. I always loved being on my bike- and spent a lot of time riding it.

Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
For some of us entering adulthood the 70's bike boom was indeed about riding. Yes, many bikes were sold and never ridden as much as they might have been, but plenty of us rode for both fun and transportation.

Originally Posted by jimmuller View Post
Well, I did notice that the zombie thread had been revived [as of 7/28/14, from 5/21/12]...
As I re-read this thread, Jim, I noted we had a couple of exchanges on it.

+1 to what you wrote. I posted in my cycling bio in my Introduction to BikeForums:

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
… Back in the 60’s in the Motor City, I had an “English Racer,’ and longed to tour at about age 14, but then joined the car culture. In Ann Arbor MI in the 70’s I really realized the utility of bicycles for commuting, and began touring on a five-speed Schwinn Suburban, but soon bought a Mercier as did my girlfriend, later my wife. We toured in Michigan and Ontario…
I can vividly remember that beautiful day of my epiphany in May of 1970, when I borrowed my roommate's Schwinn Varsity to go do a few scattered errands around town.
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Old 03-01-15, 10:11 PM
  #120  
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I think the prime factor that made me want to get back into cycling as a middle-aged man, was the fond memories and freedom I knew as a child on my bike.

What's sad is, I rarely see kids out on bikes these days.

As a child, not only was a bike fun; Not only was it practical transportation (Forget about being chauffeured around by parents; we didn't even have a car!); but it was something which taught a love of freedom and independence; and responsibility (A few blocks or a few miles from home, yopu were on your own, and your safety was your own responsibility).

I'll never, ever forget those days!
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Old 03-01-15, 10:46 PM
  #121  
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I was in high school in the 70's- graduated in '74. I raced in a club in Northern NJ, Nutley Bike Club. I did club races and did Somerville and the state championships. There was a high school bike club of about 5 (including a teacher). We did some club rides, but mostly I rode on my own. My first "serious" bike was a Peugeot UO-8. My best friend in HS and I road, but when I started racing I rode on my own (he didn't like racing).

Bike and cycling were not "elitist" so much as enthusiast driven, although I do remember high school kids giving me puzzled stares as I told them my Campagnolo cranks cost $120 (they thought I was insane). My biking friends and I followed racing- Tour de France and Merckx and John Howard and domestic racing. We subscribed to VeloNews- then a newspaper. I became infatuated with everything Italian- Campagnolo, Clement, Vittoria etc. I had a Raleigh "Competition" for a while, then worked in bike shops and saved and graduated to a Guerciotti full Campy Record (still miss that bike). These were the days of nail-on cleats and leather "hairnet" helmets. I remember shaving my legs for the first time and getting puzzled suspicious looks from my girlfriend in HS.

The so called "bike boom" was certainly a boom in my mind- I was obsessed with cycling and racing and European racing and Gran Fondos. The "boom" it seems to me, was driven by the growing import of better equipment and teens (like me) or 20 somethings in college (which I was by '75 in New York City) creating a growing and graduated market for imported upscale bikes. Stuyvesant Bicycle Shop in NYC was a mecca for cool bikes and components from Europe at the time. I used to ride my chrome Atala track bike around NYC. It was heaven when they decided to close Central Park on the weekends. NYC was progressive even back then- closing the park for cyclists, runners and skaters despite protest from taxis and drivers. I did the "Pepsi Challenge" and road a century in the park back then. Many hundreds were on that ride- I think around 1973 or so.

The gasoline shortage of the mid 70's definitely boosted bike sales around my area as more people turned to bikes as an alternative to driving- especially when they sold gas alternating on days according to odd/even plate numbers. I was just starting to drive, and i turned to my bike as a much more reliable means of transport. My bikes became utilitarian as much as for racing and sport riding.

Another bit of a phenom was the growth of the American Youth Hostels (AYH) that held large teen bike tours through New England and all around the country with a network of hostels for extended overnight trips. I never managed to go on one, but I had many high school friends that participated and i am sure they contributed to a generation of cycling enthusiasts.

I would guess that the cycling "boom" was mostly located on the east and west coasts because the growing distribution of new bikes and components branched out from importer located near major shipping distribution points- NYC, MD, LA, SF, etc. As others have reported, my sense and memory of the boom was it was driven by teens and college students and more as a utilitarian alternative to cars for campus and in urban locales. As excellent as NYC mass transit was for convenience (although very dangerous back in the 70's unlike today), I rarely had to use the subway- rode my bike. I miss that all chrome, cottered crank, sew up Atala track bike- still dream about riding it.
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Old 03-02-15, 05:38 AM
  #122  
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Originally Posted by kenzo1979 View Post
I was in high school in the 70's- graduated in '74. I raced in a club in Northern NJ, Nutley Bike Club. I did club races and did Somerville and the state championships….

Bike and cycling were not "elitist" so much as enthusiast driven…These were the days of nail-on cleats and leather "hairnet" helmets. I remember shaving my legs for the first time and getting puzzled suspicious looks from my girlfriend in HS.

The so called "bike boom" was certainly a boom in my mind- I was obsessed with cycling and racing and European racing and Gran Fondos. The "boom" it seems to me, was driven by the growing import of better equipment and teens (like me) or 20 somethings in college (which I was by '75 in New York City) creating a growing and graduated market for imported upscale bikes…It was heaven when they decided to close Central Park on the weekends. NYC was progressive even back then- closing the park for cyclists, runners and skaters despite protest from taxis and drivers. I did the "Pepsi Challenge" and road a century in the park back then. Many hundreds were on that ride- I think around 1973 or so.

The gasoline shortage of the mid 70's definitely boosted bike sales around my area as more people turned to bikes as an alternative to driving- especially when they sold gas alternating on days according to odd/even plate numbers. I was just starting to drive, and i turned to my bike as a much more reliable means of transport. My bikes became utilitarian as much as for racing and sport riding.

Another bit of a phenom was the growth of the American Youth Hostels (AYH) that held large teen bike tours through New England and all around the country with a network of hostels for extended overnight trips….

I would guess that the cycling "boom" was mostly located on the east and west coasts because the growing distribution of new bikes and components branched out from importer located near major shipping distribution points- NYC, MD, LA, SF, etc. As others have reported, my sense and memory of the boom was it was driven by teens and college students and more as a utilitarian alternative to cars for campus and in urban locales….

Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
… Back in the 60’s in the Motor City, I had an “English Racer,’ and longed to tour at about age 14, but then joined the car culture. In Ann Arbor MI in the 70’s I really realized the utility of bicycles for commuting, and began touring on a five-speed Schwinn Suburban, but soon bought a Mercier as did my girlfriend, later my wife. We toured in Michigan and Ontario…
Nice post kenzol, and it's a good description of those halcyon days before mountain bikes. Having grown up in Detroit, after about age 14 riding my bike, even to school would have been “nerdy" (had the word existed), especially since I was already a “Brain.” Nonetheless, Detroit did produce some National Champions, and Olympian cyclists in that era, including Sheila Young who I found out later grew up in my neighborhood. I however, followed the touring path in the 1970's. I recall that the AYH put out a book listing various rides around the country, including cross country, and I spent many hours imagining those rides (and did a cross country tour in 1977).

Of note to me, was “The Pepsi Challenge.” Detroit held a seemingly similar event, a 24-hour double century on Belle Isle, a city park in the Detroit River, also designed by Frederick Law Ohlmstead. It was a totally flat circuit of 5 miles, also with hundreds of riders. The city allowed camping there, the only one time of the year. I did all 40 laps on my Schwinn Suburban with my roommate on his Schwinn Varsity, and I was amazed at riders who (claimed) to have done over 400 miles.

This was despite a peculiar accident in which a rider on a penny farthing fell as he dismounted, and taco’ed my rear wheel. I called my mother who went out and bought me a new wheel and drove through heavy traffic onto the island, and delivered it. At the end, my roommate commented that he could not even be interested in Joey Heatherton if she came on to him after that event. Now, that’s a 70's reference!

Last edited by Jim from Boston; 03-02-15 at 07:31 AM.
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Old 03-02-15, 07:49 AM
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If anything, I think there has been more of a true bike boom lately in the big cities, like NYC and SF. LOTs more people commuting on bikes than I'd ever seen before (It was quite rare in the 70's), and it's much more common today to see a road bike in such places; that, and the fixie craze = a much more noticeable presence of bikes on the streets- to the point that such places have more bike lanes than ever before.

Of course, now that I live in the sticks, as far as I can tell, I'm the only person in my county who rides.
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Old 03-02-15, 05:52 PM
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Newspaper boy single speed bike in the early 50s in Detroit, MI area.
Raleigh 3 speed in the mid-50s in SE Michigan
Schwinn Continental in the early '70s, then UO-8, PX10, Fuji Finest, etc. after that in MI
Moved to AZ in '78 and still riding now at age 82.
Remember folks standing in line to get gasoline during the 'gas crisis' and me waving at 'em as I pedaled by . . .
Been told " . . .and you gonna get killed riding that stupid bicycle on the main road going to work.'
Am still here pedalin' while 95% of my co-horts are dead and buried.
Pedal on!
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Old 03-02-15, 06:03 PM
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Jim from Boston

Rode the Belle Isle Marathon 200 miler several times; also the Canadian Mile Eater (200 miles in 2 days), Pedal to the Pines (Ontario, Canada) the Cycling Saddlemen's (Dearborn club) TOLSC (Tour of Lake St. Clair, a 2-day 200 miler plus lots of other rides/centuries with the Slow Spokes of Macomb bicycle club.
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