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What is your quintessential Silver Era, USA bike boom bicycle (circa 1965-1975)

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What is your quintessential Silver Era, USA bike boom bicycle (circa 1965-1975)

Old 08-03-20, 05:25 AM
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Raleigh Grand Prix.

My first foray out of Schwinn hell.

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Old 08-03-20, 11:15 AM
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Here's a contrarian view of the quintessential silver bike boom era bike - the ones that came in because demand outstripped supply. I have an example here -

- This 1972 Liberia doesn't really match the catalogs of the era. This specimen was sold c.'72 out of Joe Azar's bike shop in Columbia, SC, conveniently located adjacent to the campus of the University of South Carolina. Liberia was a relatively small company in Grenoble that for most of their existence focused on their regional market - though they did support a team in the late '50s and early '60s. Some distributor combing Europe for product found them and ordered a few batches. I can't find anyone who can show them coming into the country after 1976 or before 1971.

The same was true of my first 10-speed, a gas pipe "Brownie" made in West Germany. It was probably a Kalkhoff of some sort - stamped ends, crude lugs, an ESGE/Pletscher plate instead of a normal rear brake bridge, Simplex derailleurs, basically a cheap copy of a Peugeot AO-8.

My second bike, a Batavus Tour de l'Europe, was a Dutch gas pipe ten-speed - but it had the all-important high-flange hubs with quick-release, AND a Sugino Maxy alloy crankset, AND (most especially) chromed front fork ends. It was functionally identical to a UO-8 or a Raleigh Gran Prix, right down to the Simplex Prestige rear derailleur failing and being replaced. If they'd had a SunTour VGT luxe in stock at the shop that day it would have had the quintessential replacement rear derailleur, but I had to settle for a 1st generation Shimano 600. That bike was the essence of the late bike boom - a brand that also disappeared, from a shop that opened just late enough to catch the very end of the boom as the Arab oil embargo gave it a few more months before going back out to sea and leaving a bunch of retailers high and dry.

Oh, wait - I have pix of one more quintessential silver bike boom era machine - my 1976 Puch Royal X -

- because this is what happened when importers and retailers who thought the bike boom was here to stay rushed product to market and were stranded. From scouring the world for inventory to being stuck with a warehouse full of stuff happened relatively quickly. Going by production dates on parts, this early '76 Puch remained unsold until I got it at a bargain price new in '78.
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Old 08-03-20, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
^^^^^^ I cringe and my toes curl up when a self appointed "expert bicycle mechanic" decides to publish a photo, world wide, showing him/her working on a bicycle with an adjustable wrench.
Don't forget the needlenose pliers!

And holding the bike up with what, nothing? Ah, an invisible anti-gravity pod.
Real cyclists use toe clips.
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Old 08-03-20, 05:11 PM
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I may be missing the point but per the OP definition "the most perfect embodiment of something" which to me means the best.

Even if "bike boom" is the qualifier it still really points to a time covered by all bikes offered during that time.

Being a "bike boomer" I was 16 in 75, spent a lot of time drooling over and ogling what I considered "the best" in person and magazines of the time.

Schwinn Paramount, chrome

Raleigh Pro

Moto TC

Peugeot PX-10

I know these were the classic go to's at the time for standard American buyers who walked in, said "gimmie the best you've got" only to find out tubulars, Campy components and plenty else were above their "pay grade" despite being able to spend whatever they wanted on them.

Never landed any of them back then but did eventually get a Mizutani Super Seraph which was their top of the line and specific to then Pacific Northwest I believe with a chain of stores in PDX.

It was pretty heavy but rode very well, was awesome to me at the time and was a great looking bike, also to me.

Of course I have all of these now and they absolutely still evoke the same feeling now as they did back then which is why I have them.

Also have Bianchi and Cinelli SC's which are on that same list for more discerning enthusiasts but I wasn't there yet at that time.

Met Merz in 74, 5, 6? and that did take my awareness to a whole new level, still didn't get me here for 40 more years.
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Old 08-04-20, 06:16 AM
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I'm not even sure what "quintessential" means.

To me, an example of a bike boom model from that era would be the Sears Free Spirit 10-speed.
Even for a 15-year old with a paper route. I could afford and ride a "10-speed."

1. It was the beginning of non-Euro and non-Italian bike building going large-scale.
2. It was the beginning of marketing bikes to a broader mass target demographic, i.e. outside of Europe.
3. It was the beginning of a lot of things cycling, and led to what we have today.
4. It was the beginning of affordable (i.e. non-Schwinn), available, and possible.

I didn't even see an Italian or European road bike until my early 20's. The bike boom made me think about riding.

As far as the "top end," the Teledyne Titan is a good example of the 70's approach.
"Let's make a really light racing bike." "OK."
"Let's use Titanium." "What? That's for jewelry and NASA."
"Yeah, but it will be light." "OK, sounds good. Where do we get it?"
"The Russians have it." "The Russians? Really? We can do that?"
"Yeah, we can get it. It's about money." "OK, done."
"Wow, it sure is light." "Yeah, ain't it cool."
"Wow, it sure is fast." "Yeah, ain't it cool."
"What's that cracking?" "Um, not sure."
"Look, it's failing." "It sure is."
"Those Russians."


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Old 08-04-20, 07:05 AM
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I'm glad this thread resurfaced, there's a lot I can relate to. I too was a Schwinn dreamer and always had dept store bikes from long-gone retailers like Cook's (aka Clark's) & Gibson's. I had really bad luck with bikes being stolen, the worst case being this Western Auto 3 speed that I had less than a month when I was in Junior High. Because my folks were depression era frugal, this was the nicest bike I had to date and the fact that it got stolen from behind my dad's shop didn't help with anything nicer coming. I needed something to get me from school when it wasn't basketball season, to my dad's TV sales & service business where both parents worked. I was a delivery specialist, paid in bike and name brand clothes like Converse, Levi & Hang Ten. I think the dreaded TV/Stereo combinations even came up here, my worst nightmare.

I read the question as what was the most representative bike in the terms of sales, so to me the Schwinn Varsity & Continentals would be the answer. I've posted that Sheldon Brown site write-up calling the Varsity the most important bike in the USA several times. Within 2 months I found a '75 Continental and '73 Raleigh Grand Prix for really good prices, filling that longing from way-back. I've talked a lot on BF about the Continental, but haven't even gotten the Grand Prix on the road yet.
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Old 08-04-20, 07:52 AM
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In terms of 70s era ambitions along with a host of technical problems (kind of quintessential to me), I’d nominate the Viscount Aerospace Pro:

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Old 08-04-20, 11:14 AM
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I was smack dab in the middle of that boom. There wasn’t a lot of loose cash in my family for bikes. The first one I can remember is a 24” single speed, followed by what was already an old Rudge Sports with a missing fender. Around ‘67 my mom snagged a nearly new Varsity from a work colleague that was moving to the west coast. It was fancier than anything any of my friends had - many kids my age had sting-ray type bikes and I felt uncool for not having one, but “racing bikes with rams-horn handlbars” were exotic when Sgt. Pepper was a new release, and I had one.

By ‘72 I was a sophomore and the boom was in full flight. I was drawn in to the world of cycling by one of my high school teachers. He taught me to be discerning and I could see a demarcation at a certain quality point. My Varsity fell below the line, mostly due to the frame. As others have related, the most common “decent” bikes in our area (upstate NY) were represented by the Raleigh Grand Prix and Peugeot UO/AO 8 And I’d agree, those were the quintessential boom bikes. Schwinns were present but the gap between the low end models and the Paramount seemed too great - few people seemed to have Super Sports for example, but Varsity and Continentals were common. I came across a Chiorda with Simplex derailleurs and Balilla centerpulls that I convinced my areas to spend $100 on and rode the crap out of it for a year. Hey, it was Italian! Roughly equivalent to a GP/UO8 but not as well made.

Within a year I was done with the Chiorda. High end bikes were unusual to see, mostly owned by racers and the very few non-racer enthusiasts. Tourers were even more rare. Seeing a triple or panniers was an event. Again, Raleigh, Peugeot and Schwann were go-to brands. I knew someone with a Frejus (oooo how rare) and saw the occasional Atala and Bianchi. Japanese bikes were starting to enter the market, well-represented by Fuji and Panasonic. There wasn’t much budget so I worked in a factory job for the summer and found a Zeus Pro that fit the bill. I wanted a Raleigh Pro but the Zeus was affordable. I knew the brand from living in Queens, where Kissena Cycles located near the velodrome in Flushing was a dealer. It was still a relatively obscure brand.
1987 Mercian Pro, 1971 Raleigh International, 1971 Peugeot PX-10E, 1970 Raleigh Professional Mark I
Curator/Team Mechanic: 1984 Lotus Eclair, 1974 Raleigh Sports, 1972 Raleigh Super Course

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Old 08-04-20, 12:44 PM
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AHHH the 70's
Trio racers, on Flickr
Bikes don't stand alone. They are two tired.
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Old 08-04-20, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by dedhed View Post
I'm sure many UW students got around on TV Lenny bike. From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

His favorite giveaway was bicycles. Buy a TV, get a free bike.

"It was the most successful," Mattioli said. "Over 100,000 bikes over the course of the years. It was just one innovation. It was, 'Just try it.' We did all kinds of crazy things."
I met him twice, talked to him a third time. One of those people who everyone wanted to spend time with; so interesting to talk to.

First time, I was looking at cassette tape decks, and he convinced me the top-load were more stable, even if you had to leave room over them to handle the cassettes. Store owner, discussing with a teen. Gotta respect that work ethic, to know the products in a store with thousands. At the time, he was working 12 hours a day, 6 and 7 days a week, and he told me he needed to slow down, but $100,000/year was good for his family. Second time, I had a list of things my friends and family needed, drove the hour there to carefully get the ones that came with a bike. Came home with 5-6 Firenza 10-speeds. (Sold 'em all) He came up to the front of the store when someone said "some guy's getting a buttload of bikes." We talked for a while, and he said "better check those over before you ride them." Third time, I was getting ready to go to boot camp, and I had a list of all the audio stuff of my parents that I'd damaged or lost or ruined, starting with poking pencils into speakers as a 3-year old, to feel them vibrate. I wanted to replace them before I left; had been working 70 hours a week making cheese to earn the dough. He came over, and I told him I was replacing all the audio there at American TV, then going to Sears to replace all the tools. He gave me 40% off and wished me well in the service, told me the Sears Audio by Fisher was pretty good stuff, too.

He was selling e-bikes last I heard.


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Old 08-09-20, 08:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Prowler View Post
^^^^^^ I cringe and my toes curl up when a self appointed "expert bicycle mechanic" decides to publish a photo, world wide, showing him/her working on a bicycle with an adjustable wrench. Oh, I forgot, metric wrenches and sockets were not invented until the '80s.

I really cringe when I witness such in real life. Adjustable wrenches are good for straightening soft steel DOs on BSOs though. Or for holding the fixed nut on a crank removal tool. Our local Giant grocery has happy photos displayed showing happy family life. One has Grandpa helping little Tommy fix his bicycle, with an adjustable wrench. Start em early, Pops!
I agree, it's cringe worthy and all of the other popular bike books back then (Delong's, Glenn's, Sloane's) also recommended using an adjustable wrench. Their intent was to show that adjustments could be made with basic hand tools.

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Old 08-10-20, 09:53 AM
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I remember looking at C Itoh, Raleigh, Falcon, American Eagle, Bianchi, Peugeot, and Fuji in various shops near Gaithersburg during 1971/1972. My girlfriend and I decided on a pair of Fuji Special Road Racers (S-10-S). She still has hers, all original except for consumables.

Edit: The first repair manual I bought was "Anybody's Bike Book" by Tom Cuthbertson.
"The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who cannot read." –Mark Twain

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