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What would have been the most popular "enthusiast" level bike in the 60's in the USA?

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What would have been the most popular "enthusiast" level bike in the 60's in the USA?

Old 05-19-18, 09:03 AM
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What would have been the most popular "enthusiast" level bike in the 60's in the USA?

My bicycle knowledge, for what that might entail, doesn't really go back as far as all of the 1960's; it basically starts at the USA bike boom years (starting in the late 60's) and goes from there. I know that enthusiast riding in the USA was much more limited, but I wonder what would have been some of the bicycles one might expect to see in the peleton of a club ride in the pre-boom years? How about over in the UK, France, & Italy (the title wouldn't let me add more words, so I'm adding them here)...? Was there one particular bike that was an overwhelming favorite? Thanks, in advance, for any responses.
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Old 05-19-18, 09:07 AM
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You would guess that it would have to be a schwinn, right? Certainly European bikes were available but my guess is likely only in urban areas whereas Schwinn had market presence throughout the US. The first Japanese bikes must have been imported then as well but they were not as well respected then as they became later. The classic fuji catalog site beings in 1971 though I think their bikes were imported earlier. Schwinn catalogs go way back as do that of established European manufacturers.
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Old 05-19-18, 09:17 AM
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I bought my first 10-speed in 1968 while I was in 8th grade at the local Schwinn Cyclery (which sold both Schwinns and Raleighs). It was a Raleigh Record, though I lusted after the much more expensive Raleigh Super Course (531 straight gauge main tubes) that was in the front window. I think that was the fanciest bike there. I was the only kid in school who cared about racing bikes since I was a newly arrived immigrant from England. American kids at the time didn't even know that people raced bikes. However, my 8th grade algebra teacher was interested in racing so he ordered a Schwinn Paramount from the factory that same year. It was the only real high end racing bike available AFAIK. The kids in his class were astonished when he told them the insanely high price (I think it was around $250).

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Old 05-19-18, 09:17 AM
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Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
You would guess that it would have to be a schwinn, right?
So what if someone was lucky enough to have access to a Euro bike and a Japan bike... what do you think would have been there possible and likely choices? I'm sure Schwinn did "fill the bill", and maybe it's too snobby of me to presume that someone riding a 40+lb Schwinn wasn't an "enthusiast", but, I would have thought that once someone took a gander at what was available overseas, they would switch to the lighter products. Maybe I'm just too tainted in my snobbery to view history with an accurate lens.
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Old 05-19-18, 09:25 AM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
So what if someone was lucky enough to have access to a Euro bike and a Japan bike... what do you think would have been there possible and likely choices? I'm sure Schwinn did "fill the bill", and maybe it's too snobby of me to presume that someone riding a 40+lb Schwinn wasn't an "enthusiast", but, I would have thought that once someone took a gander at what was available overseas, they would switch to the lighter products. Maybe I'm just too tainted in my snobbery to view history with an accurate lens.
There out there and they get posted on this site. I own and ride a 1960 Olmo gran sport and a 1969 Raleigh 3 speed. 60s era 3 speeds are definitely available; European road bikes from that era less so. Japanese bikes from that era are relatively rare on these boards.
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Old 05-19-18, 09:33 AM
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"enthusiasts?"

In the 60s with my near 50lb Schwinn Corvette three speed with hand brakes and lugged giant balloon tires, I was Mountain Biking up Middle Ridge and riding gravel, that's what the local farm roads were, once past them all dirt, way before the term even existed. It would ford small streams and mud up to the depth of the pedals, let's also not forget my half boot Red Wing Flyer riding shoes. Lol, God to be young again.
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Old 05-19-18, 10:00 AM
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"Enthusiasts," club rides, and peletons were all but non-existant in the U.S. in the sixties. As @davester points out there just was no interest in bicycling from any large number of people. There were a few "serious" cycling clubs around but their membership was small. Schwinn made the Paramount and there were a few Raleighs and Peugeots available, mostly low to middle tier bikes. In my area some of the bike shops and a few of the department stores sold a variety of mid-level European bikes: Geminiani, Dawes, Vittoria, Puch, and Capo are all brands I remember from my childhood. In 1967 or 68 I was first introduced to such exotic items as toe clips, alloy rims, tubular tires, and Campagnolo components by a new friend who had just moved from Sacramento where his family was involved with the Sacramento Wheelmen. His family rode Legnanos and Louison Bobets that they bought mail order. At the same time I was introduced to Cupertino Cyclery, then operated by Spence Wolfe in his garage in Campbell, Calif. He imported Cinellis and Singers on a small scale.

When I began doing longer (20 to 50-mile) rides at this time it was a rare day that I saw more than one other cyclist on the back roads near my home.

As for Japanese bicycles; I don't remember any.
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Old 05-19-18, 01:29 PM
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Originally Posted by obrentharris View Post
"Enthusiasts," club rides, and peletons were all but non-existant in the U.S. in the sixties. As @davester points out there just was no interest in bicycling from any large number of people.

My guess is that if there was any substantial bicycle "enthusiasm" in the 60s, it would have been for track racing.
USA Classics, main
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Old 05-19-18, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by since6 View Post
"enthusiasts?"
Yeah. Not to be derogatory in any way, but I searched for a term that would separate the casual person who liked to ride his/her bike a lot, and the people who were really into bicycles as sport or recreation. Enthusiast seemed as good as any. When I was a pre-teen, in the 1970's, I rode my knockoff Stingray bicycle (and later, a cast off department store 10 speed) more than any other kid that I knew in my small town of 3000 inhabitants. But, I didn't know there was a group of people out there racing or touring on bicycles, or using a bicycle as a means to achieve some sort of exercise. I just thought bicycles were fun... I would separate the 70's me into the non-enthusiast bunch.
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Old 05-19-18, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Charles Wahl View Post
My guess is that if there was any substantial bicycle "enthusiasm" in the 60s, it would have been for track racing.
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Was there still enthusiasm for track racing in the USA by the 1960's? For some reason, I put the late heyday years in the 1930's... of course, I could be wrong.
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Old 05-19-18, 03:14 PM
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Bicycling was hardly even recognized as a sport BITD. My dad used to tell me, "why don't you take up a sport? All you ever do is go on 85-mile bike rides." The LA Times didn't report results from the Tour de France.
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Old 05-19-18, 03:58 PM
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In 1960s Canada, the dominant bicycle brand was CCM. They had offered some derailleur equipped models in the early and mid-1950s but gave these up in favour of 3 speed English racer type models, until they moved back into derailleur models in the late 1960s. However, these were entry level models and CCM didn't really start developing the lightweight line until 1972.

Your next best bet was Raleigh, who probably had the 2nd most developed dealer network. Things were more diversified in large centres but even their high end models were still almost exclusively from full range, mass market manufacturers like Bottecchia, Falcon, Gitane and Peugeot. Legnano seemed to be particularly popular among the licensed racers. You would see a smattering of exotic names from small builders but most of these seem to have arrived as post war immigrants,with their owners.

A quick look back though some mid-1960s USA literature shows all the above European brands and also Bertin, Bianchi. Lejeune, Louison Bobet and Frejus.

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Old 05-19-18, 04:25 PM
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I remember first seeing a bike with gears when the friend of a friend showed up on a three speed Raleigh in Fresno, California, in around 1967 or 1968. Thinking back, it's a real encouragement to me how far we've come in the US! I use my bike and the bus now for transportation on a long daily commute; such a thing would have been implausible in Denver in 1965, I think. Around 1970 I attended a "Bicycles Now" rally in Denver at the Civic Center in front of the capitol where a doctor spoke about the reasonableness of using a bicycle for transportation, with all the health benefits and safety benefits (traveling at 15 mph is inherently safer than traveling at 60mph, our bodies are not really designed to get slammed into things at high G forces, etc). It had quite an effect on me.
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Old 05-19-18, 04:43 PM
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Originally Posted by uncle uncle View Post
Was there still enthusiasm for track racing in the USA by the 1960's? For some reason, I put the late heyday years in the 1930's... of course, I could be wrong.
Dick Power made a track bike as late as 1963, for Arnold "The Governor" Uhrlass, who competed at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics
1963 Dick Power racing bike at Classic Cycle | Classic Cycle Bainbridge Island Kitsap County
and Power didn't pass on until the 70s. The NYC area was the home of several well known track bike constructors. That doesn't mean track racing was nearly as popular in the 60s as it had been decades before. But as others have said, apart from kids and paperboys, cycling was not much of a nucleus for enthusiasm in the 60s at all. Recovery from the Great Depression and industrialization meant that more people had cars, and suburbanization meant that they had to have cars. I grew up in the 50s and 60s; I had 3 bikes in that time. Did I consider my self a cycling enthusiast, or even know any: no.
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Old 05-19-18, 05:01 PM
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In Fresno, I think it was 1962, I had a Raleigh Sports with a 3-speed Sturmy-Archer rear hub. I was very envious of the Olmo, Bianchi and Legnano 10 speeds showing up in the bike racks at my Jr. high school. At first, I fitted my Raleigh with drop bars, a 3 cog freewheel and Huret Alvit rear deraileur. I worked hard and saved my money, as the 9-speed setup proved less than satisfactory.

I finally saved about $90 and my father took me to Broadway Cyclery where I made a deal on a very big, black and chrome Bianchi Gran Sport.

Wish I still had that bike.

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Old 05-19-18, 05:18 PM
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I grew up in the 60's. When I was too little to ride ten-speeds, I did see people riding them in Central Park in NYC. I saw them with toe clips and finding them to be scary looking.
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Old 05-20-18, 05:25 AM
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It was before my time, but from what I remember other's talking about, Cinelli was a popular brand if you were serious. Also Schwinn Paramount (of course). Singer if you were sort of a gentleman cyclist. I grew up in nor cal as well, and Spence Wolfe was a huge influence on things. Nice guy too. I used to roll into his shop quite often when I was 12 or 13 and bug him and his wife. Other racing bikes that were around in the 60s in the US were Bianchi, Legnano, Luison Bobet, as mentioned already. I know this because I remember 60s models of these brands floating into the shop I worked at as a teen.

For sure some racing existed in the 50s and 60s. My father's college dorm roommate used to race in the late 50s. It was a small scene compared to the 30s. The Hellyer velodrome was built in 1963 so obviously someone was racing track then. Road racing was around too for sure, though it didn't get really popular till the bike boom era. Location mattered a lot. Norcal and the SF bay area was historically a big cycling area, as was NYC and the surrounding countryside.

By the time I got into cycling, it had died down a bit, and if you saw anyone in cycling clothing on the road it was probably someone you knew. Rednecks throwing beer bottles at you was a real thing. People talked about the good old days of the early 70s when 100 people would show up for club rides.

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Old 05-20-18, 05:52 AM
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In the 1960s in the Los Angeles / Orange County area, folks above the Varsinental level rode Schwinn Superiors, Sierras, and Paramounts, or Legnanos or Bianchis. Otto Cap exported 400 high-end Capo Siegers and upper mid-level Capo Modell Campagnolos to the Los Angeles area, but the (Austrian) marque was pretty rare elsewhere in the U.S.

The department stores did carry some pretty decent Austrian (Steyr-Daimler-Puch, not Capo) 3-speeds and even occasional 10-speeds, and I do recall seeing and coveting a few low-mid-level Italian 10-speeds ca. 1962.

My first road bike was a bottom-of-the-line 1962 Bianchi Corsa, which my father bought at Wheel World in Culver City for $55, instead of splurging $70 on a Varsity. I became an early Los Angeles area adopter of Japanese bikes when I paid $150 for my 1971 American Eagle Semi-Pro (Nishiki Competition), which I rode for 20 years / 40k miles until the (lifetime guaranteed) frame broke.
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Old 05-20-18, 06:22 AM
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Interesting responses. In the Chicago area Schwinn was the "local builder". And in just about every suburban town was a Schwinn store. So the Paramount was a popular choice for cycling enthusiasts.

in Chicago, Detroit, and Milwaukee Speed skating played a big part in popularizing cycling. The Northbrook bike track was built as a summer training facility for the speed skating club. The Wolverine sports club in Detroit was a speed skating and cycling club. Connie Carpenter, Sheila Young, the Heidens were all speed skaters before taking up cycling.

Also the socio-economic aspect of sports was changing in the 50's into the 60"s. It takes money to participate in sports. And money to promote sports. The immigrant influx post WW2 were settling in and prospering. In Chicago and Milwaukee it was those of German and Belgian decent that boosted the popularity of bike racing. Greater prosperity, cycling heritage, and something called "free time", added up to the cycling boom in the late 60's early 70's.
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Old 05-20-18, 07:17 AM
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My next door neighbor had raced on the board tracks pre-WWII.
The 1st race bike that I ever rode was his track bike w/ wooden rims and no brakes (of course) re-built over the winter in his basement during the Johnson administration.
My track coach was also a US board track racer, my 'Cross coach a Belgian immigrant and a British gentleman was the distinguished leader of the local cycling club.

Hardware choices were idiosyncratic as today and of little relevance in keeping the sport and it's traditions alive from the post war period to the boom era.
Thanks to all of those great "old" guys who were then younger than I am today for teaching us the technique and etiquette of the pace line, how to time a sprint and handle a bike shoulder-to-shoulder at race pace.

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Old 05-20-18, 07:56 AM
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I would guess a Schwinn 10 speed Continental.


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Old 05-20-18, 08:12 AM
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A junior HS-HS-College classmate had trouble driving (ticket for going too slow), so he switched to biking. He rode from southern New England to Kentucky or Tennessee (and back) in 1962 on a 10-speed Raleigh. RIP.

One of my teachers rode from New Haven to someplace in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, IIRC) when he was 16 or so in the early '40s. Single speed bike. Unsupported.
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Old 05-20-18, 08:44 AM
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Originally Posted by big chainring View Post
Interesting responses. In the Chicago area Schwinn was the "local builder". And in just about every suburban town was a Schwinn store. So the Paramount was a popular choice for cycling enthusiasts.
So Big, do you remember any divisions in the peleton between those who prefered Schwinns, and those who chose European rides instead? Do you remember any "lusting" after something European, even though you owned a quality Schwinn bicycle (if that was the case)? Just curious to get a feel for the time. Thanks.
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Old 05-20-18, 10:11 AM
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Originally Posted by John E View Post
In the 1960s in the Los Angeles / Orange County area, folks above the Varsinental level rode Schwinn Superiors, Sierras, and Paramounts, or Legnanos or Bianchis. Otto Cap exported 400 high-end Capo Siegers and upper mid-level Capo Modell Campagnolos to the Los Angeles area, but the (Austrian) marque was pretty rare elsewhere in the U.S.

The department stores did carry some pretty decent Austrian (Steyr-Daimler-Puch, not Capo) 3-speeds and even occasional 10-speeds, and I do recall seeing and coveting a few low-mid-level Italian 10-speeds ca. 1962.

My first road bike was a bottom-of-the-line 1962 Bianchi Corsa, which my father bought at Wheel World in Culver City for $55, instead of splurging $70 on a Varsity. I became an early Los Angeles area adopter of Japanese bikes when I paid $150 for my 1971 American Eagle Semi-Pro (Nishiki Competition), which I rode for 20 years / 40k miles until the (lifetime guaranteed) frame broke.
In the 60's my observation was bike shops themselves often imported European "enthusiast" level bikes. A few even resold them to other shops. In the Los Angeles area an interesting influence was that prior to 1967 the importation of bikes was often as bulk cargo, off loaded on pallets at best. When shipping a "container" full of bikes became possible the economics scaled to the point of encouraging distributors who could finance the inventory and benefit from the reduction in freight cost per unit. (less "shrinkage" too).

In a school field trip to the LA port in 1966, all one saw was bulk freighters unloading. A beehive of activity. Much transferred to Port Warehouses to go through Customs and be sorted. A different time.
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Old 05-20-18, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
A junior HS-HS-College classmate had trouble driving (ticket for going too slow), so he switched to biking. He rode from southern New England to Kentucky or Tennessee (and back) in 1962 on a 10-speed Raleigh. RIP.

One of my teachers rode from New Haven to someplace in the upper Midwest (Minnesota, IIRC) when he was 16 or so in the early '40s. Single speed bike. Unsupported.
Awesome, especially the single-speed unsupported. Just awesome.
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