Monday, July 8, 2013

Cycling in the 60s: Conclusions

A group shot of a Modesto Roadmen ride in the Spring of 1967. This picture does not include everyone who participated in the ride, but even so it is obvious that this represents a significant increase in membership for the club. The big news, of course, is concentrated towards the right side of the picture, five young women (creating a cognitive dissonance with the name of the club). Despite being three years away from the magic date of 1970, the Modesto Roadmen had gained social acceptance. I cannot name most of the people in the picture, but front and center, playing the ham as usual, is "Terry". Other old faces in this picture are "James", "SD", and "JC". I was there, but on the other side of the camera.

I began my series, "Cycling in the 60s", with this quote from Grant Pederson:
"In the mid-‘60s, nobody over 12 bought or rode bikes ... in 1970, teenagers didn’t ride bikes. (if you were the exception, allow yourself a proud, private moment, and please don’t write demanding a retraction—because the statement is largely true.)" - Grant Pederson, Rivendell Reader #42
When I used that quote I was not disputing it, despite launching a series of six posts about the cycling I did before 1970. As I said then and confirm now, these posts are my "proud [if not so private] moment". In 1971, Time Magazine had an article on the then current "bicycle shortage" reporting that 1971 was the first year since the 1890s that the number of adult bicycles sold in the US approached half the total of bicycles sold, that the total number of bicycles sold in 1971 was the highest in history up until then, and that this represented a doubling in bicycles sales in just one year. According to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, more bikes were sold in the US in 1973 (15,200,000) than have ever been sold before or since. I recently purchased the book "The Evolution of American Bicycle Racing" from whence I obtain the following quote: "The 1970s was a watershed decade for American bicycle racing." There is no doubt that there was an explosion in US cycling in the 1970s leading to the vibrant and significant cycling community we have today, a community which would have been beyond the wildest dreams of the Modesto Roadmen.

1) As you compare this picture to the next two, note that there seemed to be two styles of Berkeley Wheelmen jerseys in play. 2) I think this is the first example of a hard helmet AND the first example of a rear view mirror I ever saw. I almost missed this because neither looks remarkable today, but back in the day, I think this guy was unique. 3) The bike he is strapping to the top of his VW beetle is yet another example of the ubiquitous Bianchi Specialissima.

And yet, bicycling was happening in the 1960s. The Amateur Bicycle League of America was running bicycle races. Cardiologists were organizing bicycle rallys. The American Youth Hostels were sending bicycle tourists to Europe. And some of us, a small percentage but significant in absolute numbers, were riding our bikes to school, around town, for fun, into the mountains for days at a time. Were we a precursor to the magic 70s or were we an irrelevant offshoot? I have no idea, I can only report what I did and saw. Really, all of this was just an excuse to share a few of my memories and photographs of cycling from almost 50 years ago, and perhaps to document part of the history of The Modesto Roadmen, a truly wonderful and unique bicycle club and an example of adolescent energy, ingenuity, and self reliance at its very best.

This guy was the president of the Berkeley Wheelmen while I was a member and was actually a very serious guy. Due to a stint in England, he knew more about bicycle racing than any of the rest of us and took seriously his role as a mentor. I guess he didn't want his picture taken and so got weird. Remember that, if you get weird when someone takes your picture, you may be sorry 43 years later. 

Other than the first, the pictures in this post are of The Berkeley Wheelmen, another superb and historically important bicycle racing club, the one I trained and raced with during my four years of college, 1967-1971, and my less extensive coverage of them reflects only the photographs I happen to be able to find all these many years later.

This guy was perhaps the fastest cyclist in the club during the time I belonged. The Berkeley Wheelmen was a haven for a variety of nutritional theories. My job in the club was to publish the newsletter, and I remember publishing, over several issues, a heated debate as to the best pre-race breakfast. This guy ate only raw food.

I have one more bit of cycling history to share before I will have exhausted my meager resources, two long rides I took during the 1970s, and will take these up in future posts. Before I do that, however, I will finally return to MAF tests and brevet training in my next post.

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