Blast from the past – Mountain bikes in the New York Times

 I happened to discover the very first article on mountain bikes to appear in the New York Times. It’s fun to see how times have changed… and how they’ve stayed the same.

A STURDY MOUNTAIN BIKE WINS HEARTS IN THE CITYThe New York Times

July 30, 1983,

By JOSEPH GIOVANNINI

”My girlfriend whizzes right by me on her 10-speed racer in Central Park, when she goes down the bicycle paths,” said Dike Blair, an East Village artist. ”My revenge is off pavement, where her racer’s wheels sink in the dirt. That’s when I leave her behind.”

Mr. Blair owns the new ”city bike” – also known as the mountain bike or all-terrain bike – a tough-looking, heavy-duty, lightweight bicycle that looks like a cross between a balloon-tired American Schwinn and an Italian 10-speed. It has the gears and light frame of a racer, but it also has balloon tires, wide handlebars and, thankfully, a comfortable seat.

Mr. Blair says people riding racers in Central Park stare at his $200 Ross and, when he’s stopped at red lights, pedestrians ask him about it. He has taken off its red decals and red foam padding around the handlebars so the bicycle is less conspicuous and, he hopes, less prone to theft.
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‘A Total Shift in Image’

Randolph Ross, executive vice president of Ross Bicycles Inc., said, ”I’d say these bikes are one of the biggest things that ever happened to the biking industry.” Its basic look constitutes ”a total shift in image” for the industry, he said. The Ross company has about 15 models of the city bike on the market, ranging in price from $200 to $1,400.

Schwinn also makes a city bike. ”They make especially good sense in the city, where they can easily handle potholes and curbs,” said Paul Chess, manager of marketing communications at Schwinn headquarters in Chicago. ”Outside the city, a whole sport – mountain bike racing – is building around them, There is even a magazine for them, Fat Tire Flyer, published in California.”

Both the Schwinn and Ross bikes are widely available at stores in New York City along with models made by other companies, including Metro Bicycles. Schwinn’s city bike prices range from $150 to $500.

The bicycle originated on the West Coast, where enthusiasts ride it as a trail bike or a competition dirt bike on unpaved paths, hillsides and relatively rough terrain. With up to 18 gears, the bicycle is sensitive to slopes. Its balloon tires give it good traction and cushion the ride. The handlebars are designed so they do not interfere with the knees of bicyclists doing acrobatic maneuvers…

 

Hard to believe it would be another five and a half years until Maurice and Elaine rolled out Dirt Rag No.1 – but they did, afterall, have to wait for the whole “city bike” vs. “mountain bike” thing to shake out.

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