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by Bill Lovin
The bike business is booming in Chapel
Hill. More than 2,000 students and
townspeople have joined the ranks of a
new breed of pedal-pushers and the
pedestrian is disappearing from campus
ECOS, city government and local
biking clubs are encouraging this interest
in two-wheel transportation. And local
bike retailers are enjoying a sudden
The Chapel Hill Bicycle Club started its
activities in early April. The club has
grown in popularity as the biking craze
has caught on.
The club promotes the use of bicycles
for all segments of the population and
encourages legislation which improves
biking conditions. They hope to work
with enthusiasts organizing in Raleigh and
Tours, camping trips, bicycle movies
and a bike fashion show are planned for
ECOS, a campus ecology group,
promotes biking as an alternative to
pollution-producing cars. The group
began a bicycle rental service in an effort
to introduce non-riders to the sport.
Starting with eight bikes purchased
with a Carolina Union loan, ECOS now
rents 19, including a new tandem. Diverse
groups, including the N.C. League of
Women Voters and UNC faculty
members, gave money to buy new bikes.
A Bike Day, sponsored jointly by
ECOS and the Chapel Hill Bicycle Club,
was designed to make the Chapel Hill area
aware of the transportation capabilities of
a bicycle. Most people got the point as
500 cyclists paraded down the city's
Town officials showed their support as
Chapel Hill Mayor Howard Lee and
Alderman Alice Welsh led the parade on
Changes in city bicycling regulations
reflect the growing popularity of cycle
Until April 26 it was unlawful to ride a
bike on either side of Franklin, Rosemary
or Columbia Streets. Leaving a bicycle
unattended was also prohibited.
Now the Chapel Hill Board of
Aldermen has established bike paths on
nine of the town's major roads. Signs
approved by the Bicycle Institute of
America mark the routes.
Ramps at intersections and smoother
sidewalks are being constructed for
cycling convenience. Signs are going up,
urging motorists to' "watch bicycles on
Alderman Alice Welsh feels that the
new ordinances were long overdue. "It's
about time we pointed out that bicyclists
exist," she said.
She has asked UNC officials to make
bicycle paths on the University campus.
"We have gotten no cooperation at all
from this quarter," she complained.
Campus Police Chief Arthur Beaumont
confirmed Mrs. Welsh's criticisms of the
"I tried to get bike interest on campus
several years ago to help the traffic
problem," he said, "but the
administration frowned on the idea."
Beaumont said one University official,
whom he would not name, has sought to
abolish bikes on campus for "pedestrian
safety." But Beaumont said there have
been no serious biking accidents and only
minor complaints fron non-biking
Vandalism and theft, rather than
congestion, are the most serious biking
problems at UNC, according to
Chains, spokes and brakes are easily
damaged by a pull or a kick, and tires
have been slashed. Locks have been sawed
through and bikes stolen.
A ready market exists for "hot" bikes.
Beaumont said many students leave their
bikes locked to racks in summer and find
them missing in September.
The Campus Police will register any
bike free of charge to aid in recovery if
the bike is stolen. The serial number is
kept on file, with the bike's description.
An identifying sticker is put on the bike.
Among the non-bikers who are
enthusiastic about the trend toward
two-wheel transportation are the Chapel
Hill bike retailers.
Jerry Buchanan of Western Auto in
Carrboro calls the biking boom "terrific
and tremendous." Terrific for retail sales
and so tremendous that merchants can't
keep up with the demand.
Not only are bikes scarce but parts for
bikes are almost unavailable. The thin
racing tires, gears and brake units have
disappeared from dealer shelves.
The demand for used bikes is also very
great. Dealers who take bikes in trade say
they usually sell for double the trade-in
value within 24 hours.
One retailer said the "whole bike
thing" was summed up in a letter he'd
received from his supplier.
The letter said that no orders for
standard or racer bikes could be filled but
"tandems, exercisers, unicycles and adult
three-wheelers continue to be in good
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Cover photo by Johnny Lindahl
by Bill Lovin
Thousands of Americans are buying bicycles.
Unfortunately, most people are buying in the dark, paying first-class prices for
There are several things to look for when buying a bike. A good frame is the most
important part of a good bike. The weight and responsiveness of the bike is largely
determined by the frame.
Most good bikes come in frame sizes of 20 to 25 inches, measured from the top of
the seat tube to the pedals "axle."-
To find the right frame size the rider should straddle the bike and, if the size is
correct, clear the frame by about two inches. A frame that is too big for the rider
makes dismounting dangerous and difficult.
The best, most responsive frames are made with a special steel alloy called Reynolds
531, made only in England. Look for a Reynolds seal on the frame.
The gears are second most important. A ten-speed bike uses a two-sprocket chain
wheel in front and a five sprocket wheel in back to get its ten gear combinations.
The shifters, or derailleurs as they're called, guide the chain into any of the
graduated sprockets like a V-belt changing pulleys. Most racing ten-speeds come with a
very close gear ratio. The average rider would probably need a wider gear ratio for
A wide ratio gear system would have a chainwheel (the sprocket attached to the
pedals) with 40 and 50 tooth gears and a freewheel (the backwheel gears) with 14, 17,
20, 24, and 28-tooth sprockets.
Wide ratio gearing is important if you're not in top shape. A lower low will help on
The derailleur is a fairly complicated gadget but the actual make is not really
important. Campagnolo, Simplex and Huret Alvit are rated quieter and smoother than
others and appear on most good bikes.
Brakes should be the centerpull type for smoother, quicker stops.
Hubs, wheels, pedals and pedal cranks will be made of aluminum on most good
bikes for lightweight.
. The turned-down handlebars and skinny seat of the ten-speed racer take some
getting used to, but they are designed for maximum pedalling efficiency.
A good bike is not cheap but it doesn't have to cost a mint if you know what you
For $80 you can get a simple ten-speed version of the English racer. It could weight
thirty pounds or more.
$100 to $1 10 will buy a drop in weight to 28 pounds, with better frame steel.
$ 1 20 will get a bike weighing 24 pounds or so, possibly with Reynolds tubing.
$160 to SI 70 buys ;i first-class machine with Reynolds tubing, alloy rims, hubs,
pedals, etc., weighing 22 pounds.
More than S200 buys a delux racing machine with the finest components.
Look for bikes like Peugeot. Frejus. Raleigh or Mercier and you can't go wrong. For
more information on bikes and biking consult the "Complete Book of Bicycling" by
Eugen A. Slounc (Trident Press).