Friday, March 16, 2012

The Super Grand Prix

Found this catalog online yesterday and all sorts memories came back. 

In 1978 I really wanted to get back into bicycling. Before getting my driver's license I rode my bicycle all over town and really enjoyed it. Getting my Jeep dampened my interest for a couple of years, but when gasoline was creeping up to $1.00/gallon I went to my local bicycle shop (LBS), The Bicycle Shop

Hal, owner of The Bicycle Shop, was a Raleigh dealer and he gave me one of the new catalogs to look over. He also gave me a few old cycling magazine which I poured over learning about frames, sew-ups and riding techniques, etc. It was one those magazine's where I read "...the frame is the heart and soul of the bicycle..." It also spoke about the importance of wheels...

Hal was really pushing and expecting me to order a Grand Prix since it was the most popular bike in the Raleigh line. About a week later I went back and ordered a [green] Super Grand Prix (pg 8) because it was the best bike I could afford, AND it was the first in the line-up which had aluminum wheels, plus the bar-end shifters were cool (I wanted a Competition G.S., but could not afford one). I asked Hal not to install the 'suicide' brake levers because I thought they looked cheesy and cheap, and real racing bikes didn't have them.

1978 Raleigh Super Grand Prix
I was 17-years old, and this was my first post-driver's license bike and it was the one that allowed me to go on and enjoy big rides. I rode the Inner Loop for the first time on it, plus did several centuries.Also introduced me to toeclips and presta valves.

I took my Super Grand Prix with me to Idaho in the summer of 1980 where I worked for the USFS. The bike rode on a bike rack on the front bumper of my CJ-5. When I got  to the cabin, 30 miles north of Weiser, ID up a remote dirt road, I learned that a timber-cruising crew would be based there as well for a few weeks. These guys were "old" in my mind. They were all 22 or older and one of the guys was a cyclist. He had a purple Gitane with Vitus(?) tubing and Campy(?). It was nicer than my Raleigh. 

One day we drove out to the pavement and rode to the other ranger station in our district at a place called Brownlee. Brownlee was on rim of the Idaho side of Hell's Canyon. We kept seeing fully loaded cyclists on this road and they looked hot and tired climbing out of Hell's Canyon. At the ranger station we hung out with other timber-cruisers that my riding partner knew, had some water, then reversed our route and headed back to our start point some 35 miles down the road.

In Cambridge, ID all the touring cyclists were camped in a park under the town's water tower, so I stopped to talk to them (my riding partner didn't want to stop for some reason, but reluctantly did). I talked to a guy and he told me they were a Bikecentennial group on the TransAmerica Trail and had started about a week before on the Pacific coast in Oregon and were headed to Virginia. That little conversation solidified everything...I knew what I was going to do the next summer (1981). 

I started my 1981 Mexico to Canada trip on the Super Grand Prix. I rode it from Palomas, Mexico to Albuquerque where I met my Bikecentennial group; GPO 619 (Great Parks Odyssey departure date 06/19/1981). While in Albuquerque, we were doing a shakedown ride and my bike got stolen at the downtown Convention Center where I had it locked up with two other of our bikes (also lost a Raleigh Professional, and a custom Sam Braxton (amazingly it was recovered by a pair of APD officers that same afternoon). 

My ride might have ended there, but fortunately I had a compassionate father who knew this was a dream and goal of mine to do. He sent me some money (about $500) and I bought my Univega (which I still have) to continue and complete my tour. 

4 comments:

SS:Mntbiker\Olskoolrodder said...

Nice bit'o'history,old friend!

steve garro said...

great story, MM!

Nelson Ohl said...

Great story? I had a '78 SGP in high school. It was my primary transportation in Annapolis MD. Ten years later it was stolen in Washington DC. Fast forward to 2011 - I decided to get a road bike and I thought about the SGP.  I found one on eBay in great condition in Bakersfield CA. It was the same year and terrific champaign green color and size as the one I had in '78 :) When I unpacked the bike and took the first ride, it was like picking up an old friend at the airport and picking up a 30+ year old conversation right where I left off. 

Mimbres Man said...

Very cool Nelson! I'd like to ride one again and see how it rides. I still have my Univega that replaced the SGP and its still a blast to ride. I used it on a almost trans-Missouri tour on the Katy Trail in 2008 and had a blast!