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This is a retrospective journal page, created in 2007 after I went through some of my old books of photo negatives selecting some to scan.

1 Islington Street

In 1971 I lived in a group house, #1 Islington Street, Allston (an outlying section of Boston.) This was a 3 family house. The landlord had the left side, the right side was divided vertically. My group had the second and third floors. My room was on the 3rd floor, you can see the window on the front of the side nearest the camera.

We weren't exactly a commune, but we shared food and chores. Most of the time there were 5 or 6 members. The second floor had a small pantry off the kitchen which I converted into a darkroom. We also had the whole side of the cellar, which was accessed by a very scary stairway that ran from the kitchen straight down two flights with no bends nor landings. Fortunately there was also a rear door at ground level.

We initially kept our bikes there, but several of them were stolen by a burglar who broke the glass in the rear cellar door. Among the bikes stolen were my Elswick Tour Anglais and my O.T.B.. The day after the burglary I decided to make the rounds of local bike shops with a description of the stolen bikes. My only working bike was my homebuilt tandem so that is what I rode.

On the way back from Cambridge I saw a couple of cyclists ahead of me on familiar-looking Elswick and my O.T.B.! I was young and fit at the time, so I gave chase. I passed the first one and gave a cheerful smile as I did so. The one in front seemed to enjoy the challenge, so it took me a bit more time to catch him, but as I pulled ahead, I suddenly swung right, cutting him off and demanding that he return my bike!

The two riders seemed genuinely shocked that the bikes were the fruit of a burglary. I doubt that they really believed they were legitimate purchases (they had paid $25 each to some guy in the park) but house burglary as opposed to simple bike theft seemed to be an important distinction to them. They agreed to return them and I to repay what they had spent.

The Elswick was later stolen again, and not recovered, but I still have the O.T.B., much modified since then.

Chincoteague Island, Maryland

In July my brother, sister their kids and I took a family camping vacation on Maryland's Eastern Shore.

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

Tandem Ride for the Blind

I didn't have a regular stoker for my home-made tandem, but someone organized a special event where tandem-owning volunteers would take blind people for a ride. I can't recall who organized this, but here's a photo of most of the crowd.

Tandem Ride for the Blind, August 1971

Sheldon Brown Solo Tandem Bicycle Sheldon Brown on Moulton Mk III

I believe the "Solo Tandem" photo was taken at this event.

I'm wearing one of my favorite garments, a Canadian Army surplus "shirt-coat/veston-chemise" part of the Canadian Army tropical uniform. It's super sturdy but very cool, and has great pockets for carrying hand grenades...or photographic equipment. I've even been told that the buttons can be boiled into a nourishing soup if I'm ever stranded on a desert island. I picked this up in a Montrél military surplus store on my first visit there, a year or two before these photos.

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

Bicycle Revival

I think this was the year that I started at the Bicycle Revival, on River Street in Cambridge.

I had worked as an assembler in Marblehead Cycle while a teenager, for a dollar a bike, but didn't really consider myself a "mechanic." However, I was getting sick of driving cab, and figured I might be able to get an entry-level job in a bike shop. I tried the Bicycle Revival and was quickly hired, as the '70s Bike Boom was just getting underway.

I soon found that I knew more than any of the other mechanics except for the head wrench, an Austrian named Peter Kittel. He was a sailor who traveled the world by crewing on yachts, and taking various jobs in between. He was very kind to me, and I enjoyed working for him.

One of the first tasks I was assigned involved some sort of race for single-speed (which in the 1971 U.S. meant coaster brake) bikes. We were sponsoring one of the riders, and I was asked to do what I could to hop up his cruiser. I guess I was the only one who thought of putting a smaller sprocket on the hub to give him a higher gear. I did this, also adjusted all of the bearings very carefully, and the result was quite successful.

Shortly after this, Peter Kittel decided to move on and I found myself in the position of head mechanic, rather to my surprise.

Here's a panoramic shot of the shop from November, '71, made by photoshopping 6 negatives together. I'm guessing the images were made with my Miranda.

Bicycle Revival, Cambridge Massachusetts, November 1971

The Bicycle Revival was owned by a recent Harvard Business School graduate named Joe Birch. He was quite clever at marketing, though not really a bicycle person. The Revival was located in a sort of out-of-the way ghetto area of Cambridge, while the big action was in Harvard Square, where The Bicycle Exchange and Ace Bicycle pretty much split the pie between themselves.

Birch got the idea of hiring hippies to walk around Harvard Square with sandwich board signs promoting the Bicycle Revival. This was very cheap (he paid them peanuts) and worked very well. At the time, sandwich boards were pretty much extinct, and it was very clever of him to revive this form of advertising.

The big deal at the Bicycle Revival was Phillips English 3-speeds for $38.50 assembled, which was the best deal you could find. We sold skillions of them.

As the Bike Boom rolled along, the Bicycle Revival became a chain, at one point there were 15 shops scattered around eastern Massachusetts. I was the head mechanic for the chain, responsible for training and for the more challenging repairs.

It was very easy for Birch to expand, since he was already buying the bikes by the container full, all he had to do to open another shop was rent a storefront, hire a couple of people and buy a few tools. This all turned out to be a bit of a bubble in the end, but he got a great ride while it lasted.

Back to the Future!

Spoke Divider

Spoke Divider

Sheldon Brown's Personal Pages

Articles by Sheldon Brown and Others

Since November 8, 1998

Copyright © 2005, 2008 Sheldon Brown

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