Bikecentennial

Bikecentennial '76 was a bicycle tour across the United States in the summer of 1976, in commemoration of the bicentennial of America's Declaration of Independence. [D. D'Ambrosio, "The Making of Bikecentennial," "Adventure Cyclist", V22 #6, July 1996, p 12-19.] The route crossed ten states and 112 counties in either direction between Reedsport, OR, and Yorktown, VA, a distance of about 4250 miles (6838 km). ["TransAmerica Bicycle Trail" (Series of 12 maps), Adventure Cycling Association. ] This route is still in use as the TransAmerica Trail and U.S. Bicycle Route 76. Astoria, OR, was an alternate western terminus, with four additional counties. The 4100 riders who participated represented all fifty states, and ~10% were from foreign countries. Just over 2000 cyclists rode the entire length of the trail. [D. Lamb, "Over the Hills", Time Books, 1996, p 109, ISBN 0-8129-2579-3.] Some rode alone, others rode in groups. The riders were essentially self-contained, i.e., they carried all their gear in panniers on their bicycles. Some riders may have provided their own support vehicles, and some sponsors' vans (including Shimano) patrolled parts of the course. [D.L. Jensen, "Mad Dogs and an Englishman", Pivo Publishing Corp., 2007, p 31, ISBN 141209415-1.] The route was chosen to include many historic sites, but avoid the Great Basin desert, major highways, high-traffic zones and big cities. The riders stayed overnight in motels, campgrounds and even private homes along the way, but also had access to Bike Inns. The Bike Inns were usually school gymnasia, church basements or college dormitories, used for indoor camping. Sheldon High School in Eugene, OR; YMCA in Baker City, OR; Bethel College in Newton, KS; Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL; Burford School in Charlottesville, VA; and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA, all served as Bike Inns.

In the beginning

A 1976 bicycle tour across the USA was conceived by Greg Siple in California in 1972. Siple, his wife June, and Dan and Lys Burden were riding an 18,000-mile Hemistour from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego for a "National Geographic" article at the time. [D. Burden, "Bikepacking Across Alaska and Canada," "National Geographic", V143 #5, May 1973, p 682-695.] June Siple coined the name Bikecentennial a few months later as the Hemistour progressed through Mexico. Many of the initial contacts made by the Hemistour group to promote their idea came from Greg and Dan's participation in the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) in Ohio. Several more people joined the informal organization over the next three years. Lynn Kessler designed the Bikecentennial logo and promotional graphics, including the map below. Bikecentennial '76 Inc. evolved into the Adventure Cycling Association in the late 1970s. The Bikecentennial newsletter, "BikeReport", became "Adventure Cyclist" magazine. [D. D'Ambrosio, "Thirty Years and Counting: A History of Adventure Cycling Association," Adventure Cyclist, V33 #6, July 2006, p 10-19.]

The Bikecentennial '76 route

The route crosses the Continental Divide nine times, in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. Click any of the images below for an enlargement.

Map and photographs


Legacy of Bikecentennial '76

The success of the 1976 event led the Adventure Cycling Association to map several additional bicycle routes across the United States and Canada, in addition to the TransAmerica Trail. Among them are...
* Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route (2673 miles): Bar Harbor, ME ←→ Key West, FL
* Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (2711 mi): Banff, AB ←→ Antelope Wells, NM
* Great Rivers Bicycle Route (1327 mi): Muscatine, IA ←→ St. Francisville, LA
* Lewis & Clark Trail Bicycle Route (3253 mi): Seaside, OR ←→ Hartford, IL
* Northern Tier Bicycle Route (4300 mi): Anacortes, WA ←→ Bar Harbor, ME
* Pacific Coast Bicycle Route (1856 mi): Vancouver, BC ←→ Imperial Beach, CA
* Southern Tier Bicycle Route (3100 mi): San Diego, CA ←→ St. Augustine, FL
* Underground Railroad Bicycle Route (2058 mi): Owen Sound, ON ←→ Mobile, AL
* Western Express Bicycle Route (1585 mi): San Francisco, CA ←→ Pueblo, COThe Great Divide and L&C routes intersect or coincide with the Bikecentennial/TransAm Trail in several places.

The class of 1976?

Many of the bicycle-touring brands, designs and styles that were popular in 1976 are seldom seen in the 21st Century, or have disappeared completely. Whatever became of…?

* Bicycles: Azuki, Crescent, Falcon, Frejus, Gitane, LeJeune, Masi, Mercier, Mondia, Motobécane, Nishiki, Olmo, Peugeot, Windsor, Zeus
* Camping: Alpine Designs, Gerry, Holubar, Frostline
* Clothing: Cool Gear, Detto Pietro, Sergal, Skid-Lid, Weyless
* Components: Atom, Christophe, CLB, Dia-Compe, Everest, Fiamme, Galli Ti, GB, Huret, Ideale, Lyotard, Mafac, Maillard, Milremo, Nervar, Nervex, Normandy, Phil Wood, Pivo, Regina, Sachs, Schwinn-approved, Simplex, SR, Stronglight, Sugino, Suntour, Super Champion, TA, Unica Nitor, Universal, Vitus, Weinmann, Weyless, Zeus
* Designs: center-pull brakes, extension levers for brakes, freewheels, lugged–brazed frames, 10-speeds, toe clips
* Panniers: Bellweather, Cannondale, Frostline, Kirtland, Touring Cyclist, Velocipack
* Tools: Artisan, VAR

Further reading

* Stephanie Ager Kirz, "Bicycling the TransAm Trail: Virginia to Oregon/Washington", 2nd Edition, White Dog Press Ltd., 2003, ISBN?
* Derek L. Jensen, "Mad Dogs and an Englishman", Pivo Publishing Corp., 2007, ISBN 141209415-1. Author Jensen was one of the ~2000 (and 10% foreigners) who rode the entire Bikecentennial Trail in 1976. "MD&E" includes a detailed account of the event from west to east.

References


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