Cyclists of a certain age may remember the good old days, when cycling was a real sport and bikes were bikes, etc

1. Checking your post-ride stats meant looking at the mechanical odometer down by your front fork drop-out. Or by how much your legs hurt.

2. It was totally okay to wear a shiny cycle jersey that included every colour and pattern known to the human race, and some that weren’t.

3. Carbon was the stuff Han Solo was frozen in, not what your frame was made of.

4. You knew exactly what people meant when they said “I were right about that saddle though”.

5. Your posh mate had a Merckx bike, but most people couldn’t pronounce it.

6. Clip-on aero bars were the height of aerodynamic technology.

7. You spent a while deciding whether to make the switch from clips and straps to new-fangled clipless pedals.

Adrian Timmis's ANC Halfords Peugeot 1987 TDF Bike_Campag pedal Christophe toestraps_edit

8. Your sports nutrition consisted of jelly babies and jam sandwiches (white bread, naturally).

9. Your helmet – if you owned one – had a cloth cover.

>>> Primal goes back to the 80s with Limited Edition Clothing

10. Brake levers were for brakes, not changing gear.

11. Cycling/Cycling Weekly magazine was the only way you could find out who won what and where.


12. £20 was an insane amount to spend on any item of cycle clothing.

13. You never heard of any positive drug tests. No one took drugs, obviously.

14. A mobile phone consisted of a 10p piece and a wildly optimistic hope that there was a phone box within five miles.


1980s style

15. Aluminium bikes were for show offs.

16. Specialized, Trek and Cannondale were ‘mountain bike manufacturers’.

Watch: Which aero gear gives you the most bang for your buck?

17. Milk and Kelloggs were bike races, not just what you had for breakfast.

18. Greg LeMond was the only American to have won the Tour de France. Some things don’t change…

What else you you remember about cycling in the 80s? Tell us in the comment box below.

  • gr1nch

    As a lad…
    * my first road bike made up, frame and most parts, from Aldrington dump, £10
    * 7am Sunday club runs, with one stop, mostly at Little Chefs for tea and hot sandwich
    * everyone had mudguards (this was England) as there was no not turning up or turning back if it was raining cats and dogs. We rode.
    * those yellow ponchos covering bike and rider – if your mudguards were good, an oasis of dryness under the poncho
    * Sidi shoes – beautiful leather, with holes in for breathing – none of this goretex !
    * Nailing on cleats with a hammer – not exactly adjustable!
    * Shellac smell and on your fingers from mending tubs – and a kid could earn a few quid if he was good at mending them
    * Tub savers! Remember those plastic covered metal triangles that skimmed you’re tyres just under the brakes. Always convinced they worked, but no proof 😉
    * Fixed wheel – only nutters and riders wanting to get high cadence training rode them on the road. Time trail? Your calves would end up over the years as big as a normal persons thighs.
    * Sprinting for town signs – there wasnt much else to sprint for unless it was catching up buses 😉
    * Campag anything!
    * Bar ends with screws to hold them in
    * Drilling out your chainring in metalwork class (Stronglight, I’d never have done it to a Campag one, honest!)
    * Cycling Weekly ads. Phoning up first thing (Thursday?) to get through and keep on trying if it was engaged as it usually was – that was the only place you could buy anything nationally!
    * Seeing unusual frames about, Frejus, curly Hitchens, a shiny aluminium one – Alan?
    * club jerseys : Itchy polyester for winter and satin for summers
    * using a pair of spanners on the front axle to carry racing wheels to the time trial
    * Pushing your racing bike alongside the hack bike you were riding
    * Riding to London and back on a couple of Mars bars (which were bigger!)

    Thank you CW and all the readers here who have shared their memories.

  • Munchma Quchi

    No getting run over and maimed by a texting driver. Suqmabalz LOL

  • Alan Hood

    I indexed a SA 5 speed with 2 3 speed shifters mounted each side, when my 5 speed shifter exploded on a camping trip

  • irunbartertown

    3M Fast Tack for my Vittorias. No wait, that was the 70’s.

  • CyberTonTo72

    Having sponges on my bars, you bought them in packs of 4 and had to spend weeks with hands that smelt like washing up liquid
    Plastic seat and no pads and being told to just man up and after a while you will mot feel it, which was true

  • CyberTonTo72

    I indexed by feel

  • Gearing choice was pretty simple at 42/52 and a 13-21
    Bikesy Co Uk

  • hedgemagnet

    ‘couche dure’ grey surely? 😉

  • hedgemagnet

    Beautiful jewel-like bike componentry in silver, and not having other riders barely out of nappies asking why you don’t wear a lid!

  • hedgemagnet

    When the results of the Tour were simply listed under ‘Foreign Races’

  • Samuel Clemens

    And to this day, we wonder why, dressed like that, we were never considered ‘cool’.

  • Le fig roll

    I used a pair of elasticated braces to hold mine up. A considered choice and a carefull balancing act to get tension just right.

  • some one

    Nice one, harry – well found (happy, drug fuelled days)

  • Gern Blanston

    The cheap ones are still built up.

  • Ian Jackson

    Thinking back to my 1980 10 speed Merckz that I rode as 16 year old I was wondering what gearing it might have been. Any idea?

  • Steve G

    In one word……Helms!
    I always felt safe riding with my dad coz all the dogs would chase him. Now it’s cars we worry about not dogs!
    Used to love reading his cartoons as a kid in my Dad’s Cycling Weekly and wearing my Dads wooly maroons purple Warrington RC jersey.
    The Comic he would call it.
    Happy Days.
    Now I read my magazines on an screen!

  • Roger Coupe

    Summer lasted more than 3 days…

  • louis

    The Cyclist’s Mind Goes Everywhere…it still does!

    On my 1988 steel “racing” bicycle…wearing cotton underpants

  • Eamonn Hartley

    Your bicycle chains didn’t turn to orange, as they dried off, after a spin in rainy conditions ?☔

  • Alan Hood

    Sturmey Archer were indexing way before that 😀


    Avocet bike computer in fluo PINK!!! Think it had 3 functions ???

  • Xatu

    If you had black color rims, you had a good bike

  • David Conway

    Is that the Peugeot carbon fibre frame being ridden on the front of Cycling? I’m still riding one!

  • Stevo

    Worse was the one bolt that clamped the seat to the seat pin. When that failed (not actually Campag in my case) it was curtains.


  • harry

    This should take you back, a great piece of video, and the music will give many goosebumps.

  • Samuel Clemens

    The order is, as you accurately imply, immaterial.

  • nortonpdj

    But drink the beer after riding the metal bike!

  • Samuel Clemens

    Heh, bib shorts were mysterious things back in those days, only the real ‘hard core’ had them.

  • Samuel Clemens

    Drink beer. Ride a metal bike. Don’t be a ponce.

  • Le fig roll

    Oh god, I remember the shorts. I used to use Vaseline on mine. The horror.

  • The Awakening

    Still had the Milk Race. There was Channel 4’s first Tour De France broadcasts of the Tour De France and the Kellogg City Crits. Phil Thomas vs. Phil Anderson.

    There was the ‘Boro’, F1 and E72. Glenn Longland vs. Ian Cammish. Beryl Burton, Mandy Jones.

    Cycling Weekly, came out on a Wednesday, with only shiney paper on the front and back pages, with black and white photographs printed on newspaper grade paper inside.

    Cyclists rode with mudguards on as standard, unless racing, whereas today everybody appears to be riding racing bikes on a training ride.

    Bernard Hinault, Peugeot 531 Professional frames. Carlton 531. Viscount bikes and KP peanuts sponsoring Tony Doyle. The Falcon racing team. Sid Barras the pocket rocket…

    Bernard and Ethel Thomson appearing everywhere at result boards across the midlands and north London areas.

    Pete and Ivy Mitton, with their dog in the basket attached to the front of Pete’s trike, as they both did the time keeping in time trials all over England.

  • Le fig roll

    When it were reet cold, I used to wear a pair o’ me mam’s nylons. Seriously though, I did use plastic bags and have rummaged through my mums stocking collection for an extra layer of warmth. Cyclists? Weird? surely not.

  • Michel

    shoes with laces, no anti puncture-tires, always having adhesives in my pocket, large pumps, steel tire-lifters, no Strava, so you could lie about your average speed.

  • skelto99

    Just been and checked out my 13-18 six speed Maillard block and 42 small ring at the front. It’s on my Thompson 531 road bike that I built up on my parents’ drive on the day Charles and Diana were getting married. Mavic GP4s with Campag Record hubs and Clement Setas. Galli chainset and brakes. Cinelli Record stem. Bernard Hinault Turbo saddle. How I ever got around the Holme Valley I don’t know. The magic of youth, I suppose.

  • Johnny McGuire

    Avocet computers anyone?………….

  • gerry hutchman

    I had marmalade sandwiches in back pocket not gell packs…..

  • Brian Johnston

    Aero balaclavas.

  • Dave Moulton

    Bike shops had lugged steel frames hanging from the ceiling you chose one and either built it up yourself or had the shop do it. Only the cheap bikes came already built up, not the good stuff.

  • harry

    105 was Indexing (SIS) back in the late 80s too.

  • harry

    Dare I say, I was rocking a Cateye Micro computer back in ’88.

  • Jdog

    A 5 speed block. Mine was 13-23. And a 39 ring at the front. How I ever got up hills I’ll never know.

  • Jdog

    Agreed. In the 80S/early 90s Look pedals were so expensive. No way I could afford those.

  • Simon Barnes

    chamois cream was actually applied chamois….horrendous…!

  • Stuart Briggs

    Everyone nodded to each other…

  • Stuart Briggs

    Back then it was a ‘block’

  • jeffity

    Neon yellow triangular frame bags. Might have been more of a 90s thing actually.

  • Andrew Jones

    Cycling weekly used to have all the results of the previous weekends amateur time trials. As a 16 year old there was nothing as exciting as finding my name in the back under the 45 Road Club’s 25 mile TT or the Kenilworth Wheelers 10 mile TT.

  • nortonpdj

    Some things haven’t changed…..

  • nortonpdj

    Two pair o’ socks…you were lucky. We dreamed of ‘aving one sock.
    Sorry, but somebody had to say it.
    And I still use a sheet of newspaper.

  • Emilio VHerran

    In winter wear two black women´s pantyhouse under your cycling shorts because termal clothes were too expensive for a teenager. And also cycling caps were free (every year use to be a final Vuelta a España´s stage in my city and the Spanish National Post service gave them as merchandising) now they are fashionable and you have to pay almost € 12 for them

  • Martin Kerans

    my nose is still sore.

  • Stiperstone

    Friendlier, more considerate, less brash and Campag was always best even if it was only the bolt that held your seatpin up

  • Terry C

    Everyone else always seemed to have one more sprocket on the back than I had !

  • Gene Rossini

    Grab On handle bar grips, No Co2 cartridges, and not every cyclist thought that they were worthy of a Pro Cycling contract.

  • blemcooper

    No dreaming required–my lugged steel Trek road bike from 1986 had Shimano 600 indexed shifting 12 speed (i.e. 2×6 🙂 stock.

  • Christopher Conrad Jones

    My ten speed shifter on my 2011 Tarmac stopped working a couple weeks ago so I decided to dust off the 1983 Colnago with six speed Campy downtube shifters. I’ve been having a blast riding around the Front Range of Colorado. I just know I’ll be reaching for the shifter on the downtube once I start riding the Tarmac again.

  • charlesojones

    Cannondale, Trek and I believe Specialized all sold road bikes before they jumped on the MTB wagon.

  • GarryJones_Motion

    8-speed came out in 1991
    9-speed came out in 1997

    So you probably were on a 12-18 or 13-19 in the 80’s.

  • Don Catlin

    12 – 19 straight block cassett

  • Thomas Gillespie

    Oh, yeah. One more thing. A mountain road race required BIG sprockets on the Freewheel cluster. I used a 42-23 as my ‘smallest’ gear to do mountain races.

  • Thomas Gillespie

    A road map and pair of dividers to measure how far you WENT. Sew up tires, Brooks Professional saddles and leather strip helmet – still use the first two. Rust forming in paint chip areas. Being young and bloody FAST – the first is GONE; the second has become moderately fast.

  • Peter J Kott

    Crochet mitts.

  • Kenny Baker

    Carried along newspaper for long decents.

  • Brian McCulloch

    … having to re-greasing and adjust everything on an almost continuous basis!?

  • GarryJones_Motion

    New “click” pedals in the 80’s? I didn’t leave toe-clips until the start of the 95 season. When did others make the change?
    Three additions
    A ten-speed bike was the total number of gears not one less than the number of cogwheels on the rear.
    If you spent more than £500 on a bike you chose the frame, wheels and the components independently. Off-the-peg bikes costing over £700 didn’t exist.
    The local bike shop was run by a knowledgeable codger who had raced in the 40’s and 50’s. Just spending 10 minutes in the shop prior to a race would be a delight in itself. Whatever level you were he was a wealth of wisdom and his head was full of solutions and ideas to help you in all aspects of riding. Or put another way bicycles were sold by cyclists that knew more about cycles and cycling than their customers.
    Nowadays school-leavers in sports shops in large shopping mails are selling tennis racquets, cricket bats, training shoes and racing bikes for £10 000 without any specialist knowledge. I doubt many of them have ever actually ridden or raced. Ask them if they can change a crank to a 172.5mm and they a) don’t know what you mean b) don’t have the part c) don’t have the tool d) tell you that you don’t need it because at 5’10” your size is L or e) all of the above.

  • Peter J Kott

    Ball bearings bouncing across the floor when re greasing hubs.

  • Mark James

    Doing time trials on a Saturday morning down the A3

  • Le fig roll

    Wind proofing consisted of plastic bags between two pairs of socks and a news paper down y’ jersey. We was poor but ‘appy. Great days!

  • WinBoy

    the dreaded loose chipping top-dressing had yet to be the highway engineers’ default treatment on country roads

  • ken wood

    Shorts that kept falling down

  • ken wood

    Chains and cassettes that lasted forever – it seemed

  • llos25

    Campag bar end shifters still have them superb to use.

  • skelto99

    I never washed mine. There, I’ve said it. Sorry.

  • Martin Kerans

    Real chamois chammies. One wash and it was like sitting on a giant cornflake smeared in butter (chammy cream).

  • DaveS

    Indexing? LOL, dream on . . . .

  • piskian

    No all gear no idea Sky Freds not acknowledging you on the roads.I still cream em on my 653 12 speed!

  • Richard Porter

    Having to wear 5 layers when winter came

  • Liz Miller

    No speed bumps bollards or ‘traffic calming’ chicanes. Few roundabouts. And you had to change position to change gears! And no helmets or these 5 strips of plastic covered cardboard (or were they steel?) fastened to your head in hope!

  • Phil Riley

    A lot less traffic on the roads.