V O L U M E T W O : The second five years, 1963-'67
Just as high-handlebar style transferred from motorcycles to bicycles, so did the trend of extending the front forks. Once again we had a new bicycle fashion- created by young teens who emulated kustom motorcycle style. This minor kustom trend had grown big enough by 1967 that it had became noticed by commercial entrepreneurs- who introduced it as "product" starting in early 1968. Kustom bicycles that adopted this long fork style became "choppers". The bicycle illustrated above features a set of new "bull horn" or "rams horn" style handlebars, a tall sissy bar with bolt-on padding, and a couple of two-foot lengths of steel tube used to extend the front forks no welding was necessary if you pounded them on hard enough with a hammer...but!
Young teens and children embraced the new bike style as a visual way of setting their generation apart. Riding a kustomized bike made them feel like they were truly living the moment- in a world of their own making.
Kids listened to a different kind of music, dressed differently (if they could), and rode bikes that their parents never would have dreamed of. High-rise bikes and kustom trends were part of a total package of alternative thinking, bound up in youth rebellion, and innocence. This was rehearsal play for a new generation, and a gentle introduction to new societal attitudes that surrounded children in the 1960s.
Kustom biking- it was the cool thing to do, and adults provided the means for kids to explore it. The companies that marketed new-style bikes and parts had their work cut out for them. Style and innovation needed to happen quickly if component suppliers hoped to keep the attention of their young target audience. The basic platform remained the 20-inch size, but the look continued to subtly change just as sensibilities did- year by year.
By 1967 high-rise bikes and kustom accessories had become a natural fact of living for the youngsters growing up in North America.
The stick shifter dominates
Below, Center:Shimano of Japan introduced a number of different-style stick shifters in 1967, and many found their way onto commercial high-rise bikes. They were also quite popular as an aftermarket accessory.
Below: Another popular early stick shifter was made by Simplex.
Below: "The Huffy Rail bike gets a new shifter", says this announcement. This one comes with a console cover to give it that "sports car" look.
Above, Left: Stick Shifters were available for 3 and 5-speed internal hubs, and also for 5-speed derailleur bikes. Here we have two shifters from Bendix and Sturmey Archer.
Tall"Sissy Bars" continued to be one of the most popular kustom accessories available, and 4 and 5-foot examples were the most popular size, although even taller bars continued to be available in some areas. Just like their motorcycle cousins, bicycle sissy bars were given bolt-on padding and headrests. Visually they looked good, but in actuality they did little to improve comfort. The rider position usually didn't allow you lean back far enough.
Sissy bars galore
Below: Various examples of sissy bars sold by "Ray Cooper, Inc." of California.
Above: The home of "Ray Cooper, Inc" one of the late-60s' biggest suppliers of kustom accessories.
Below: Bill Matthews, showing off new bike parts/accessories at
a 1967 trade show.
Below:Bill Matthews Co. had a very popular line of sissy bars and glitter covers for banana seats, as well as many other cool bicycle accessories.
Below: The Troxel seat company expanded their line of accessories to include their new "Troxel T-BAR" sissy bar.
Above: Free-Land-Industries made a line of kustom parts that included sissy bars, rear bumpers and simulated exhaust pipes.
Left: Another big supplier of sissy bars was The Snyder Company; here we see examples from their popular line.
Below: Just in time for the summer of love came the timely Frederick "Hippie Bar"- nothing too psychedelic about it, really.
Don't smoke these bananas!
Below: The Troxel Seat Company had a banner year for banana seat sales. Their wide variety showed just how large the high-rise bike industry had become. .
Below: The Mesinger Seat company expanded their line with a new ripple- upholstered "Cutlass" model, in both slim and wide versions.
Below: Persons Majestic continued to market their classic "Solo Polo" seats, as well as banana-style seats featuring the new sleeker design
Below: Selle Royal of Italy also made inroads on the U.S. high-rise market with their line of banana seats and sissy bars.
Seats galore, at an early 1967 trade show.
Below: The Cox Company hit the '67 bike scene heavily with their "Bronco" bike engine kit; and although it worked well, it was relatively expensive. The accessory bike engine market proved to be rather limited.
Ram's Horn handlebars
Curled ram-horn handlebars hit the high-rise market in 1967; with the Schwinn "Rams Horn" Fastback, the Stelber "Gemini" and C.C.M.'s "Cobra" being offered to buyers who were after something "unusual".
The most visually-striking handlebars of 1967 were curled like ram's horns. Schwinn had them on their new Rams Horn "Fastback" model, and Stelber had a similar but slightly taller version on their "Gemini" high riser. Canada too had its own model that sported the coiled handlebars - on the CCM "Cobra" bike. These new handlebars and look-a-like variations were sold separately as accessories in bike stores across North America, and were quite popular for many years.
Stick shifters became especially popular in 1967, and many different companies offered their own versions for 3 or 5-speed gearing. The look was obviously based on gear shifters used in sports cars and drag racing machines. The early 3-speed high risers in '64 and '65 used twist grip shifters that were integral with the right hand grip. With 1966 came the introduction of stick shifters on many banana seat bikes; and by 1967 these long-levered gear changers had basically taken over due to their popular appeal. They were all mounted in basically the same position on the top tube of the bicycle frame. Racy frame-mounted shifters had been seen on bikes in earlier decades but the trend never really caught on. It was the '60s kustom sense that made them so popular with high-rise bike buyers; it really was the perfect look for the times.
Sidecars continued to be available to bike customers, but their popularity seemed to be diminishing. Cost and size tended to be limiting factors; however, they still remain as one of the coolest accessories ever sold.
Wheelie bars still popular
The Wham-O "Wheelie Bar" continued to be a popular accessory for young buyers, along with similar "wheelie aids" offered up by other companies.
Buy it at your local store
Retail stores were eager to sell high-rise accessories, and for kids "kustom style" was only a purchase away. This was the talk of the school yard, and the look seen at bike racks. Kustomizing was about trial and error, if you didn't like the looks of your last set of handlebars, you could simply go out and purchase another set in a different design. Sissy bars came in different lengths and styles. Usually taller was better- narrower at the peak, with a slight bend rearward near the top. Back rests and headrests started to become very popular, with some bikes being given 3 feet worth of padding to the top of their sissy bars. Every possible accessory was available, from optical wheel inserts to tail lights, metal-flake vinyl banana seats, mirrors and horns - enough parts to outfit a bike from front to rear.
Left: There were Mustang cars, and there were Mustang bicycles; anything "mustang" was big in 1967. Here is a set of Mustang handgrips. A number of themed grips were available during the late 1960s including Tiger grips, grips with Troll heads, and of course - horse heads.
Right: Stelber Cycles' accessory division "Saf-Tee Products" needed to move to larger facilities in 1967, the demand for high-rise parts overwhelmed many bicycle companies' older warehouse facilities.
Raleigh of England continued to make sales inroads with the marketing of their high-rise bikes in the U.S. and Canada. Their "Rodeo" model was now available with a 5-speed internal rear hub - coaxed into action with a twin-stick shifter.
Below: Famous race-car driver Gordon Johncock sits on a Raleigh Rodeo he won at a competition.
For big boys and girls
Columbia made kustom-influenced middleweight bikes to interest boys and girls who liked to ride larger bikes.
Ross is boss
Left: Mr and Mrs Jerry Ross, the "Ross" behind Ross Bicycles and the Chain Bike Corporation. Ross was one of the first companies to follow the lead of John T. Bill's "Penguin" and Schwinn's "Sting-Ray" by getting their Ross "Polo" bike to market in late 1963. Jerry Ross made high-rise bikes that were definitely stylish, and like many things in his life he liked them to be a bit on the wild side.
Below: Various advertisements for the Ross "Toronado" and "Barracuda" models. The "Toronado" (with its gooseneck frame) was one of the most unusually styled high rise bikes of the 1967 season, and is today highly sought after by collectors.
The Stelber Cycle Corporation of New York City followed the strategy of other companies who named their bikes after well-known muscle cars; here is the Stelber "Charger".
Meet my friend Murray
The Murray Ohio Company was another bike manufacturer interested in exploring progressive style. Murray was one of the few companies to experiment with the shape of their frames which gave their bicycles a more "up-to-date" look a great thing; as this approach gave bike history some exiting and unique high-rise models to look back on. On the other hand, companies like Schwinn tended to be more conservative when it came to style, and didn't experiment with frame design like many others did; instead, they concentrated on component durability - making for higher price tags on the showroom floor. Schwinn bicycles were definitely robust, kind of like Model T Fords - which also ran forever.
Columbia and MTD
were strong players in the high-rise bicycle market, eventually they would join forces in the coming years.
Sears continued to have a large share of the high-rise bike market with their very popular "Spyder" bikes. They were competitively- priced and styled the way kids liked them.
Japan tried to enter the U.S. high-rise market with low- end bikes geared towards budget department stores, and other similar retailers.
Bikes for sale
AMF's "Roadmaster Renegade"
The "Buzz" bike- WOW!
Tall bikes: You just can't keep a creative kid down. Tall bikes still survived in places outside of California, like Oklahoma for instance.
Miscelleny of 1967
Motor City's Burning!
Bicycle drag racing was a new sport coming on the scene. Often taking place in parking lots or vacant fields. It often resembled the bicycle motocross racing that would develop in the early 1970s; but it was more about straight-line competition and less about manoeuvring the terrain.
Below Left: 1967 was a banana seat summer. Below Right:An enterprising bike shop had a great competition; they hired a company to freeze a high-rise bicycle in a giant cube of ice, and people had to guess the exact time the last bit of ice melted. The winner would get the bike. That's cool!
"Gee, I wish I
owned a cool bike".
By 1965/66 the long-fork trend on motorcycles had grown more popular.
Examples can be seen in the 1966 Roger Corman film "The Wild Angels". One kustom Harley in this movie has an extended springer fork, which may be readily observed in one scene that takes place in front of a church. It's impossible to know exactly when the first extended forks were put on a kustom bicycle, 1965 or '66 possibly, but definitely by 1967.
Starting in 1968 this new trend would signal a radical new approach to the way many kustom bicycles would be built, and would usher in the "chopper bicycle" era - a visual style that would come to dominate the kustom bicycle world for the next 10 years. Look for more on this in the next instalment of Bike Rod & Kustom's "History of Kustom Biking: 1968~1978".John Brain