1973 oil crisis and bike prices

mustang1

Guru
Location
London, UK
Does anyone remember what things were like in the 1970s during the oil crisis? Bike sales in USA shot up from 6mn to 15.3mn and whereas most of the pre-crisis bike sales were for kids' bikes, during the crisis, 60% or more were for adult bikes.

But I cannot find info about what happened to bike prices back then. Does anyone remember or have information about that? These days, during the bike boom, bike prices have, and continue to, shoot up. The price of materials, manufacturing and shipping has gone up, but with the popularity of cycling, the profit motives of bike companies has also gone up.

Was there a similar correlation in the 1970s?
 
OP
mustang1

mustang1

Guru
Location
London, UK
Funny thing is I found a 1970 Schwinn catalog online where they talked about the choice of bikes is bewildering (wow, if they came forward in time... "whats a CX bike, whats a gravel bike, endurance, race, aero, wth??" and they also said their fast bikes have narrow high pressure tires for low road resistance... :boxing:
 

SkipdiverJohn

Veteran
Location
London
I can't give a definitive answer, but consider this difference to 2020. In the 1970's most manufacturing was carried out in-country, by manufacturers serving primarily their domestic markets. That means manufacturing output could be quickly ramped up (by working night shifts, weekend overtime etc) so long as the raw materials were available.
You didn't have these absurd globalised manufacturing and supply chains where everything needs to be planned and ordered months in advance.
Inflation was generally high during that period anyway, but I doubt bike price inflation was any worse than general inflation, whereas we now have low general inflation and high bike price inflation.
 
OP
mustang1

mustang1

Guru
Location
London, UK
I can't give a definitive answer, but consider this difference to 2020. In the 1970's most manufacturing was carried out in-country, by manufacturers serving primarily their domestic markets. That means manufacturing output could be quickly ramped up (by working night shifts, weekend overtime etc) so long as the raw materials were available.
You didn't have these absurd globalised manufacturing and supply chains where everything needs to be planned and ordered months in advance.
Inflation was generally high during that period anyway, but I doubt bike price inflation was any worse than general inflation, whereas we now have low general inflation and high bike price inflation.
I also read that Schwinn Varsity was made in USA but because demand was so high, Schwinn outsourced to Japan and were called Schwinn Approved. Those bikes were a little cheaper and more reliable (tubes for forks rather than flat blades and also the derailleurs were more reliable and longer lasting).
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
Poshshire
In the UK in 73 it was still not unusual for a household not to have a car anyway. This being the case more folk were used to finding their own way about, and my guess would be the impact on cycle sales was correspondingly lower.

IIRC correctly my Dad's Dad (himself the son of landed gentry) had a Lancia Flaminia in 1973, and a Series Land Rover for towing the caravan.

Conversley my Mum's Dad, a pre WWII Jewish immigrant who saw which way the wind was blowing with the Nazzies and jumped ship to Scotland, still used his bicycle daily in 73. He was a groundsman and had about a 60 mile daily round trip to work, all weathers, on a British 3 speed boat anchor, a much greater commute to work than my other Grandad who had the car.

So, yeah, in a much great proportion of cases than is the case now people were still used to either shanks pony or cycling.

My Grandad's were chalk and cheese, but both were lovely guys and I miss them to this day :sad:
 

Archie_tect

De Skieven Architek... aka Penfold + Horace
Location
Northumberland
Drago, you're getting a bit mixed up- cheaper rust bucket Fords, Vauxhalls and BL cars were everywhere in the 70s!

The oil crisis of 73 was quite exciting as a 13 year old... regular electricity cuts, candles everywhere, long queues at every petrol station when they got a delivery in. Remember walking to school in the dark and getting fluorescent armbands when they tried not putting the clocks back - but that might be a different winter!

My mum was retraining from during to be a community midwife so my dad took her into hospital and then went to work at 7am in our old Ford Escort.
 

Ridgeway

Senior Member
re bike prices in the 73 crisis i'm pretty sure they went up dramatically, a Raleigh Chopper pre crisis was 4 carrots and a turnip where as afterwards it became an astonishing 5 carrots, 2 stones and 2 swede :ohmy:, least that's what Baldrick said:laugh:
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
Poshshire
Drago, you're getting a bit mixed up- cheaper rust bucket Fords, Vauxhalls and BL cars were everywhere in the 70s!
They were well entrnched, but they were far from ubiquitous.

There were about 14 million cars in the UK in 1973, with population of 56 mill, so per capita there were very roughly half the cars there are now.

You've only got to look at the TV peogrammes from back then to see that rarerest of rare things - London streets not lined each side nose to tail with parked cars!
 

Archie_tect

De Skieven Architek... aka Penfold + Horace
Location
Northumberland
They were well entrnched, but they were far from ubiquitous.

There were about 14 million cars in the UK in 1973, with population of 56 mill, so per capita there were very roughly half the cars there are now.

You've only got to look at the TV peogrammes from back then to see that rarerest of rare things - London streets not lined each side nose to tail with parked cars!
A television in 1973... cor you were posh!

I didn't visit that there London until I was 21... in 1980. I was surprised not to see Sherlock Holmes and lots of horses on the gold plated streets.
 

a.twiddler

Über Member
I was in the brutal and licentious soldiery (oh all right then, the RAF) in 1973 which meant that unlike the civilian population we weren't plunged into darkness several days per week due to power outages (Military sites had their own generators) but we all moaned and groaned about the shortage of fuel. I can't give any insight into bike prices. I wasn't a cyclist back then but I remember the smugness of some of my colleagues who cycled into work. Some of the more bumptious ones found themselves with mysteriously flat tyres after a while. They tended to keep quiet after that, but the fuel thing was a really sore point.

We got issued with fuel vouchers when we taxed our vehicles for a few months in 1973, in preparation for fuel rationing. Fortunately it didn't come to that.

The national speed limit was reduced to 50 and everywhere the petrol stations were either shut with big signs saying "no fuel" or enormous queues stretching down the road. I had a little Honda at that time and it was worth buying a lock even for my 1 1/2 gallon tank because siphoning fuel became a growth industry. Cars in those days were easy to siphon fuel from, sometimes cars were pinched to take them somewhere quiet just to empty the tank. I used to resent queuing for ages just for that tiny amount of fuel, and there was something about losing the freedom to drive wherever and whenever you wanted that brought out the worst in a lot of people. Sometimes the queueing became quite unpleasant and bad tempered. We take a lot for granted, but this sort of thing could happen again at any time.

Fortunately, I am now older and wiser and more philosophical about things, and have the option of cycling.
 

classic33

Legendary Member
I can't give a definitive answer, but consider this difference to 2020. In the 1970's most manufacturing was carried out in-country, by manufacturers serving primarily their domestic markets. That means manufacturing output could be quickly ramped up (by working night shifts, weekend overtime etc) so long as the raw materials were available.
You didn't have these absurd globalised manufacturing and supply chains where everything needs to be planned and ordered months in advance.
Inflation was generally high during that period anyway, but I doubt bike price inflation was any worse than general inflation, whereas we now have low general inflation and high bike price inflation.
Would that have been possible given a three day working week.

@mustang1, Top Gear bicycle style!
 
Last edited:
I think the Oil / Fuel Crisis was different to the 3 Day Week with the power cuts .
I bought my second hand Ducati 160 during a power cut and I had my 1965 mini when there were petrol shortages. I didn't get round to getting fuel ration cards as my car hadn't an MOT.
 
Top Bottom