Victor Vincente Visits
During the Portland Sunday Parkways in August, long-time Bike Friday rider and writer Peter Marsh turned up with a friend he wanted to introduce to the Bike Friday community.
His friend is Victor Vincente of America, one of the best-known American racers in the early 1960s who was a member of the US Olympic team in 1960 and ’64, as well as World Championship and the Pan American Games teams.
In 1979, VincenteÂ pioneered the use of 20-inch BMX wheels in mountain bikes — because they were the most durable wheels available.
This development earned Vincente and his Topanga bike [see photo below] a place in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame. But almost 20 years had passed since he actually rode any small-wheel bike.
â€œThis is a really handy bike, it’s much more maneuverable than the Topanga!â€ Vincente said after taking a New World Tourist with the Select Group for quick spin around Laurelhurst Park in Portland. He was very impressed with all the high quality components on the Bike Friday.
Vincente has another connection with Bike Friday owners.
In 1975, he turned to ultra-endurance riding, and set a double trans-continental record of 36 days and 8 hours, riding from Santa Monica to Atlantic City and back. (He later changed his name to reflect these achievements.)
Vincente’s record was broken in 1981 by Lon Haldeman, who then won the first coast-to-coast race in 1982, set many other records, directed the Race Across America , and hosts the Bike Friday Desert Camp in Arizona each March.
Lon clearly remembers the halfway point in his two-way attempt when he reached Santa Monica in 12 1/2 days.
â€œIt was almost sundown and I was pretty tired, but I still remember Victor greeting me wearing a green pinstripe jumpsuit. I thought it was a great display of sportsmanship for him to come out and wish me luck,â€ Haldeman said.
Haldeman went on to complete the Double Transcontinental in 24 days, 2 hours, and credits Vincente with the inspiration to show that it was possible.
Vincente is 71 years old and is still a very active cyclist. He lives in northern California and happened to be in Portland for a couple of weeks visiting his sweetheart Karol Johnson, and training for the National Masters Road Race in Bend.