Looking Back 50 Years to the CRW of 1973

John Springfield


As the year 2023 dawned, I realized that I have been in the CRW for 50 years.


I arrived in Boston in 1973 with a friend.  Together we had about $400 between the both of us.  We found a rent controlled basement apartment for $165 a month.  Boston was not the high-tech city it would become later.  Things were cheap.  The trolley was 25 cents a ride.  There were few high-end restaurants.  The seaport area was a bunch of warehouses.  Harvard Square was populated by inexpensive venues for students. 


Although I had a car, I sold it right away.  The MBTA Green Line and my bike would become my mode of transportation. I started biking from Brighton to my downtown job.  There were no bike facilities at work, but I was allowed to chain my bike to a railing inside a municipal parking lot for free! 


I contacted the local American Youth Hostel (AYH) office in Brookline, and started riding with them.  On one ride I met John Kane (AKA Dick Maziekus).  He told me about the CRW, and I became a member in 1973.  Many CRW riders were also AYH members.  AYH was known for running tours, many utilizing rustic hostels throughout New England. The photo is from 1975, and  was taken of the author by John Kane. Note the "bowling ball" helmet which was fashionable at that time.


Although I'm not the oldest CRW member, I may be the member with longest membership.  I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong.


The Boston traffic in 1973 was much more forgiving.  The CRW rides were usually on Sunday mornings, and the Blue Laws were still in effect.  That meant that only essential stores could be open (gas stations, small convenience stores).  Sunday mornings were pretty much limited to church traffic. 


The club had a little over 100 members, with maybe 20 showing up on any Sunday.

The "navigation" system consisted of a printed cue sheet, or simply "follow the leader".  Sometimes there were "catch up" stops.  Most of us were in our 20's, but there were some "old" people in their 40's.


The clothing of choice was made of wool.  Wool got a little soggy when it rained, but otherwise was a good choice for both warm and cool weather.  Looking at the attached photo of me, you will notice how "short" the riding shorts were!


Hard-shell helmets were unheard of in 1973.  But by 1974 they started appearing in Bike magazines. I may have been the first CRW rider to purchase a helmet (1974, from MSR).  I still remember the ribbing I received from the "old timers" about wearing a "bowling ball" on my head.  But within a few years, Bell introduced its fashionable helmet, and it became a regular item.


The CRW was part of the League of American Wheelmen (LAW) back then.  The LAW supplied patches for special occasions: century rides, etc.  Many of the CRW members sewed these patches on their jackets and bike pouches. 


Popular starting points for the rides were relatively close to Boston:  Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, the old Duck Feeding area in Weston, Cambridge Common, and Ralph Galen's office in Cambridge.  And it seemed as if all rides went through Dover!


Most CRW bikes were 10-speeds, but a few were 15-speeds. Popular brands were  Peugeot and Raleigh.  I had an Italian Frejus that I purchased in Detroit.  It came with sew-up tires, but I quickly transitioned to "clinchers".  For  commuting I bought an internal gear Raleigh. 


I think CRW dues were $10 per year, mostly to print and mail the monthly newsletter.  There was an additional charge to attend the annual club banquet, but most people walked off with a door prize.  John Kane was usually the MC at the banquet and kept the crowd laughing at his witty observations.


So thanks for the memories, CRW!


Joseph Repole's picture

Thanks John, very interesting.