Flashback Friday – Cover Model Lance

Way back in 1992, before the big comeback with Team Radioshack, before the 7 Tour de France titles, before the comeback from cancer, even before turning pro and winning the World Road Championships in 1993, Lance Armstrong was a Performance Bicycle cover model for our Summer catalog!

This catalog cover dates to a time way before Lance was a global icon and standard fare on many a magazine cover, although he was already a highly successful amateur bike racer in his own right.  As you may have guessed from the Skittles USA team jersey, this catalog came out during the lead up to the 1992 Summer Olympic Games, where Lance would go on to finish 14th in the Road Race (the top American).  Performance was the official bike supplier of the US Cycling Team for the Summer Games, so we took the opportunity to give a young up-and-comer some exposure on our catalog cover, oddly enough modeling our Synapse mountain bike!

But this wasn’t the only time we put Lance on the cover in 1992, as we also used this group shot of Lance and 3 other riders from Team USA (cropped from what was actually a promotional photo for Descente clothing).  Can you name the other 3 riders in the photo (the answer is below the photo)?

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Flashback Friday – Hairnets to EPS: Cycling Helmets from the ’80s

Ah, the ’80s, an era that gave us hairstyles as varied as teased bangs, the rocker mullet, the side ponytail, and the always classic Flock of Seagulls.  But all this reminiscing about hair brings us around to our subject of helmets, and, as you can read in this Bicycling magazine article,the bicycle helmet saw its fair share of changes in the decade of the ’80s as well.  Looking back through the pages of our catalog archives, you can trace that evolution as it progressed from the humble leather “hairnet” to the high-tech (for it’s day) original Giro Prolight.  Sadly no mullets made an appearance on our models.

Featuring the iconic Bell Biker

Here in one of our earliest catalogs, from 1983, you can see the full assortment of hard shell bike helmets available.  The Bell Biker, top left, was the very first bicycle helmet made of expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam bonded to a hard plastic shell.  One major drawback with the Bell Biker, other than the size and weight, was that the overhang from the shell was so big that you could barely see when you were down in the drops.  Our personal favorite from this era was the Brancale Sport helmet, top right, but only because it looks like the one worn by Belov in American Flyers!

“Breakaway Bob” in action

But for the racing enthusiast of the day, hard shell helmets were still too heavy and poorly ventilated.  The leather “hairnet” style helmet still ruled the peloton, as ably demonstrated in this vintage photo of “Breakaway” Bob, one of the distributors in our bike division.  Basically thin strips of foam wrapped in leather, these lightweight helmets provided relatively little impact protection.

From leather hairnets to hardshells, all on one page

Here in a 1985 catalog you can see our assortment of padded leather helmets, including the Kucharik Super Leather Racing helmet that it looks like Bob may have been sporting in his vintage photo!  But alongside these models, in the top right corner, is the innovative Bell V-1 Pro helmet, the first plastic helmet designed specifically for bicycle racing (although it still weighed in at nearly 400g, or the better part of a pound).  Also on this page we make a reference to the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), as they had just introduced the ANSI Z80.4 standard, the first widely adopted bike helmet standard in the United States.  Finally there was real testing and standardization in helmet design; all of the hard-shell helmets we sold back then met these standards, and of course every helmet we sell today does too (although the standards have been updated over the years)!

Early aero models

Moving on the helmet spread from 1987, we see a  few big steps forward in helmet design.  Not only did we start to see aerodynamic design with the Bell Stratos, at the top of the page (which is undeniably cool in a Star Wars/Tron sort of way), but there was also innovation from an unlikely source, the humble Lil Bell Shell (in the middle of the page).  This children’s helmet featured an innovative no-shell design; the entirety of the helmet was lightweight EPS foam, eschewing the heavy plastic shell of earlier helmet designs.

The original Giro Prolight

Which leads directly into the next big step in helmet evolution, the Giro Prolight.  First designed in 1986, this very first Giro helmet mated up the lightweight EPS shell of the Lil Bell Shell with a vented design, all covered in breatheable lycra fabric (to help protect the helmet, and hold all the parts together if you crashed).  Immediately popular, even with the racing set, the Prolight ushered in a new era of lighter weight, more comfortable helmet designs.

Interchangeable covers to suit your style on our Aero helmets

In this 2 page spread from 1988, we featured our very own lightweight EPS helmet with interchangeable covers, the Performance Aero helmet (at our trademark value-pricing, of course).  This helmet had large directional air vents and a weight of only 215g (comparable to modern helmets), but the big drawback with this style of helmet was that the EPS foam was still vulnerable to dings and cracks from less than catastrophic impacts.

The Bell Ovation was the first microshell style helmet (top right)

We also featured the innovative Bell Ovation helmet (top right), the first helmet to feature the “Microshell” design that we see in modern helmets, wherein a thin composite shell was bonded to the foam liner. This shell provided a balance between light weight, durability and comfort, and has been the basis of modern helmet design ever since.  Also much like modern helmets, the Ovation featured an aerodynamic design and an adjustable retention system (just not nearly as refined as what we’ve come to expect today).  But if you look closely at this page, you’ll see that we noted that the venerable Bell V-1 helmet was still the most popular cycling helmet around.  As the ’80s were drawing to a close, old designs were still going strong, but the tide was turning towards helmet features and design that we would recognize today.


A modern lightweight racing helmet – our Scattante Razzo

Looking back to the ’80s, it’s clear that modern helmets have come a long way since then.  But there’s only one way to take advantage of all of these advances. . . by wearing one!  It certainly seems obvious, but there’s no more important piece of safety equipment that you can wear, every time you go for a ride, than your helmet.  There are plenty of styles and prices available, so there’s no excuse not to wear one every single time you go for a ride.  Take it from someone who recently smashed his helmet in a bad crash but came out relatively unscathed – you never choose when you crash, so never neglect this most basic safety precaution!  Trust us, your head (and your hair) will thank you.

Flashback Friday 1987 – Pedals 2.0

In 1987, the world of technology and innovation was marching on. Nike released their first Air Max sneakers to change the way we looked at shoe cushioning, the very earliest version of Photoshop was developed by a PhD student at the University of Michigan, and Windows 2.0 was rolled out by Microsoft (much to the dismay of Apple). Of course the world of cycling was no different, and some of the greatest advances of this time period were made in the realm of what is now the most ubiquitous of cycling parts, the clipless pedal.

As you can see on the catalog cover above, here at Performance we were not afraid to embrace new technology.  At the top of the page you can see a La Vie Claire model LOOK shoe, Aerolite pedals (more on this later), and a “Darth Vader” style Bell Stratos helmet.

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Flashback Friday – 1985 Recycled

1985… Madonna becomes the second female artist to have the top single (“Like A Virgin”, if you had to ask) and top album at the same time, and she goes on to be the top-selling act of the year.  So in honor of the “Material Girl”, we present the latest edition of our Flashback Friday series, this time all about the materials (clothing material, that is) from our Spring 1985 catalog:

As you can see from the cover, bright and bold colors were the norm (as well as perfectly coordinated color-matching with your bike, apparently!)

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Flashback Friday – Fall/Winter 1984-85

Fashion model by day & copywriter by night!  Chuck Lewis has been at Performance since nearly the beginning of our company, so we asked him to write up a few memories about the Fall/Winter 1984-85 catalog:

“Back in the early days Richard Snook and I shared copy writing responsibilities, frame prepping and wheel building skills, and even provided the occasional talent for catalog photos.” Read more of this post

Flashback Friday – Spring/Summer 1983

Moving right along with our Flashback Fridays we find ourselves at our second ever catalog – Spring/Summer 1983.  Here are some fun page details:

True made-in-Italy framesets (which came with a front derailleur, of course) and custom build kits.  Obviously we were a much smaller company then (though we’ve been considering heading in this direction again sometime in the future – comments?).  How about a frame with a full Campy Super Record group for $765.00?  It goes without saying that bicycle technology has come a long way and there’s also inflation to consider, but you can’t even get just a Record Crankset for $765 these days! Read more of this post

Flashback Fridays – From Our Archives

1982.  Ronald Reagan was in the White House, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney released “Ebony and Ivory”, “Cheers” debuted on TV and the personal computer was Time magazine’s “Person of the Year”.  But there was another momentous occasion that year as well (at least for us), as we published our very first catalog!

Performance Bicycle Shop first catalog

Consider this the launch of our new “Flashback Fridays” where (most) Fridays we’ll scan and post some pages from an old catalog.  This isn’t to make fun of the models (as much as we’d love to take a few jabs at those rainbow suspenders) but to illustrate the winding road that cycling has traversed over the last 30 years.  Hopefully you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.  Feel free to leave us your opinions in the comments below (or give us some ideas of what you’d like to see)!


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