Tandem #13: Bill Humphreys

Tandem #13: Bill Humphreys

Before Lance and LeMond, and 7-11 and Motorola, there was a group of cyclists paving the way for American racing on the International level. They were the Raleigh Boys of the 60s and 70s. The Raleigh Boys set the benchmark as the first fully sponsored American Cycling Team competing abroad internationally.  My guest this week is one of those “Raleigh Boys:” Bill Humphreys.

Bill Humphreys was a hippie and a bit of a drifter, who discovered his gift for cycling later in life. After proving his mettle as a rogue privateer, he got invited to join the Boys, and race alongside John Howard,  Doug Dale, Bobby Phillips, and Dicky Dunn to name a few. That pack of two wheeled pioneers organized forays far and wide and made their mark with stage wins and podium positions in races like the Tour of Ireland in the 1970s.

Bill Humphreys, or the “Bike Guy” as  many call him, has been a dear friend of mine for 25 years. I met Bill when he came to work at Bicycling in their events and marketing department, and we became fast friends, despite the fact that he was constantly giving me unsolicited (if correct) training advice.

I’ll be honest. At the time, I didn’t fully appreciate what a legend Bill was. I just knew him as an older dude who was a total badass on the bike. He was in his early 50s at the time. He told me he was going to get a college degree, get married, and start a family before he turned 55.

And he did. He is still married to his wonderful wife Sara and his son Ian is now in college himself. When Bill puts his mind to something, he does it.

These days Bill has Ireland on his mind again. He’s turning 75 this summer. And Bill’s always been one for celebratory bike rides. So for this particular milestone, he’s decided to go big with a 6-day Tour of Ireland Reunion Ride on August 4th through the 10th.

I sat down with Bill to talk about his storied career and the upcoming reunion.  Honestly, the conversation could have gone for hours—and had we been sitting in his backyard overlooking the lake in his home in Old Lyme Connecticut with a bottle of wine like we have so many times, it would have.  But we focused it mostly on those early years in and around Ireland.

Bill is an animated man, so you’ll hear him banging the table for emphasis here and there….It’s more like a fireside chat than a formal interview. But it’s all Bill in all of Bill’s wonderfulness.  And it’s a rich, often overlooked, part of American cycling’s past.

 

 

Show links:

Email Bill for more info on the Ireland trip: [email protected].

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13 comments

  1. e-RICHIE

    I met Bill (er, he met me) before, long before he was Bike Guy. Had he not pulled into The Ski Rack looking for help, and then stayed (partied) for another 7-8 days, who really knows what might have happened next?

    1. Roger Costales

      E-Richie, cool to read! Skirack is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this year, Any interest in coming back for a visit.

    2. mikethebike

      I also met Bill at the SkiRack in the very early 70’s. He had just completed riding across the entire country on his silver blue Raleigh Pro. Richard Sachs was there also. The shop put on a road race that week, and it was my first ever (got 4th place) except for the evening ITT’s on Hinesberg Rd. put on by GMBC. I feel real lucky to have been introduced to the sport of bicycle racing by Bill. A true pro, and consummate gentleman.

  2. Dan Murphy

    Finally got to listen to this – what a classic. Great stories and very entertaining.
    After it ended, I thought back to what I had just heard and got to thinking how much of a badass Bill was then (and probably still is).

    So, what Ski Rack was this? Sugarbush? From what I remember, in the 70’s, just about every ski shop was named either Ski Rack or Ski Haus.

    Thanks again!

    1. Bill Humphreys

      Dan Murphy
      This was the Ski Rack in Burlington, VT. It was a small shop on a side street in downtown at the time, August 1972.
      Future Frame builder extrordinaire, Richard Sachs was working there at the time. The Manager, Bill Fitzsimons took a liking to me and I stayed there a week and worked odd jobs around the shop to pay for my repairs. I continued to CT to finish my trip and paint the family house then Bill invited me to come back to Burlington and work until the snow came and then he had a plan for me to get a job in Sugarbush for the Winter which worked out very well. I worked as a waiter at the China Barn the first winter it opened and I learned how to XC ski and taught lessons at the Inn with Ole Mosesson, saved my money to go race in Europe.

  3. Rick Humphreys

    Rumor has it that Bill did a stint in San Diego earning the nick name OMBRCer (for old mission bay rugby club). We all know what rugby balls are made of eh?

  4. Fausto

    Fortunate to have met Bill in Florida during the St. Pete Cyclones days in the early 80’s. Knew of his exploits on the bike and off, (his coaching, not partying) Always had time and advise for us young kids. His Jersey Book is amazing if you can find a copy. Still hoping he will compile all his diary into a book. Always outspoken, fun and unfiltered as you could tell by the emotion in his voice. Chapeau!

  5. Jon Williams

    In the early 70’s I was working at the Ski Rack and bike racing in the area while attending UVM for a degree in forestry. Bike guy showed up at the shop after his cross country trip and quickly settled in for some R&R. We had some fun times both on the road and at the bars later. Dave Chauner was living in the area at the time and I believe the Bike Guy graced Dave and his wife with his presence for a while. Happy to have gotten to know this iconic figure and this podcast makes great listening. All the best to you, Bill! Jon Williams

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