1980's

The wheel building business left me lots of time to ride my bike. By this time I was more mature. I trained more seriously and my race results started to improve. I bought a house in Northport and got engaged in 1981. The house needed a lot of work, so I had to put the bike on the back burner. I worked on the house for a year before it was (barely) inhabitable. I married Mary Ghiorsi in October 1982 and we moved into our little house.

In 1979 a new book came out on how to build your own bicycle frame. My buddy Chaz Vlasits and I got a copy and decided to give it a go. I built a track bike out of Reynolds 531 tubing with Henry James lugs and Campagnolo drop outs. I designed it especially for our home track and it was a thrill to race on a bike that I had made.

Me on the first frame that I built in 1981.

I stayed with the wheel building and Mary worked in Manhattan as a writer. I did Vito’s training races during the week: first at Old Westbury and then, when Vito lost that course, he moved the races to Mitchell Field. In '83 he lost that course too. About that time a new club started running races on Friday evenings at Suffolk Community College in Riverhead. The first time I went out there I won the “A” race.

I raced at the track on Wednesday nights. On weekends we went to open races. Many of them were in Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Pack in Brooklyn. We also went to quite a few races in New Jersey and some in Connecticut. I was better on the track then the road. I got a few decent results. Mary loved the racing scene. She went to all the races and we had lots of friends in the racing community.

This was taken at the start of the 1983 New York State Time Trial Championships.
Check out the Roval wheels and the aero helmet. John Issendorf photo.

In '85 I got a call that Joe Sulc was sick. Mitch and I visited him in the hospital. He died two days later. Among the memorabilia displayed at Joe’s wake was an Olympic medal that he was given for officiating the 1980 Winter Games where Eric Heiden won all 5 gold medals in speed skating… Joe was a good guy.

In 1986 Mary became pregnant and I decided that '87 would be my last year of racing. Our daughter Clementine went to her first bike race when she was 6 days old. Two years later Amelia was born, but it was a while before she attended her first bike race.

It didn't take Amelia long before she got on a bike though.

In the late 80’s the wheel business was starting to falter. I’m not sure exactly why because George handled the business side of things. George's health was faltering as well. In 1988 he had a triple bypass operation.

Mary had quit her job when the kids came along. The wheel business got so slow that I had to start doing something else to make ends meet. I thought that I would become a custom frame builder. I started tooling up. I had only built one frame so I figured that it would be smart to build a few more before I took any orders. Before I could do that my buddy Doug Hutwagner called me up and told me that Ross Bicycles in Farmingdale was advertising for a frame builder.

Ross had formerly been located in Allentown, Pennsylvania. They had mimicked Schwinn’s Paramount project and started the Ross Signature Line. First they hired Jim Redkay and later Tom Kellogg to build top quality hand made racing frames. In 1988 Ross declared bankruptcy and was bought by Rand International in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. Rand was an importer of low-end bikes for the mass merchant market.

Once Rand owned Ross they decided to resurrect the Signature Line and they advertized for a frame builder. I answered that ad. Rand was one of our wheel customers so George put in a good word for me. On the strength of having built one frame I was hired as the Director of the Ross Signature Division. I had an arrangement where I was to work Monday through Thursday at Ross, then Friday and Saturday doing wheels for George.

On the Sunday evening before I was supposed to start work at Ross I got a call that George Oslander had a heart attack and had passed away. George was Jewish so his funeral was the next morning. Instead of reporting for my first day of work I went to George’s funeral.

I started working at Ross. After I was there about a week I was contacted by George’s family. They wanted to keep Hempstead Cycles and the wheel business going and they wanted to hire me to help run it. We negotiated for a few weeks but I didn’t see eye to eye with George’s son-in-law who was handling the business. I was sad about George’s passing and I felt adrift. I had been working for George in some capacity for over 17 years.

I had been a wheel builder for 14 of those years. I kept a log book of the wheels that we made. The final tally was over 400,000. I trued every one… At Ross I was slowly setting up a frame building shop. I made a few trips to the old Allentown factory to bring equipment back to Farmingdale. That was interesting. Besides the Signature project, they had me doing lots of work that involved correcting manufacturing defects in the low end bikes that they sold. That wasn't too bad, but I didn’t like working there very much, so I left after about 3 months.