By Greg Overton
For many of us who have been around cycling for a few years, say three or four decades, the rise of the 7-11 Team was a unique and ambitious undertaking that we all felt a part of somehow. Here was a team that was born to compete in Europe at the highest level of the sport, and the riders were some of the best in America. The team had financial backing, marketing, training programs and coaching like no US team prior to it. The coaches had lived and raced in Europe, and had observed how the sport was being approached by the top teams there.
Jonathan Boyer and Greg LeMond had ridden the Tour de France with terrific success, but had done so on separate established European teams, but it was the iconic red, white and green jerseys of the 7-11 squad that brought a new, American flavor to this staunchly traditional sport. These guys trained differently, they ate differently, they laughed and joked, they had a female soigneur and their most recognizable rider was an Olympic speed skating legend! They arrived with a different approach to equipment as well.
In its earliest days, the team used Campagnolo equipped Murray-branded bicycles that were understated and looked much like Italian bikes found at any race abroad. The Murray frames were built by an up and coming American framebuilder located in upstate New York, named Ben Serotta. By the time the 7-11 Team arrived in Europe, they had arranged major equipment sponsorship with Shimano and Huffy. Their bikes were now a wonderful tri color that matched the team’s jersey and the name on the downtube was Huffy instead of Murray. The frames were still predominantly built by the Serotta frame shop, but were among the first to use an American tubing supplier, True Temper, foregoing the traditional Reynolds or Columbus that nearly all performance frames were constructed with.
Those Huffy frames looked terrific once you accepted the name on the downtube. The colors were arranged perfectly and they had just enough of an Italian feel to have credibility among those of us who cared about such things. And the fact that in their first Tour de France, the team had some success didn’t hurt the appeal of their bikes in the least. When those bikes showed up to race in Colorado or for any of the group training rides around Boulder, it would create mixed feelings for the rest of us. On the one hand, we were proud of the team’s success and the notoriety it was bringing for American cycling. There was probably some notion of ‘well if they can do it, so can I” filling the minds of those of us who were less talented and committed. The downside of seeing those cool Huffys roll up to a start was the feeling that your day was pretty much going to go like this: ride as hard as possible trying to hang on as long as possible, hope to get a second to grab your water bottle now and then, and retain whatever nutrition you have taken in the last 24 hours. Mmm, fun times!
Any time that I see one of these Huffy bikes now, I am instantly transported back to that time. The Huffys are so iconic for their role in a groundbreaking moment in America’s rise in the sport, and they conjure snapshots of a Coors Classic stage, or the melee that those Boulder training rides were, maybe a friendly encounter on a training ride in the mountains outside of Boulder, even a Tour stage on TV. Who can forget the image of a crumbled Davis Phinney and his Huffy after colliding with a team car at speed? The notoriety that these frames brought to the small Serotta frame company caused a tremendous growth cycle for them as well, and because of the team’s close connection to the area, Colorado became the largest selling market for Serotta frames.
It’s become fairly well documented in the years since that some of those team frames were actually built by other framebuilders, as is very typical of racing bikes. Riders sourced frames from Landshark, DeRosa and Ritchey to name a few, but all were painted with that terrific tri color kit that Serotta developed for the team frames.
When Editor Dave shared photos of the 7-11 Huffy featured here, I wanted to know where it was located and who owns it. Ed. Dave directed me to Alan Greenberg at Cottonwood Cyclery on Bengal Blvd to get the details. The bike is on display in Alan’s shop and he was gracious enough to share some info about this particular bike that has been at the shop for eight months or so. Alan said that it belongs to a friend of his who was a top level speed skater at one time. The two play hockey together and the owner brought the bike into the shop for a tune up. As Alan recounted, “I told him, you don’t want to ride this bike, it’s a collector’s item.” “So I gave him a new bike from our rentals to use while we had this one in for the tune up. He fell in love with the new carbon bike and made me the offer to keep this bike in the shop and display it.” He said that his friend acquired the bike years ago by trading with another athlete who used it for training – many speed skaters train by riding a bike and often cyclists and skaters train together.
This bike is equipped with a vintage Campagnolo six speed drivetrain instead of the team issue Dura Ace, but it does have all other indications of the Huffy team frames, with proper decals and their locations. It also includes the number tab brazed to the underside of the top tube. There is no rock solid proof that this was raced by a 7-11 team member originally, but it is nevertheless a terrific opportunity to see such a neat link to what many recall as the greatest time in American cycling. Stop in at Cottonwood Cyclery and take a look for yourself. And if you’re lucky, you’ll be transported to those wonderful times as well.
To see the bike, visit:
2594 Bengal Blvd
Cottonwood Heights, UT 84121