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The Clarence Pickard Challenge

Some of you may know that Clarence Pickard was an 83 year old man who showed up at the start of the Great Six Day Bicycle Ride as what we now call RAGBRAI I was known then. He had bought a used 1970-ish Schwinn ladies Super Sport a couple of weeks before and had gone on a massive crash pre-ride training regime which consisted of riding around the block a few times. He did not learn how to shift correctly during his training so Karras, I believe, had to show him how three days into the ride.

Kaul and Karras thought he would not make it as far the city limits of the start town. He delighted and amazed all of Iowa by making it the whole way! He became the first ride’s biggest celebrity, an honor the founders thought would fall on them.

Call me crazy, my wife does, but I have purchased a 1973 ladies Super Sport and I am refurbishing it with the intent to ride RAGBRAI L with it. This later model has drop bars but otherwise is very similar to Clarence’s bike. I’ll be 12 years his junior but the way things are looking I could still be suffering from shingles pain which could equalize my age advantage to a degree. I will train a lot more than he did!

I can’t be the only one who’s thought of this idea. I’d love to hear from anyone else who plans to ride a 1970s Super Sport of either style. People riding any bike of this vintage are also welcome to join the challenge. There aren’t any prizes unless a sponsor steps forward to offer them. If the “movement” should gather enough momentum there could be a certain amount of RAGBRAI fame for the participants. Or would that be notoriety?

But I’m perfectly content to proceed alone as Clarence himself did most of the time due to his glacial pace….

15 Replies

jelly0317, January 18, 2023 at 10:44 pm

My first ten-speed was a 1971 Schwinn Sports Tourer, one model up from the Super Sport. Although it had some nice components, it was a typical Schwinn tank. Two years later, I bought a much lighter Raleigh Super Course, and swapped out its cottered Stronglight crankset for a TA, later converting it to a triple. I’ve ridden that bike for 29 of my 38 RAGBRAIs, and will ride it again this year.

#1384823

Derek Eilderts, January 19, 2023 at 9:09 am

Ken – That is an incredible idea! And I can’t think of a better way to honor Clarence’s effort in the first RAGBRAI. I don’t have the fortitude to join you with a similar bike but if you complete the entire ride I would be happy to sponsor you with payment of Beekman’s * 7, however much that is!
This is something that Clarence’s relatives would appreciate, if they can be found, and it would be great if some of them could meet up with you along the ride.

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bbrown, January 19, 2023 at 10:02 am

It will be seriously impressive if you do this, and it would be a great tribute to Clarence and the spirit of Ragbrai and Iowa. It is good for you to bring him up this way. People everywhere can benefit from his astonishing example. Don’t forget that he wore long pants and long-sleeve shirts, AND long underwear under both, and that the weather hit 100 degrees on the 100-mile day that year. He said he did it “to show what older people can do”, or words to that effect. Let’s all tip our helmets to him with respect, and with resolve to try to set our own good examples.

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Uncle Kraig, January 19, 2023 at 10:05 am

Legend has it Clarence wore wool long johns and some type of leather helmet all week as well. You going all in with the long johns and helmet too :) If so, you’ll be easier to spot that way. Good luck with the endeavor. I’ll say hello if I see you in July!

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T. Gap Woo, January 19, 2023 at 1:21 pm

Hello, KenH!

Your challenge is a great idea.

I wish that I could join you on my trusty ol’ red Columbia (model unknown after all these years). I bought it when I was about 10-11 years old. Daddy Woo loaned me $50 and I paid him back with the profits from my ever-expanding paper route in less than a year. I rode that beast until I was old enough to drive a car. When I went to college and had no car, I brought that beast to UConn and rode it everywhere. Unfortunately, some drunken frat boys took a heavy-duty bolt cutter to my bike one night and left me with a pile of scrap metal and rubber.

Consequently, I cannot ride an old beast with you. However, I would like to honor and remember another Ragbrai legend — Carter LeBeau. “Old timers” may recall that Carter wore red and blue striped socks, red on one leg and blue on the other. I believe these socks were sold in the Ragbrai shop circa 2014, when I bought a pair. I have since worn those socks on the first day of the ride and will do so again this year. It’s become my own little Ragbrai tradition.

Look for me on the route. If I’m not wearing those socks, listen for my ooga horn and spot my TGAPWOO license plate.

See you along the I-O-Way in July.

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Gene, January 19, 2023 at 4:08 pm

I’ll be 78 for RAGBRAI 50, which will be my 17th and I hope to have many more.

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Jboz, January 19, 2023 at 4:56 pm

Clarence Pickard is a legend. Another legendary Clarence is Clarence Boesenberg who has ridden several times well into his 90’s. The last mention I saw was in 2021 when he was 95. I hope he’s doing well. If he rides this year, he will be 97.

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KenH, January 21, 2023 at 9:24 am

Thanks for the comments and suggestions. I don’t have much of a plan at the moment other than I am refurbishing the bike right now. Don’t even know how I will do RAGBRAI this year: charter, team, RAGBRAI semi. Most of my usual team has bailed out this year. Glad to see another vintage bike on the ride! I got a Raleigh ten speed a few years after the first RAGBRAI. It’s long gone.

Clarence wore a Styrofoam pith helmet. He was probably one of the few to wear a helmet of any kind that year. Those aren’t safe by modern standards so I will wear my normal helmet but I may get a DaBrim to simulate a pith to a degree. Might get a pith to wear around town.

I’m not not committing to long pants, shirt, and underwear. Maybe for one day if RAGBRAI has a Clarence Pickard day during the ride this year.

I have Carter LeBeau socks somewhere. I used to wear them on century day for several years. Lost track of them after 2020, I’ll have to look for them.

I think Clarence Boesenberg passed me on a hill one year. If so the sign on the back of his bike read “89 and doing fine!” I hope I grow up to be like him! Given they have the same first name perhaps RAGBRAI should honor both men with a Clarence day?!

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skb-mpls, January 29, 2023 at 12:26 pm

Hurray for you!
I had a Schwinn Varsity bike in the late 60’s and early 70’s. I delivered nearly 100 DesMoines Register every morning. That bike was quite a workhorse. It was terribly abused by me however. With the wire baskets full of Sunday papers – I would hop curbs instead of going up and down driveways etc…

My father took this bike to the Ames bike shop & the owner stated that that bike was the most abused bike he had ever seen.
Now I never hop curbs and avoid potholes at all cost. My Single Speed Fairdale Parser urban city bike I sold recently (for more money than I paid for it) had 15,000 miles on it & I had never had to true the wheels…
skb

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justcynn, January 31, 2023 at 8:33 pm

I am 48 but collect and ride old steel frame bikes including mostly Schiwnns and seriously contemplating going vintage for this ride. One is a very nice original ’72 Chrome Paramount but not going to push the 42-53 crankset on this elevation for a full week and its the one bike I would worry about being out. I have several 80’s Schwinns I could ride, some retro modfied to more modern drive trains. I am sure there will be plenty of old steel framed gems though so will be looking for you on your Sports Tourer

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KenH, February 3, 2023 at 9:10 am

I’m making progress on my Schwinn. The brakes are refurbished. I have put a modern wheelset on it and a new drive train is about 75% done. Hopefully I can get it done in time for a test ride next week when a spurt of warm weather is coming to NE Illinois!

I even managed to get registered with PBV for the week! No one expected the registration process to be a Taylor Swift style tsunami but that is what happened. They are working hard and have it mostly sorted out by now.

This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by KenH.

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jelly0317, February 3, 2023 at 9:42 am

Are you keeping the original shifters, mounted up by the handlebar stem?

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KenH, February 3, 2023 at 5:32 pm

No, I am not keeping the original shifters, I am putting them back! The previous owner had removed them and the breaker bars on the brake levers. So I have put those back. The original crankset had been modernized in a way I might not be able to reverse even if I wanted to so I am keeping that and attempting to run it as a 1×10. That would make one of the shift levers for show only but I might have to revert to a 2x? arrangement.

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jelly0317, February 3, 2023 at 6:29 pm

I remember that the first thing I did with my Sports Tourer was to remove those extra brake levers. I also removed the metal plates surrounding both chainwheels which Schwinn had installed to prevent chain-dropping. Can you widen the rear triangle enough to accommodate a 1×10 configuration?

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ESchiers, February 24, 2023 at 7:36 pm

Hi Ken-
Wondering how the build is going? Are you planning to wear the hat too?

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