Urban Velo

50th Anniversary Little 500 Bicycle

It’s amazing what $50 and Craigslist will get you, this time a genuine Little 500 bicycle, as raced in the 50th anniversary event. The basics are that students from Indiana University race for glory on four-person teams for 200-laps of Bloomington’s soccer stadium. Outside of Indiana, the race first came to prominence in the 1979 Oscar winner, Breaking Away. Rules handed down to level the playing field and remain true to the original spirit lead to a modern day bicycle oddity – a road bike with one-piece BMX cranks, flat pedals and a coaster brake tied together with a one-size-fits-most frame. This is modeled after the original Roadmaster bikes of the day, with the brand of the bike changing throughout the years, settling on Mongoose and then Schwinn in recent years. There is no doubt about it, this is essentially a department store quality bicycle with a bit of history within for good measure. After some laps and surely some fanciful trip spanning years from there to here, this one now hangs in the basement of the Urban Velo headquarters with the rest of the freak-show collection.
The real question is to why a bike along these lines isn’t available in department stores, as I have a sneaking suspicion such a bicycle would fit the needs of many people far better than the full-suspension monstrosities currently dominating the racks.

16 Comments

  1. unixd0rkNovember 26, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    nice score!

  2. antbikemikeNovember 26, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I love this bike! I want to use one piece cranks on my bikes…but no one will go for it:(

  3. SteveNovember 26, 2008 at 4:59 pm

    Sweet find!I bet it hangs down there w/ pride! =D

  4. dmgNovember 26, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Ha – I was totally going to check that out when it was on CL… oh well, you have more room in your house than I do.

  5. terryNovember 26, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I’ll give you $51. Hey, you’ll be making a profit!

  6. Ghost RiderNovember 27, 2008 at 10:49 am

    For a hair over $400, such a bike IS available…the Osobike — track-bike styling with a Shimano coaster brake and not much else. It’s very “Little Indy”, but also a bit different (bullhorns instead of track drops).

    Where can us mere mortals actually SEE the oddball collection in the Urban Velo headquarters? Do you have a Flickr set or the like where we can gaze upon the wonders contained within?!?

  7. bradNovember 27, 2008 at 9:02 pmAuthor

    I’m familiar with the Osobike, but for $400 you can buy something way nicer than what this Little 500 bike is all about. This bike should be no more than $225 or so at the retail level.

    I do not have a set of images of all the bicycles in my collection. It’s hardly museum quality or anything, but there are some weirdo’s mixed in with the bikes I actually ride. Schwinn F1, 90′s era Swingbike, 50′s all original (down to the hub polishers) Schwinn Boy’s cruiser with a 2-speed hub, Eastern Wood Research trials bike #1… and then the rest of the bikes that actually fit me. I have a bike problem, with my house now containing around 20 in total.

    Someday I’ll photograph each of them for this site and insurance purposes.

  8. Steve ANovember 28, 2008 at 1:25 pm

    The real question is to why a bike along these lines isn’t available in department stores, as I have a sneaking suspicion such a bicycle would fit the needs of many people far better than the full-suspension monstrosities currently dominating the racks.

    you hit the nail on the head with that comment. Is there a more useless piece of crap out there than the urban 55 pound full suspension bike? A simple hardtail mountain bike is so much more useful than any of these wastes of metal, it drives me nuts.

  9. cafn8November 29, 2008 at 9:48 am

    @Brad- I wouldn’t say you have a bike problem. It sounds like you have more of a house problem. you need more space for your bikes.

    As for the “little 500 style” bike being more suitable for riding around, it most definitely is. I’ll agree with that. On the other hand, I’m a bike guy just like most everybody who comes to this site on a regular basis. the people who buy bikes at department stores, on the other hand are not bike people. They’re the occasional riders who think that drop bars, skinny tires, hard saddles and rigid frames are uncomfortable, and they’re young kids who know the x-games but never heard of “breaking away” and don’t care to emulate the structured world of road racing. These people drive their trucks and sport utilities to their local S-Mart and buy what they think is best: the one with the most gears, the most springs, the most upright position, the cushiest tires and saddle, without ever having spent any time on a road bike- even a cheap one. That bike looks comfortable, yet tough and rugged like their 4×4, but having no bike experience or sales guidance, they don’t know that it will be a chore to ride in just about all conditions, and probably not even very durable, given its complexity and price point.

    I’d love to see kids stepping up from BMXes to simple, stout road bikes like this. I hope that current trends in bikes help that along. Keep it simple, build it strong.

  10. dpowNovember 30, 2008 at 6:27 pm

    Steve is right. seriously, what is the draw to have non-functioning FS department store bikes? A fully rigid bike you could put racks on, would be a far better choice for about 90% of the people buying them…

  11. Shane StockDecember 31, 2008 at 7:26 pm

    Brad,
    You are way off on your price estimate. Either you don’t know much about bikes, or you haven’t looked at the Osobike closely. Becuase for $419, the Osobike is a steal. Look at some of the similar bikes that are fixed gears that are going for around $600. (Swabo Sanchez, Trek Soho S, Surley Steamroller, Schwinn Madison, Bianchi Pista).
    Your problem is that you have in your head the image that all bikes with coaster brakes are cheap, when in fact, the coaster brake is an upgrade to a fixed gear. The Osobike is just as in style as any fixed gear out there, yet it can coast and brake.
    Shane Stock
    Osobike.

  12. Urban JeffDecember 31, 2008 at 8:32 pm

    Shane, you misread Brad’s comment on our blog. And it’s not good PR to insult people’s intelligence.

    Nobody said the Osobike isn’t a good deal. You get what you pay for at $419, and there are numerous value-oriented complete bikes in this price range.

    Brad said that a bike like the Little 500 (a department-store quality bike) should cost $250. His rationale being that if manufacturers can sell a bike with full suspension, 27 gears and two handbrakes for $250 or less, they can certainly offer a singlespeed coaster-brake bike of higher-quality (and perhaps for less money).

    Happy New Year’s!

  13. DanielMarch 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    This is the way things should be, get off what we are on now

  14. t from indyApril 5, 2009 at 12:18 am

    I just got the same bike for $50 also. I was very excited to find the deal.

  15. SamualJuly 12, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Oh this bicycles are realy awesome………..

  16. Breaking Away Study Guide: A Little 500 Primer | COMO CYCODecember 12, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    [...] Photo credit. [...]

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