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Memorabilia from the early days of Bill's Bike Shop

Bill & Carol McGann's book The Story of the Tour de France, Vol 1: 1903 - 1975 is available in print, Kindle eBook & audiobook versions. To get your copy, just click on the Amazon link on the right.

The story:

On June 1, 1974, when I just just 22, I opened the brilliantly named Bill's Bike Shop on Las Posas Road, in Camarillo, California.

I had spent the previous years after graduating from high school in a series of jobs that would take me nowhere: Fuller Brush Man, graveyard gas station attendant, tutor at Moorpark School, plus a couple of semesters of junior college.

While working at the gas station I rediscovered the bike that I had loved so much. I became obsessed with what I think is one of mankind's greatest inventions. I used to go to a bike shop in Ventura and just stare and the all-Campagnolo bikes the shop had.

Living in the back room of a little old lady's house and working a couple of jobs I had saved up $3,000 (about $15,000 in today's dollars) to go college.

I decided instead to roll the dice. Instead of going to college, I wanted to open a bike shop in my home town of Camarillo. I needed more money and Ken May, the head of lending at American Commercial Bank in Ventura, took a leap of faith and loaned me the $3,000 I needed to buy 25 Maserati bicycles. I had no established credit, and applied for the loan wearing my best rugby shirt and the only bell-bottom cords that didn't have holes in the knees. My business plan was written by hand on lined notebook paper.

I told him that if the shop failed I would still pay the bank back.

"I know that," he replied.

So I rented 750 square feet in a troubled shopping center that happened to be perfectly located.

It worked. I ended up knocking out walls and eventually tripling the floor space.

Over the years we started importing products for the shop directly from European factories, and that effort became Torelli Imports.

We sold the shop to Mark Eaton, who turned out to be a superb businessman. My last visit to the shop in 2019 knocked my socks off. It is simply a beautiful place for bikes. If you are near Camarillo, California, mid-way between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, stop on in. Here's the shop's web site.

But on to photos of the early days...

Early days, 1974. Working on what I think is a Maserati MT-9. Note the 3-piece steel rear hub, Also, you can see I have a home-made work stand with pony clamps. A professional Park Work Stand was a ways off into the future.

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The Story of the Tour de France, volume 1 Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach! Schwab Cycles South Salem Cycleworks frames Shade Vise sunglass holder Advertise with us!

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The Story of the Tour de France, volume 1 Neugent Cycling Wheels Peaks Coaching: work with a coach!

Another shot of adjusting the Maserati as well as proof that at one point I had hair.

Working on a bike for a couple of gents. This looks like a serious piece of machinery with a Campagnolo Nuovo Record rear derailleur, Campagnolo Record hubs and a straight-block freewheel.

Here's the flashy sales floor of the shop in 1974. That's a line of the Maserati bikes. The bike pulled out is a Romana, a private label of Santa Barbara importer EBM. That should be Tom Campbell pointing out the bike and young Doug McNair looking on. Hard to believe it has been almost 50 years. I had been open for a few months because across the breezeway is the newly-opened Ski Hut. It was a perfect complement to have in the center.

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In front of the shop with the incredible sign Gloria Guerra so generously made for me. On the left is Kevin Parso and on the right, Tom Campbell. Both gave me tons of help as I worked to get going. You can see the closed barber shop on the right that the landlord and the liquor store used for storage.

1976: The extraordinarily talented Ray Schultz leads Peter Poland in a criterium in the industrial park just west of Camarillo, between 101 and the air base. Ray worked in my shop for a couple of years in the 1970s and won lots of races riding for the Bill's Camarillo racing team.

This should also be about 1976. In the center is Ray Schultz. I think that's Steve Grossman on the right. I can't tell you where this race is.

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August 17, 1978: That's Peter Poland on the left, a powerful rider and a very kind gentleman. It was a pleasure knowing him and training and racing with him. This photos was taken after a League of American Wheelmen century. I think he set the best time and won a set of hubs. You can see the sign Gloria Guerra made hanging in the right window.

Here's Peter Poland in front of my shop in 1978. By then I had expanded into three 750 sq ft store fronts. You can see the Maserati Bicycles sticker on the door, plus a couple of Raleigh decals. I will burn in hell for selling bike boom Raleigh bikes. Lots of burglar alarm tape on the windows. I only had one break-in and nothing of value was taken.