In August of 1982, four men rode out of Los Angeles on the Great American Bicycle Race, the first transcontinental bike race ever — what ABC’s Wide World of Sports called “the latest bizarre product of this country’s rapidly burgeoning ultra-endurance cult.”

The route began at the Santa Monica Pier, where a small crowd of “devoted bike freaks” saw the riders off, ABC said. It began like this:

[youtube http://youtu.be/kNrzfZSY8Vs]

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The route was 2,978 miles and ended at the Empire State Building in New York City. Nine days, 20 hours and two minutes later, Lon Haldeman reached the finish line:

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[youtube http://youtu.be/9KXoS45edGg]

The Bicycle Story has turned up a whole series of YouTube videos of ABC’s coverage, and they’re all amazing. (SO FRICKING ’80s.) Diana Nyad, the long-distance swimmer who’s attempting her fourth swim from Cuba to Florida this summer at age 63, is one of the correspondents covering the event. That opening song about bicycles is … unreal. And there are recumbent bicycles.

The Great American Bicycle Race still exists, as Race Across America. RAAM’s website calls the 2012 race “the best ever” but … I’m not sure anything could beat the original.

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