In 1973, Bill Riley Sr. was in his prime for organizing and completing bicycle marathons to raise money to build a bike trail in Des Moines. In 1973, Schwinn thought Bill Riley should be riding the best American bike of the day — a Schwinn Paramount.
Nearly 40 years later, the custom-built, chrome-lugged steel work of art now hangs in the Johnston garage of his son, Bill Riley Jr.
Bill Riley Jr., was, perhaps, responsible for Bill Senior’s interest in cycling.
“I was the first one in the family to buy a 10-speed,” says Riley. “I bought a Schwinn Varsity, which my brother Ed promptly ran into a parked car and ruined. I then bought a Dawes, which I still have today. My dad would ride it, and enjoyed it, so he bought a bike and started doing these 50-mile marathons.”
Riley so loved riding his bike that he began to work with the city of Des Moines to pave a trail behind Ashworth Pool. He began to organize bike marathons when people would collect pledges and donate the money to Des Moines to help build the trail. His influence was so great, when the trail was built in the late 1970s, it was named after him.
“It was kind of a seed for what we have now,” said Riley Jr. “Iowa now has one of the best trail systems in the country — the High Trestle Trail is a great example of where we came from and how far it’s come.
“I can leave from my home in Johnston and ride trails almost all the way to Altoona without riding much on the road at all,” he says. “I can ride all the way downtown without taking any streets. It’s a great trail system. I’m really proud of the work my dad did to help plant the seeds of what we have today.”
The bike, not just a relic from the past, has been kept in great shape. Recently in the shop for some tuning and cleaning, Riley Jr. plans to take it out on the trails.
Built for his dad, the bike is the perfect size for the younger Riley.
“I stand about 5’7”, “so the bike fits me fine,” he says. “When I was in junior high, I kept waiting for my growth spurt, but it just never came.”
In addition to caring for the legacy that was his dad’s bicycle, Bill Riley Jr., also carries on the legacy of discovering talent in the state of Iowa as the director of the Bill Riley Talent Search.
“We were discovering talent before discovering talent was cool,” he says.Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or firstname.lastname@example.org to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”