Nov 3, 2014

Dad's 70s retro John Deere, umm.. "Bike"

by Darrin Vindiola

This year I completed a recent bike project.. a 1972 John Deere 10-speed that my old man handed down to me.  These bikes were only made for three years, and were sold exclusively at John Deere retailers.

 At 71 years young, Dad is easing away from tinkering on bicycles a bit, and is making good use of his time cruising around on his Gary Fisher racing mountain bike.  He knew I would restore the old John Deere bike to its former glory, and in turn get good use out of it, so he gifted it to me last year.

As you can see from the picture above, this bike looked more like a mountain bike hybrid than a vintage 1970s 10-speed, and with good reason.  The forward riding posture that the typical road bike requires wasn't conducive to my Dads age and style of riding that he has grown accustomed to.  Therefore, a comfort bike seat and cruiser style bars were added to acquire his desired upright riding style.

I had stripped the bike down and was ready to start going through the bike to clean it up, pack the bearings, etc.  I wanted to add some yellow and green accents to the bike as a nod to the John Deere brand, but was stumped as to what I could do.  I finally decided to remove the white pin-striping from the bike, and replace it with some yellow and green stripes.  I was ecstatic at what I found underneath the striping I removed..

When I peeled the tape back.. I found green and yellow factory striping perfectly preserved under the white tape.

Apparently someone along the way decided they didn't care for John Deere yellow and green, and covered the factory striping with white tape, which helped to keep the original stripes from fading and peeling.

 Brake Caliper fresh off of the bike

 After a cleaning & addition of yellow brake shoes
a subtle nod to the John Deere brand

 Green alloy valve stem caps

I didn't do a full blown restoration on this bike.  The paint was in good enough shape to where I simply had to clean and shine up the frame and forks.  All that was left was to clean, oil, grease, and tune the components of the bike to get it running like new again.

I very much wanted to get this bike back to looking and riding like a 1970s 10-speed racer should, but what most excited me was to restore this bikes retro look.  Replacing the cruiser handlebars with vintage drop bars helped immensely in this respect..

I found the drop bars on eBay for $9.00, and covered them with green Deda foam handlebar tape.  While it isn't exactly the same shade as John Deere Green.. they came pretty dang close.  The sunlight in the picture above makes the tape look a couple shades lighter than it actually is.  A nice contrast against the green tape, are the black rubber hoods that sit over the hand brakes.  I found them on Amazon for $6.00, and they slid over the brake handles perfectly with no need for any modification.

As you can see, a few modifications can drastically change the appearance of any bike.  Accents like chrome fork tips, reflector setup, John Deere badge, and John Deere lettering, make this 70s retro gem unique all unto itself.

This project was an enjoyable one, and turned out being a lot easier than I thought it would be.  As you can see, I ditched the front and rear fenders which I learned were not original to the bike. The rear rack while useful, was also an aftermarket product, so I didn't reinstall that either.

Projects like this one can really nickel and dime you, but fortunately for me.. this bike had great bones.  I swapped out the cruiser seat, oxidized seat post, and a couple of  frayed cables with ones I had floating around my garage, so the total cost of this rebuild was just shy of the $40.00 mark. 

Costs incurred were for handlebars and foam tape, rubber hoods for the hand brakes, new pedals, valve stem caps, brake shoes, and a couple of cotter pins for the cranks.

The 1972 through 1974 models of John Deere bikes were actually scoffed at back in the day as they were made in Taiwan.  However, the fact that this bike still sports about 80% of its original parts, is a credit to just how much better things used to be built.  To boot.. this is a bike that was ridden vigorously for decades. Its first owner was an avid cyclist that rode it for 20 years.  My Dad bought it, fixed it up, and rode it for another 10 years on bike trails in Colorado.  And finally.. before I obtained it, my brother used it for close to eight years as his sole means of transportation.  He actually put so many miles on it, the chain rollers were practically worn through from friction.

Heck.. I've bought brand new bikes over the years that didn't last longer than five years time.  This bike is still going, and with care and upkeep will most likely last another 40 years.  I look forward to going on some long trail rides with this classic, and am anxious to test its limits as well as my own.


  1. I have an uncle who is gonna give me his John Deere 10 speed road bike in exchange for some labor around his house. I saw it hanging in his garage, which it hasn't moved in over 25 years, and I asked him what he wanted for it. Then I suggested that I could fix some things around his house in exchange for the bike...and he agreed. But the only thing that has puzzled me is, I've seen white, black and green John Deere bikes....and here sits this red John Deere 10 speed road bicycle, upside down in my uncles garage. I've never seen a red one before, nor can I find a red John Deere bike anywhere on the internet and I've been looking for any information on when they made red John Deere bikes. Would you have any info on this for me?

    1. Hiya Jesse! When I was working on this bike, I came across tons of pictures online of other John Deere bikes, and I did see pics of red ones. To answer your question, it can only be one of three years.. a '72, '73, or '74. I'm not sure what colors were released on those respective years. The only hope of finding out for sure, is possibly by looking at an old dealer catalog that the John Deere dealerships surely would've had. Thanks for swinging by!

    2. Hiya Jesse! When I was working on this bike, I came across tons of pictures online of other John Deere bikes, and I did see pics of red ones. To answer your question, it can only be one of three years.. a '72, '73, or '74. I'm not sure what colors were released on those respective years. The only hope of finding out for sure, is possibly by looking at an old dealer catalog that the John Deere dealerships surely would've had. Thanks for swinging by!

  2. My kids (23 and 20) were asking me about bikes I had, and they busted out laughing when I told them I had a black John Deere 10-speed bike. My dad bought it new for me in 1974 when I was in 4th grade. I rode it until cars and girls relegated it to the back of the garage. It was certainly unique -- I never saw another one anywhere in east-central Indiana. Nice job on your restoration, and thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks! I could have went harder on the restoration, but didn't want to take away from its character.

  3. When I was a 10 year old, working on a neighbor's dairy farm for $1 an hour, I saw a John Deere 10 speed bike at the local John Deere dealer and absolutely fell in love. It took me a while to save up for it but it was the best day of my life when I bought it and brought it home, a bit too big for me really but I was in heaven on that thing and rode it for years and years. I remember it being black with silver letters... have to see if it's still in mom's garage to see if the green and yellow striping was there. Enjoy your bike! We used to joke about using it to plow - it was tough!

    1. Nice story! they definitely are workhorses!! Mine has been to hell and back, but still cleaned up nicely!

  4. Yes 1974 I remember it well; I t was the year are Dad took are old fox mini bike and my sisters old bike to the John Deer dealer and traded them in on two new John Deer 10 speeds. wow were they solid and heavy Me and my brother Jim went everywhere. He even took a trip from Eau Claire Wis to Mora Mn when he was 15 I think we rode those bikes about 20 years They were black with green and yellow stripes and had the handle bars wraped with brown.

    1. So nice to hear these old stories and memories! I'm so glad there's folks out there who remember these great bikes!

  5. We came across one when cleaning out a barn!??wondering what it may be worth? It is not in perfect condition but it has a light on the front that is suppose to light up when driven...was this an add on from John Deere or maybe by another company?

    1. I actually saw a brochure/owners manual once, and I never saw the headlight on any of the bikes. It was probably an add-on, as they were quite popular during that period of time.

  6. i worked for a john deere dealer in the late 70s/early 80s and assembled the last jd 10-speed the dealer had. it was black and had been in storage in the original crate since delivery - 6-7 years by that time. it didn't sell by end of summer so the dealer gave it to me, along with the the dealer's tool pouch, tire patch kits, speedometer and some other accessories. tool pouch - probably the most valuable part of the whole lot - was lost during an overseas mov when i was in the army. i put several miles on it. it has one of the heaviest gusseted frames i've ever seen on a bike but the worst tires. dealer told me jd's main reason for scrapping the bikes was b/c the tires were extremely poor quality and rotted within the first few years - a warranty disaster and nuisance for repairs when the shop needed "real work" done. i took good care of it and opted to hang it in the family barn when i went off to the army in '82. it's all original (even the crappy tires) except the handlebar tape. reason i found this page is b/c one of his friends, who is a jd nut, found out about it and just has to have it.

    1. WOW! Great story with some incredible insight! It warms my heart that there are still a bunch of these bikes floating around out there. Tires are a pet peeve of mine. They are the first thing I upgrade on any new bike I get these days. I'd LOVE IT if the new stock bike tires of today would last me three years! Another example of "Older is Better".

  7. Good job on the rebuild Darrin!
    Two things I love about the Deere bikes, 1) the frame and 2) the famous green/yellow color combination.
    I am fan of all bikes.
    The 70's Deere frame is the only one I have seen with the reflectors built into the frame as they did it for most of those years (I think one year they did not use the design). The steel frame is comparable to any other bike frame of those days IMO. But the components may be questionable- none the less a standard bike for the 70s.
    I only wish they were made in the US- a major disappoint from a company like John Deere.
    In the end, they are standard bikes from the 70's Add some value for the Deere name and some for the rarity, and some for the novelty of them and you have a decent bike and great conversation piece.

    I have almost a complete set of the bikes: M/W Green, Mixte White, Black/white 10speed, boys/girls. Just missing the blue.
    One aspect I have done, is to add yellow wall tires to a couple of the bikes and yellow spokes, and a yellow seat as appropriate to get more of the Deere scheme.

    A couple notes on the comments, I doubt there is any red version of the 70's productions. I have several catalogs, articles, advertisements etc. Nothing about red ones. I would pay a bounty to see one. :-)

    Not too long ago a set of green mens and women, still in the box unassembled sold on ebay for a handsome price. There is value for the nostalgia of them!
    But the best find is always the unknown barn find.

    Nothing runs like a Deere.

    A few pics posted by me here:


What say you?