Here at Jalopnik, our team of writers have quite a diverse selection of cars, buses, trucks and other assorted machines. And, not wanting to be left out of this group of excitable owners, I have since set out to fill the vehicle-shaped hole in my apartment.
The budget for doing this was tight, as was the storage space in my flat. So anything with more than two wheels was soon kicked off my long list. As I started trawling through Craigslist listings and eBay ads, it became apparent that an engine might also break the bank.
So, a bicycle it would be.
As with any self-respecting hipster, my sights were set on a knackered old Peugeot or Raleigh bike that I could lovingly bring back to life over a few weekends. But listings were slim on the ground, and it seemed that the booming demand for bikes amid the pandemic would soon crush all hope of a budget beater ready for redemption.
But then, a gleaming orange creation jumped off the screen and called out to me. Without wanting to sound too dramatic, it was love at first sight.
There it was, a vintage-looking road bike with an orange frame, a 12-speed setup, dropped handlebars and clad in some interesting branding that I had never before heard of. On the front, there’s a yellow badge that reads “Limited Edition” and “Enjoy Hi-C Fruit Drinks.” There’s similar branding down the side of the frame as well.
Now, not being from the U.S., I had no idea what Hi-C was. But I loved the badge up front.
A quick Google of the brand and its bike brought up similar adverts for the same vibrant bikes. Some said they had been given to retailers to fill window displays, others said they had been won with purchases of the fruity drink.
From that point, the spec of the bike didn’t really matter anymore. I wanted the gimmicky orange juice bike.
A few messages to the seller later and I was excitedly riding my new purchase along the banks of the Hudson. It turned out that as well as looking the part, the Hi-C bike was surprisingly nimble.
Spec-wise, it’s not great. But it’s fine for a 30-year-old bike that I’ll use to navigate the city. There’s a 12-speed setup with a rear Shimano Skylark derailleur, Shimano front derailleur, Star-branded brake levers, unmarked rims and an unmarked crank.
So, I now knew what I was riding, but I still wasn’t sure why it existed. The plot really was starting to thicken.
After trawling bike forums, blogs and other listings for similar setups, I couldn’t pin down the true story of the Hi-C road bike. Some reports said it was from the 1970s, others thought it was more likely to be the 80s.
Among the guesses, I found another buyer looking for answers.
“I have this exact same bike! I found it in some old antique shop with the exact same components. I ended up taking it down to a fixed and making it ultra-citrus. I wish I could find out stuff about the bike but I can’t.... any help would be great!”
So now, I really wanted to find out more.
Since 1960, the Hi-C fruit juice brand’s parent company Minute Maid, has been owned by Coca-Cola. This made me hopeful that there might be some details they could share with me.
I’ve previously spent a fun afternoon visiting the archives of whisky maker Diageo, and that was chock full of delightful relics from the history of Johnnie Walker. I was hopeful that Coca-Cola might have a similar setup.
After many expansive email chains and phone calls with various people in the marketing departments at this mega-corporation, I had gleaned nothing. So it was back to the forums.
Now, I was getting in deeper and trawling through serial number groups. And this proved a little more fruitful.
Here, I found that the bikes were most likely to be from 1985 and 1986. A post from 2012 written by someone called Heartlandcruisers suggested that they had been given away in the U.S. through a local chain called Save-Mart.
Annoyingly, that chain also didn’t have any information to share with me about the bikes.
So now, I’ve got a potential year of manufacture and a list of parts. There’s also a few suggestions that the frame might have been manufactured by either Panasonic or Fuji, as the serial number begins SC.
But, there has to be more information out there. Surely someone has some old promo materials or adverts stored away that feature these bikes? Or maybe you’re also riding round town on a Hi-C bike and have had a more successful search into its history?
I’d love to know more about the origins of this vibrant and perplexing bicycle.
Apparently there’s also a neat looking Sundance Sparkler bike that bears a striking resemblance to my beloved Hi-C bike, and another from Cheetos that might be worth investigating next.