A perpetual motion racing ‘game’ made by Japanese toy geniuses Tomy, in which little bicycles race around a track forever. There used to be lots of these motorized track games in the 70s and 80s – perhaps you had something similar?
Remember life before video games? Of course you do.
Or maybe you don’t. Video games have been with us since the late 1970s, and in most of our homes since the early 1980s. But there are people alive now, and in their 20s, to whom the notion of a world without digital gaming is a world that existed over 15 years before they were even born. Ancient history – to them.
But before digital gaming occupied so much of so many people’s recreation time, the only ‘games’ you could play were physical ones – either something outside, or (if you were trapped inside by the weather) something consisting of physical pieces, boards, toys, or whatever else was required. This necessity, as the old saying goes, led to quite a lot of invention.
Sometimes I get the impression that half of the really cool, innovative toys of the 1980s were made by Tomy Corporation, of Japan. I’ve already profiled two other entirely different, yet cool toys created by Tomy (the air-powered Air Jammer Road Rammer and the ‘mechanical video game’ Digital Derby Auto Raceway. Can you imagine what a hotbed of creative ideas the Tomy headquarters must have been, in the 1970s and 1980s?
And now, here’s another unusual toy – Moto-cross Racing Bicycles.
Sold and branded by Kmart in this instance (the example shown here was actually purchased from Coles New World in Australia in the early 1980s for the princely sum of $12.98), the game has “Tomy” embossed on it and carries the following on the side of the box:
Manufactured by Tomy Kogyo Co. Inc Exclusively For K Mart (Australia) Limited. Made In Japan.
The “1980” year I have stated is just an approximate based on when I think we got it, as unfortunately there is no year anywhere on the box or parts.
Moto-cross Racing Bicycles is one of those perpetual motion type toys in which objects travel around a course, rolling downhill, before being elevated back to the top of the course again. And – repeat.
Growing up in the 1980s, I seem to remember quite a few of these kinds of games. From ones with tracks suited to Matchbox cars, to others that had courses designed simply for marbles – there was something about the colour and movement of seeing things rolling down a course, over and over, that always caught my attention. I remember seeing these contraptions running in toy stores (or the toy section of a department store) – always on a shelf just out of the reach of my small hands. And I wanted them.
I guess I loved the idea of watching little things racing by themselves, wondering which one would win – as if the toys were ‘alive’ and each competitor was actually propelling itself to victory.
After unpacking all the pieces, here’s what the game looks like when fully assembled – a plastic track that locks together, supported by pillars.
Given that Moto-cross Racing Bicycles was sold at Coles and Kmart back in those days, you might assume it couldn’t have been “set up and running” in the store – because those stores simply stack their toys on shelves, right?
But on the contrary – while Kmart in Australia today is (like most department stores) little more than a clearing-house for stock (in which you simply rush in, grab what you want, and rush out), as recently as the 1980s they were still making an effort to actually display products and impress visitors. Can anyone remember when Kmart stores used to have a whole aisle of Lego, with clear glass display cases occupying the top shelf filled with Lego scenes of Town, Space, Pirates and Trains? I can even remember seeing electric Lego trains running at Kmart.
They used to do the same for other toys too, and it wasn’t uncommon to see some toys unpacked and on display – maybe even being demonstrated by staff. Apparently my Dad noticed Moto-cross Racing Bicycles one day in a Coles supermarket and decided to buy it. It’s even more strange to imagine it unpacked and running at a Coles store (which was more of a supermarket back then, just as it is today), but the proof is in the price sticker!
The objective of the game is simple – it’s not really a game at all. You just watch the bicycles going around. Each bicycle consists of a plastic rider with legs that move, and heavy metal wheels that spin freely. Each wheel actually has a little tab on it that makes the rider’s legs move up and down too – giving the impression that it’s the rider doing all the pedal work.
When riders reach the bottom of the course, they are carried back to the top by a motorized conveyor belt, with rubber tracks.
Without further ado, here’s a video of the whole thing in action…
As you can see, they move pretty quickly – thanks to high quality metal wheels. The conveyor belt is also quite noisy, and because of the steep slope, the rubber fins that grab each bike to carry back to the top sometimes slip – causing the bike to fall back a bit. But this only adds to the fun – as any bike can experience a bit of bad luck and slip down the order.
A lap counter at the top keeps track of everything, and this can sometimes hold a bike up for a moment if it doesn’t go through the gate quickly enough. There’s also a colour chart to show which bike colour has each lane…
A boom gate holds the riders at the start as well.
Down below, the figure 8 layout and bridge overpass was something I always loved as a kid – there was always something fun about watching toys travel under-and-over one another…
The final turn is where everything hits tops speed, before slapping into the base of the conveyor belt again. Fortunately the bikes never seem to pop out of their lanes even with the sharp turn…
The conveyor belt is powered by a single D size battery, and will pretty much run for hours – until you can’t stand the noise anymore! It’s activated via a simple switch on the side.
There are also some plastic flags and trees that you attach to the track along the way.
And here’s a close-up of one of the bicycles. The sticker numbers came on a sheet and had to be applied.
As I mentioned earlier, this was probably just one of a number of similar toys available in the 1970s and 1980s – but one that I had a lot of fun with! I was a bit of a nerdy kid, so naturally I’d have a series of races and write down the winners – as if it were a championships points table. Ah, the days when we had endless time and no responsibilities 🙂
If you had a similar racing game to this one, feel free to post in the comment section below.
As for the rarity and value of games like this – well, this one is certainly rare as I’ve only seen a couple of examples in the past decade. But as it was probably a fairly obscure toy, it doesn’t have huge demand from collectors either. Something that would probably change if only more toy collectors were aware of great little games like this one, and of the quality and kitsch value of so many toys made by Tomy.
|At a glance…|
|Batteries: 1 x D|
|Original price in Australia circa 1980: AU$12.98|
|What this would equate to, in 2013 money: AU$50.98 (calculated using this)|
I am nearly certain we had a toy of this ilk in the house in the late 70’s, but with everything, once we moved in 1982, certain things disappeared into the vast moving truck never to be seen again on the other end. I think it was more my younger sister’s toy, perhaps a Disney or Muppets character theme, but the action was nearly identical albeit with different color schemes than your bicycle race. Why is it the Queen song is now running through my head??? LOL I can’t get over the fact your riders have such a flat top head, reminds me of a Dick Tracy character. Thanks, as always, for sharing your cool toys of yesteryear that would boggle the minds of youth of a similar age these days since they seem so attached to their phones. Perhaps you can voyeur into more computer code and make an APP for those young kids that need more of these good old toys.
LOL. So true about the phones. And yes I seem to remember seeing similar games that featured like, cartoon characters as well!
My older brother had this. We spent hours playing with it! I’d say that 1980 is about right
I remember one like this but were model trucks racing.I got it for Christmas and my sister stood on it and broke it the same day and broke my heart when she did. Could never glue it back together or fix it.
Sando, it’s funny you mention that – I think you are referring to this version. I saw it at a swap meet only a few weeks ago (but didn’t buy it).
That is the one. Orange track.May have been a little different in colour scheme but that would be it. If i knew where this was, i would buy it, just to get the satifaction out of watching those little trucks go round and round, since i missed out on so many years of enjoyment LOL!
I found another version on the net as well that had multi colour track and also 2 different Thomas the tank ones on You Tube.
Brings back memories. When i did use it, those little trucks going around, mesmerized me for hours HAHA until my little sister stood on it. These days, i could have had it plastic welded.
I’m really sorry I didn’t buy it, otherwise I would have passed it on! Nevertheless, if I do come across another (and there will be more out there), I’ll let you know.
Oh well, getting closer. At least now i may know the name.Looks like Sweet Toys??
The manufacturer is definitely Tomy (Tomy logo at bottom right), but at the top right it actually says “Sunny Toys”. So I would search around for both brands.
Thanks, couldn’t quite make out that name. Is definately hard to find. Where do they have these swap meets. I am guessing at some of the indoor tracks perhaps?? If you see it again, definately let me know. I am a collector of sorts, various things!
There also a horse racing one . My friend said they had one at his footy club about 20 years ago and some times they would bet on the horses . I saw a version of this called phar Lap on eBay earlier this year , the buying was asking for 425 Australian dollars
I been searching for this for years now. Still haunts me Grrr!
Ah, another variation! (looks like the same Tomy motorized conveyor belt part)
And yes, if you also check out another of the recommended videos, there is a version that shows the little trains going up different level conveyors. This one looks similar and must me a later version, so is possible to still be around somewhere. I can’ quite find the multi coloured track but when i do, i will put the link to it here.
Here is the seperate conveyor belt system……….
If this link is in images, check out the image on the second line or nearby, that shows the multi coloured track. It was sold on ebay for $25
Message for Sando. Give me a call Tony 0428414235. I have something you would probibly be interested in.
I had this toy and had been looking on line for any information forever. I think it was earlier than 1980 though since I had it when I lived in Maine which was 74-78… Either way it’s exactly as I remembered even down to the track color. Thanks for posting
Thanks for the info Eric – that is interesting that you owned yours a little earlier. I knew 1980 was a bit of a guesstimate! It probably dates from around 1978 as you say.
I had this exact bicycle racing game in the 70s. My kindergarten teacher got me one for Christmas!
That would have been pretty exciting at age 5 Tim, and what a cool teacher. My teachers only gave me detention and homework!
I had one very similar back then, but I swear it was skateboarders instead of bicyclists.