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Murdoch… er…Bannister tripped up in Taos

Richard G. Bannister — better known to mountain-bike historians as Neil Murdoch, a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame — was arrested by a U.S. marshal in New Mexico on Sept. 5 after 28 years on the run from drug-smuggling charges. According to The Denver Post, Bannister was charged in 1973 with sneaking 26 pounds of cocaine into New Mexico. He was freed on $20,000 bond and subsequently vanished. A year later, the man calling himself Murdoch had become renowned for adding knobby tires and low gears to old coaster-brake bikes in Crested Butte, Colorado; in 1976, he would open the first

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Bannister as Murdoch -- or was that Murdoch as Bannister?

Bannister as Murdoch — or was that Murdoch as Bannister?

Photo: Mountain Bike Hall of Fame

Richard G. Bannister — better known to mountain-bike historians as Neil Murdoch, a member of the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame — was arrested by a U.S. marshal in New Mexico on Sept. 5 after 28 years on the run from drug-smuggling charges.

According to The Denver Post, Bannister was charged in 1973 with sneaking 26 pounds of cocaine into New Mexico. He was freed on $20,000 bond and subsequently vanished. A year later, the man calling himself Murdoch had become renowned for adding knobby tires and low gears to old coaster-brake bikes in Crested Butte, Colorado; in 1976, he would open the first U.S. mountain-bike shop, Bicycles, Etc.

But the masquerade started to come apart in April 1998, when a sheriff’s deputy asked Murdoch about his Social Security number, which belonged to a man in Pennsylvania. Murdoch insisted it was a mistake, and since the deputy knew him, he let him go, and that was the last Crested Butte saw of him — though the town theater presented him in absentia with an award for lifetime achievement in acting by playing Murdoch for 25 years. And then, on Wednesday, a U.S. marshal from Santa Fe, working on tips and the suspicions of a local business owner, arrested Bannister in Taos. Bannister, now in his early 60s, was taken to Albuquerque, where he was charged with bond violation stemming from the 1973 drug charges. Ken Deal, deputy chief marshal in the Denver office, told the Post that Bannister apparently had been living in the Taos area since escaping Crested Butte, working in several shops under the alias Grafton Mailer and living above an antiques store that had employed him.

“He hadn’t changed his appearance much, other than shaving his head,” Deal said.

For a look at Bannister’s previous incarnation, visit the Mountain Biking Hall of Fame website. You’ll find Murdoch among 1988 inductees Joe Breeze, Steve Cook, Charlie Cunningham, Gary Fisher, Charlie Kelly, Joe Murray, Jacquie Phelan, Tom Ritchey and Mike Sinyard.