Fact Check

No Evidence This Viral Pic Shows 'Young Bill Gates' Riding Bike in the '70s

The Microsoft co-founder-turned-billionaire is often at the center of viral internet claims.

Published Dec 13, 2023

 (Screengrab/Reddit)
Image Via Screengrab/Reddit
Claim:
A photograph genuinely shows a “young Bill Gates” riding a bicycle in the 1970s.

An image purportedly showing a “young Bill Gates” on a bicycle in the 1970s has circulated on social media since at least 2015. Yet posts that included the pic often provided little – or no – evidence to support the claim that the Microsoft co-founder was, indeed, the person featured in the photograph.

Snopes found evidence of the photograph posted under this context on nearly every social media platform, from Facebook and Reddit to Tumblr and X:

In the picture, a young person can be seen riding a green, chopper-style bicycle. The rider has shaggy blond hair, and glasses, and is wearing jeans and black sneakers that look like Converse.

However, our newsroom found no evidence to corroborate the claim, and at Snopes’ request for more information, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wrote in an email that they were “not able to confirm that the person in this photo is Bill Gates.”

For this reason, we have rated the claim as "Unfounded."

A reverse-image search using Google Lens returned perhaps the earliest post that included this photograph, originally shared to Reddit in a now-archived post on June 29, 2015 (archive). A caption accompanying the photograph simply read, “A Boy and his bike 1970s.”

A Boy and his bike 1970s
by inOldSchoolCool

Gates was born on Oct. 28, 1955, in Seattle, Washington, according to Britannica. If the photographs did indeed show Gates riding the bike in the “early 1970s,” as many claims suggest, this would put him between 15 and 18 years old – seemingly older than the child featured in the photograph.

In April 2022, Snopes reported on an authentic mugshot that showed a young Gates after he was arrested in 1977 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for running a stop sign and driving without a license. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the photo in question (left) compared with the genuine side profile of Gates (right):

(Screengrab/Snopes Compilation)

Though there are indeed similarities in the two photographs above – similar haircuts, glasses, and skin tone, to name a few examples – it’s not enough evidence to definitively prove or disprove that the boy on the bicycle is Gates.  

Some commenters in the Reddit feed identified the bicycle as a “Schwinn Pea Picker” that had been modified with extended forks. Snopes contacted Schwinn’s parent company, Pacific Cycle, for further help identifying the bicycle.

Snopes also contacted the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which hosts a collection on the history of bicycles, to identify the bicycle featured in the photograph, and from what years it was commonly in use or produced.

Snopes has looked into other viral claims involving the Microsoft co-founder-turned-billionaire, all of which can be viewed here.

Sources

“A Boy and His Bike 1970s.” R/OldSchoolCool, 30 June 2015, www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/comments/3bkrno/a_boy_and_his_bike_1970s/.

Bill Gates | Biography, Microsoft, & Facts | Britannica. 7 Dec. 2023, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Bill-Gates.

Bill Gates Articles | Snopes.Com. https://www.snopes.com/search/bill%20gates/. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

eaglemaxie. “Bill Gates on His Chopper Bicycle, Early 1970s.” R/OldSchoolCool, 16 Oct. 2020, www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/comments/jc0cx9/bill_gates_on_his_chopper_bicycle_early_1970s/.

---. “Bill Gates on His Chopper Bicycle, Early 1970s.” R/OldSchoolCool, 16 Oct. 2020, www.reddit.com/r/OldSchoolCool/comments/jc0cx9/bill_gates_on_his_chopper_bicycle_early_1970s/.

Google Lens. https://lens.google.com/search?p=AbrfA8r-vlBE0upfundBP5a6iqMTmwTbgRqOJIfd-lh_q5jlEbnnnFgLSdsFtw-2Ov6QeUQhSY5oN0wqhnMy9Ldiyjsa206Mc4LKwsJII2cnd8iG6xbOdeLcqVmlBCBDZUwm1djV_3IXz9P-YPy1R996F_aDXWBC1pR_fNq5oQiAZvITlQgMqqmfPxC0kiCvBxKZBP2gNEhwL1f0HDtnuNjueeiXQpJwazYIzY_-EZWgNFAKzxJLM9lO18wxG8yKmBBtIKi1QnyYPld0cNMWdQvF1bVSNsg0b6Z_Lu9JDLgKzi4A00zF9IfZ8-cTRTHJ9OwN-ikvMamEKXpv&plm=ChAIDxIMCJ%2B5rqsGEKDKn9cDChAIFxIMCJ%2B5rqsGELi2o9cDCg8IGBILCKC5rqsGEMCQ8RcKDwgtEgsIoLmuqwYQ0NvyFwoPCC4SCwigua6rBhDIgr4gCg8IEBILCKC5rqsGEOiztSEKDwgZEgsIoLmuqwYQsJO4IQoPCBoSCwigua6rBhDoj8Eh#lns=W251bGwsbnVsbCxudWxsLG51bGwsbnVsbCxudWxsLG51bGwsIkVrY0tKRE0zTWpjM01ETTBMVE5rT0dVdE5EaGpaaTA1TTJOa0xUa3haRE5qTmpJd09XVmtOUklmUVRreFZISXllVlZwVVRSaGEwaDRiR3BST0hJemVEaHZOVGhyUVhoU1p3PT0iLG51bGwsbnVsbCxudWxsLDEsbnVsbCxbbnVsbCxudWxsLFswLDAsOTkyMTksMTAwMDAwXV1d. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

“Https://Twitter.Com/Bikepirates/Status/616065983468453890?Lang=en.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/bikepirates/status/616065983468453890?lang=en. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Ibrahim, Nur. “Is This a Mugshot of Bill Gates After Arrest for Traffic Violations?” Snopes, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/mugshot-bill-gates-arrested/.

“Retro Pop Cult.” Tumblr, https://www.tumblr.com/retropopcult/182984157899/bill-gates-1969. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Scwhinn Pea Picker - Google Search. https://www.google.com/search?q=scwhinn+pea+picker&oq=scwhinn+pea+picker&gs_lcrp=EgZjaHJvbWUyBggAEEUYOdIBCDI1ODFqMGo0qAIAsAIA&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

The Safety Bicycle and Beyond. https://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/object-groups/si-bikes/si-bikes-safety. Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.