Tag Archive: bicycles

A Visit to the Bicycle Museum of America

Ladies and gentlemen, I have found the holy land…and it exists in the quaint Germanic-heritage town of New Bremen, Ohio. A few weeks ago, my family and I made the trek to New Bremen to visit the Bicycle Museum of America, and I wanted to share some of the sights with you.


The Museum got its start in 1997, when Jim Dicke III, president of Crown Equipment Corporation, purchased the Schwinn family’s personal collection of bicycles and bike memorabilia in Chicago during the family’s bankruptcy proceedings. Dicke moved the collection to New Bremen and established this incredible facility not long after. The Museum covers the entire range of bicycle history, from draisiennes all the way to modern road racing machines and everything in between. The museum’s collection is somewhere around 300 bicycles on display at any one time, with a rotating stable of over 1000 to choose from. The building is packed to the gills with bikes, tools, memorabilia, historical artifacts and so much more — it almost defies the imagination.

“Why Ohio?”, you may ask, and that’s a good question…one I posed to the staffpeople I met there. The more I thought and heard about it, the more it made sense…after all, two very famous bicycle builders/sellers made their home about 40 miles to the southeast. Also, a number of legendary bicycle companies were based in the general area, including the Davis Sewing Machine Company, which is better known to bike historians as the company that produced Huffy bicycles. In addition, the Cleveland Welding Company produced bikes we all know and love by the brand name of “Roadmaster”. You may also know that online bike retail giant Bike Nashbar is based in Ohio. And, the state is crisscrossed with bike paths, trails and quiet country roads and is a surprising hotbed of bicycle action…who knew?

Well, onto the collection. As I mentioned earlier, there is every flavor of two-wheeled contraption on offer here at the Museum…something to tickle the fancy of every bike lover. For example, wooden bikes have become all the rage in the past few years, with a number of high-end manufacturers making stunning machines. The wooden bike isn’t a new idea, though, and the museum has a number of them on display:

Notice the stunning chromed bracing on the bike in the foreground, and the brass bracing on the hickory-framed bike in back. Both of these vintage machines sandwich a gorgeous Renovo made just a couple of years ago…what’s old is new again in the bike world!

You like highwheelers? The Bicycle Museum of America has you covered, with dozens of models to gaze upon. Here’s one from 1882:


The Museum even has a highwheeler mounted to a roller system so that we could try one out. Here’s Mrs. Ghost Rider enjoying her time aboard this giant pennyfarthing:


Over the past years, a number of bike-friendly websites have extolled the virtues of studded tires for winter riding…and that’s nothing new either. Check out this amazing icebike from 1901, with a sled front end and massive spikes on the back wheel to dig in to the cold stuff:


The Schwinn family had a giant personal collection of bikes…seemingly an example of every model they produced. The Museum has many of them on display, including this group:


Ignaz Schwinn’s family tandem is on display here as well…with a little “baby basket” for a wee Schwinn:


Schwinn made track bikes way back when, with their chromed Paramounts being coveted both then and now by serious collectors. Here’s one from 1937…and just above it is Frank Schwinn’s personal track bike (another Paramount, of course):


Perhaps the most popular Schwinn of all time was the Black Phantom, dreamed about by kids from the 50s as the ultimate cruiser. Of course the Museum has a pristine copy on display, and I can completely understand why these were so popular:


There were a couple bikes for the bike commuters amongst us, too…imagine gliding through morning traffic on this badboy, rifle at the ready to fend off wayward pedestrians and angry motorists. Actually, this is a military bike (with a Swiss Army bicyle in the background):


Here’s something unusual in one of display cases in the Museum — another accessory that may come in handy on the daily commute. You think Planet Bike should resurrect a thing like this?


Bicycle headbadges are a popular collector’s item, and the Museum has several cases full of them. Here’s a shot of part of one of the cases, with badges old and new on display:


Recognize THIS bike?


The Pee Wee bike was a special treat for me, as one of my Tampa neighbors and I watched the Ebay auction for this very bike a few years ago…we’re both big Pee Wee Herman fans, and we were blown away by how high the price went ($20K+, as I recall). It was wonderful to see this bike in person years later.

Perhaps one of my favorite bikes of all time is the Bowden Spacelander…a monocoque fiberglass beauty that captures every design aesthetic in the Streamline Age. Of course, the Museum has two of them on display, and they were both gorgeous:


There’s no shame in owning a car…especially if it is a pedal-powered dream machine like this one. The Museum let my son and I take this four-wheeler for a spin around the third floor, and it was a blast:


Got big thighs and a hankering for speed? The Museum has you covered…252 gear inches worth. This is a replica of the bike Alf Letourner sped to a world record 108.92 MPH in 1941:


There is so much more to share — I took nearly 150 photographs, and I could have spent a week inside the building, gazing into cases and trying out some of the displays. The Museum staff was incredibly knowledgeable and friendly, even offering us restaurant recommendations at the end of our tour. I wholeheartedly recommend a trip here if you’re in the area — there is truly something for every bikey fan out there contained within this facility. For the rest of my photos of the Museum, please swing on over to my Flickr stream to take a look. We will return to the Museum soon…the rotating display means that there will be something new for us to enjoy on our next visit!

Double Team in Chicago!

We will double team Chicago on bikes like Miss Piggy and Kermit!!! (OK, really I don't have any pics of the Bike Commuters ladies together yet, so we can pretend for now.)

DOUBLE TEAM: You read it right Bike Commuters!  Elizabeth and I will be meeting up for a/some ride/s this weekend!  What you say? Are Honolulu and Chicago neighbor cities?  Hardly… BUT, I will be attending a conference in Chicago from Thursday through Sunday of this weekend.   Therefore, Bike Commuters will DOUBLE TEAM in Chicago for awesome bike bloggy-ness.  We may even meet up for a ride with Dottie from Let’s Go Ride a Bike… in which case, we would consider that a bike triple team.  We’re working on a loaner bike situation for meeself (anyone out there have a spare bike size 47cm or 49cm?) or I may rent a bike nearby my hotel at Millenium Park from  Maybe I should bring those pants that look like pants for extreme heat testing!

Rent a Bike instead of a car for business travel... Hmm, Segway OR Trek!? That's like Cuttlefish w/asparagus OR Vanilla Paste.

This will be the first time I will be “business” traveling with bike in mind… I’ve visited friends and done the bike/public transit combo in Seattle and California, but never for work!  Bring it on hot and humid Chicago: I’m ready for that sweaty back.  Does witch hazel come in a 3 oz. travel container!?

FACT: Elizabeth is officially the only cycle lady I know in all of the Middle West.  (Chicago is the Midwest right?  Being a California Native, I hadn’t driven further than Tahoe for most of my life, I used to think everything between California and New York was the Midwest… only to be corrected by an ex-boyfriend from Montana in college.)  Looking forward to taking the heat: Elizabeth + Mir.I.Am = ultimate Bike Commuters blog time weekend!!!!

We will not be creepin' around Chicago like this player! Is PeeWee a bike commuter?

Colors anyone?

I’ve noticed lately that more and more commuter bicycles are being made with loud and bright colors. Personally I like my bikes to be somewhat low-key so it flies below the radar of bike thieves. But check out these photos of some really colorful bicycles.

This was a custom built bike from Road Warrior Bicycles in Fullerton.
color bikes

A Puma bicycle that folds and uses a cable as a downtube.
color bikes

color bikes

Another Puma bike…
color bikes

What’s your personal take on this? Is your bike colorful? If not, what color is it?

Dispelling The Gasoline Tax Myth

You may have noticed over the past couple of years that often when a bicycle-friendly article appears in a newspaper or online news journal, anti-bicycle commenters like to throw out this argument: “I shouldn’t have to share the road with bicyclists because they aren’t paying their share for the roads.” I shouldn’t have to point out that the most obvious fallacy with this argument is that many bicycle riders also own and operate motor vehicles and are therefore paying licensing fees and gasoline taxes.

The Florida Public Interest Research Group (FPIRG) recently published a report entitled “Do Roads Pay for Themselves? Setting the Record Straight on Transportation Funding” Surprise, motorists: your efforts don’t even come close to paying for the roads you hold so dear.

The Tampa-based Creative Loafing published a rundown of the issues at hand. Among them:

» Federal gasoline taxes were originally intended for debt relief, not roads.

» Highways, roads, and streets have received more than $600 billion in subsidies over the last 63 years in excess of the amount raised through gasoline taxes.

» The amount of money a particular driver pays in gasoline taxes bears little relationship to his or her use of roads funded by gas taxes. Drivers pay gasoline taxes for the miles they drive on local streets and roads, even though those proceeds are typically used to pay for state and federal highways.

Check out the full article by clicking here. To take a look at the FPIRG executive summary, simply click “Do Roads Pay for Themselves?” or click here for the full 45-page PDF. Add it to your advocacy arsenal — it’s nice to have a well-researched rebuttal at hand!