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!