Saturday, May 1, 2010

Ann Arbor Bicycle Show

LOOKING FOR A BIKE? Except for recumbents, there's lots to choose from at the Ann Arbor Bicycle Show. Some vendors, especially those with lots of bikes to sell, set up outdoors. Others rent an inside space.

Article and photos by Mike Eliasohn

If the only kind of bicycles you're interested in are recumbents, then the Ann Arbor Bicycle Show and Swap Meet, held on the final Sunday each April on the Washtenaw County fairgrounds between Ann Arbor and Saline, probably isn't for you.
But if you like bicycles in general, then the show is a fun time. You can spend hours looking at the thousands of bikes. I did at the April 25 show.
There is a judging for bikes, held in one building, but most of the event consists of vendors selling used bikes and parts and collectors looking for that "certain something" to add to their collection or parts so they can finish their latest project. Most of the bikes being sold are in need of restoration, but some are in rideable condition and some have been restored.
Most of the bikes for sale are old balloon tire bombers from the 1930s-60s, because those are most collectible, but there's also Schwinn Stingrays (also very collectible) and similar bikes, plus some nice 10-speeds, older mountain bike, and a few 3-speeds. (For some reason, it doesn't seem like many people collect 3-speeds, mostly British.)
There are bargains to be had. A collector I know bought a 1939 Dayton balloon tire bomber for $300. He had seen another such Dayton on eBay for $900. And I crossed paths with a fellow carrying a made-in-Britain Bob Jackson frame and fork, made of Reynolds 531 tubing, for $50. There were some slight dents in the top tube, but the frame was still useable as-is. He was planning to build it into a commuter bike.

THIS 1937 ELGIN originally sold for $36.95. At the Ann Arbor Bicycle Show, the price was $2,500, which is in line with current price guides.

If a recumbent builder is looking for diamond frames to cut up to use in building a recumbent, there's lot of raw material available. Not all the bikes for sale are too valuable to cut up to make into something else. (But please don't cut up a Bob Jackson frame.)
I did see 2-1/2 recumbents at this year's show, a short wheelbase ATP Vision with under-the-seat steering, for sale for $450; a long wheelbase Rans Stratus, waiting to be sold at the noon auction; and a tandem, I think made in Europe, with the front rider in a recumbent position and the rear rider upright.
The Ann Arbor show is one of the largest, and maybe the largest, such event in the country. In addition to being a show and sale, of course, it's also a gathering for people interested in old bikes. (Birds of a feather flock together.)
The 2011 show, the 31st annual, will be on April 24. Hours, unless they change, are 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Web site is

THIS CICLI AQUILA was made in Italy about 1969, according to the owner. It has a deraileur and a four-sprocket freewheel. If it was for sale, I forgot to write that down and the price. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I thought it was gorgeous bike.

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