1959 BOWDEN SPACELANDER – The placard correctly says "Bomard Industries, Kansas City, Mo.," but it was manufactured for Bomard by the George Morrell Corp. in Grand Haven, Mich., and then in Muskegon. The bicycle was designed by Benjamin Bowden ("bow" as in "bow-wow."). About 1,200 were made before Bomard went backrupt (not because of the bicycle). What is now GMI Composites Inc. is still in business in Muskegon.Text and photos by Mike Eliasohn
The Bicycle Museum of America, 7 W. Monroe St. (corner of Routes 66 and 274), New Bremen, Ohio. June through August, open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturdays, 10-2. September through May, open Monday through Friday, 9-5; Saturdays, 10-2. www.bicyclemuseum.com.
If you're interested in all types of bicycles, not just recumbents, a trip to The Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio, is worth the drive.
Or pedaling there, if you like long-distance cycling.
The museum got its start in 1997, when Jim Dicke II, chief executive officer of family-owned Crown Equipment Corp. in New Bremen, which manufactures electric lift trucks, bought the Schwinn collection of bicycles and memorabilia in Chicago and moved it to the west central Ohio community.
Ohio is an appropriate place for such a museum, since many bicycle manufacturers were located in that state.
Huffy manufactured its last bicycle in nearby Celina before moving production eventually to China. There's also been Shelby Bicycles in Shelby; Colson in Elyria; Cleveland Welding, which made the Roadmaster; Davis Sewing Machine Co. in Dayton, which made the Dayton bicycle; and Murray, which started in Cleveland.
1998 HUFFY GOOD VIBRATIONS – This was literally the last bicycle Huffy made at its factory in Celina, Ohio (near New Bremen) before briefly moving production to Missouri and Mississippi. By 1999, Huffy bikes were being made in Mexico, and finally in China. When it was built in 1955, the Celina facility was the world's largest bicycle factory.And, of course, Orville and Wilbur Wright operated their bicycle shop in Dayton while inventing/designing/building the world's first successful airplane.
According to staff member Jim Elking, there are close to 1,000 bikes in the BMA collection, of which about 200 are on display. Some of the display changes periodically, so repeat visitors won't see all the same bikes every time (provided their visits aren't too close together). There are some modern bikes in the collection; not all are antiques
When I was there on July 6, there was a special display of military bicycles. However, there weren't any recumbents on display.
But Jim showed me the storage spaces in the museum building (three stories plus basement), so I got to see some recumbents in the collection, along with LOTS of other interesting bikes. Many other bikes are stored elsewhere.
1910 DURSLEY PETERSEN – Mikael Pedersen of Denmark invented his bicycle with its unique truss frame in order to support the hammock seat. This rare women's model was on display, while the men's model (below) was spotted in the basement storage area. There are at least two manufacturers of Pedersen bicycles today, using modern components, in Germany and Denmark, and an American importer (www.pedersenbicycles.com).
I spent Sunday night at a motel in nearby St. Mary's, then was at the museum shortly after it opened at 9.
I was at the BMA about two hours, but obviously could have spent more time there. I mention that because if you don't mind doing a lot of driving – and depending on where your home is – it might be possible to drive to New Bremen, tour the museum and then drive home, all in one day.
The Bicycle Museum of America started in 1997 with the purchase of the Schwinn collection, but even if it didn't, no history of the bicycle could be told without Schwinns, including these Stingrays. Chicago-based Schwinn made the original Stingrays (or Sting-rays) from 1963-81.
1898 CYGNET – This bike, intended for women, featured a looped rear frame, which supposedly absorbed shock better than a conventional diamond frame. A modern bike on display at the museum revives the concept of the looped rear frame for shock absorption.When you're done with your visit, kitty-corner across the parking lot is a remnant of the Miami and Erie Canal, which ran 249 miles between Lake Erie at Toledo and the Ohio River at Cincinnati. Construction started in 1825 and was completed in 1845.
Boats up to 80 feet long were towed along the canal by donkeys, horses or oxen walking on the adjacent towpath, at a speed of 4-to-5 miles per hour.
But construction of railroads duplicating the canal's route started in the 1850s, offering faster service year-round. Traffic on the canal started to decline and 1913 was the last year it was open in its entirety.