Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bicycle Museum of America

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.

     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 ( 

      From Lansing, according to Mapquest, it's about 175 miles to New Bremen via U.S. 127 and 200 miles via I-69, but travel times are about the same. Although I live in St. Joseph, I left from Okemos/Lansing after a family visit, so took U.S. 127, which takes motorists through lots of farm country and interesting small towns in Ohio.  It's nice to know there are still small county seats with the courthouse on a block in the middle of  downtown, bordered by stores on all four sides. There was little traffic, at least on Sunday, July 5.
      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.

2012 SPOKELESS BICYCLE – This bike with a hubless rear wheel was built by  engineering students at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. The wheel is supported by bearings in the housing at the top of the wheel. If you want to read and see more, do an Internet search of "yale university hubless bicycle wheel." Bicycles with hubless wheels, front and rear, are not a new idea.

Here's a view of some of the bicycles stored in the basement.  Of the almost 1,000 bikes in The Bicycle Museum of America's collection, only about 200 are on display.

Behind the current Dyno stretch cruiser/limo bike in the basement is an Avatar 2000 from around 1980, which was one of the first manufactured recumbent bicycles of the modern era. It had under-the-seat handlebars,  63-inch wheelbase, 27x1-1/8 inch rear wheel and 16x1-3/8 front wheel and weighed 29 pounds. It cost $1,500. FOMAC Inc., the manufacturer, was in Wilmington, Mass.  Sitting on top of the Avatar is a Breeze Eeze fairing, made in Big Rapids, Mich., in the mid 1980s. It had a stretched nylon cover over an aluminum frame and a Lexan windshield. There were versions for recumbents and upright bikes. It cost $79.

Painted on the frame of this moving bottom bracket recumbent is "Designed by Steve Robson" and "Welded by (I didn't write the name)." Steve, from Glencoe, Ontario, built numerous recumbents and wrote and illustrated The Home Builders Guide to Constructing a Recumbent Bicycle (first and second editions, 1998 and 2001) and The Illustrated Bicycle History Guide (1999). He still has a website,, but apparently hasn't done anything bicycle-related in recent years.

2014 VANHULSTEIJN – Herman Van Hulsteijn builds his gorgeous stainless steel bicycles in the Netherlands (  Notice the equally gorgeous wood frame bicycle behind it, not built by Van Hulsteijn.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Urban Transportation Contest and other stuff

Urban Transportation Contest 2015


Wally Kiehler on/in his Lightning F-40 won the urban transportation contest. He's shown here during the flying start sprint, where his speed through the 200-foot timing trap was 34.01 mph, third best in the streetliner class.  (Jun Nogami photo)

   By Paul Pancella 

After missing the Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Rally for two years, I returned to Waterford to run the Urban Transportation Contest on June 13.
My thanks to Mike Eliasohn and others who kept the concept going in my absence.
I was happy to find enthusiastic participation this time around. We had nine official entries, along with a couple of others who tried their hand at some of the tasks without getting an official score. Here are the nine, by vehicle number:

140 – UTC veteran Wally Kiehler (Grosse Pointe Woods) competed once again with his fully-faired Lightning F-40.
157 – Bruce Gordon (Buchanan) with a 2010 Greenspeed Glyde, the only velomobile owner I could convince to participate.
313 – Brian George (Redford Township) on his upright GT Timberline touring bike, which he rode to the event from his home 30 miles away (and back home again on Sunday).
369 – Tom Zeller (Bloomington, Ind.) on another upright, a Specialized hybrid.
388 – Jim Iwaskow (Richmond Hill, Ont.), campaigning with a Challenge Jester low racer.
599 – Young Cecilia Kowalik, age 12, (Deerfield, Ill.) on her Sunset low racer
614 – Veronica Dang (Toronto),  riding a Hase Kettwiesel delta-format tricycle
945 – Daryl Hanger (Greenwood, Ind.) on a lower tadpole trike, a 2013 Catrike Trail.
981 – Linnae Hinterseher (Farmington Hills) with another tadpole trike, an HP Velotechnik Scorpion.

The winner once again was Wally Kiehler by a convincing margin. Wally’s F-40 did not place first in any single category (except tied with Bruce for best weather protection), but excels in this competition by scoring well in many. I believe that this shows the strength of the Lightning design as a good compromise for practical human power.
Second place was the upright touring rig entered by Brian George. This vehicle did better than the F-40 in some categories (smaller turn radius and better braking) but could not overcome poor aerodynamics (tested by coast-down distance) and the superior comfort of the recumbent seat. And as entered, Brian’s rig was actually heavier than the faired F-40! 
Jackrabbit Jim Iwaskow worked hard to pull his Challenge bike into third place, just beating out Tom Zeller on the other diamond-frame. Again, the coast-down helped (only the fully faired vehicles coasted farther, as expected) along with light weight and a fast grocery run.
Thanks once again to all the contestants, and we’ll see you next year.

The table below gives the final scores for each entry, in finishing order.

Wally Kiehler
Brian George
Jim Iwaskow
Tom Zellers
Daryl Hanger
Cecilia Kowalik
Linnae Hinterseher
Veronica Dang
Bruce Gordon

Brian George rode 30 miles from his home in Redford Township to the rally and despite the rain Sunday and the offer of a ride for him and his bike, chose to pedal home.  He finished second in the urban transportation contest on his GT Timberline mountain bike. As of the rally, he had ridden it about 4,000 miles this year, including a 1,157-mile two-week Easter trip to Florida. "It was 18 degrees when I left Michigan." (He and the bike got a ride home from Florida.)  In the bags are, "Everything you can think of to live," including a tent, sleeping bag and chair. Solar panels on top of the rear bags keep his phone, MP3 player and stereo charged. Weight of the bike and everything he carries totals about 115 pounds.  (Dave Mendrea photo)

                      A sport subclass?

                                 By Mike Eliasohn

At the MHPVA annual meeting Feb. 28, we discussed Charles Brown's suggestion for creation of a sport subclass to the stock class. To qualify, riders' eyes would have to be at least 42 inches from the ground.
His thinking is that such riders are safer when riding in traffic, since they are more visible to motorists than lower bikes/riders, but have an unfair disadvantage when racing when compared to the low racers.
We decided at the meeting to measure the eye height of riders at this year's rally, then decide whether it would be worthwhile to implement the sport subclass at the 2016 rally. Terry Gerweck, who did the technical inspections, measured the eye heights of all the riders. 
Since Charles' proposal only pertains to a sport subclass to the stock class, I only looked at the measurements for the stock class riders. Of the 15 stock class entries, six had an eye height of 42 or more inches. Of those, three were upright bikes, at 62 inches (two) and 57 inches. A Bachetta CA2 (I think that's a high racer) was at 47 inches and two Cruzbikes were at 42 inches. (The third Cruzbike was Larry Oslund at 40.5 inches, who finished fourth in the stock class.)
Of the top five in the stock class, only Daryl Hanger on a Cruzbike, who finished fifth, was at 42 inches or higher. Next in the sport subclass – had we had it – would have been Eric Winn (7th overall in the stock class) on a Cruzbike, and third would have been Alex Rankin (9th overall) on an upright.
The winner of the stock class was Mike Mowett on his Morciglio (very) low racer, who had the lowest eye height, 27.5 inches. Second was Florian Kowalik on an M5 M-Racer, 36 inches, and third was Dennis Grelk on his homebuilt low racer, 30 inches.
So at the 2016 winter meeting, we will have to decide whether to implement the sport subclass at that year's rally.
It should be noted that the HPRA race directors at their meeting in January 2015 rejected the sport subclass proposal. So if we implement it at the 2016 Michigan rally, it will only apply to the rally. HPRA stock class points would be compiled and prize money paid as normal, but we also could award prize money to the top finishers in the sport subclass.

       Congratulations, Bob Krzewinski

To those of us in the recumbent community, Bob Krzewinski is a recumbent cycle rider, racer and advocate; founder/editor/everything of the Wolver-Bents Recumbent Cyclists (, organizer of recumbent cycle rallies and rides and the MHPVA's webmaster.
But he's also very active in the cycling community at large, for which he received the League of Michigan Bicyclists' Bicycle Advocate Award on May 20 in Lansing.  Our apologies for not reporting this until now.  (And if you are not an LMB member, please consider joining to support cycling in Michigan –
The following is from the LMB website and magazine, Michigan Bicyclist.


Bob Krzewinski holds the Bicycle Advocate Award, presented by League of Michigan Bicyclists Executive Director John Lindenmayer. (LMB photo)
Bob is a dedicated advocate for equitable transportation options. Bob, 61, has been a Ypsilanti resident since 1985, a US Navy veteran (1973-79) and is a retired 30-year airline captain. 
He has a legacy of organizations that he has either founded or helped them increase bicycling access and safety in Michigan: board member and secretary of the Washtenaw Biking and Walking Coalition (he co-founded the organization), founder of the Wolver-Bent Recumbent Cyclists, founder and current board member and chair of Friends of the Border To Border Trail, member of the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission, Greenways Advisory Committee, chair of the City of Ypsilanti Non-Motorized Advisory Committee, secretary to City of Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Commission and coordinator of Ypsilanti Bike-Bus-Walk Week.
He also is a member of various bicycle-related groups, including: League of Michigan Bicyclists, Michigan Trails and Greenway Alliance, Rails To Trails Conservancy, League of American Bicyclists and Bike Ypsi. He is also working to garner a bicycle-friendly city award for the City of Ypsilanti. 
If that wasn’t enough, this year, Bob became a volunteer for Programs to Educate All Cyclists (PEAC), and regularly attends mechanic nights. The staff at PEAC say his expertise and dedication have been irreplaceable to the mechanic team!