Saturday, October 2, 2010

Trip to Bike Heaven

The forecast for a cold, rainy day made up my mind - I didn't do the club ride this morning. Instead, I headed down toward New Bremen and my new discovery, the Bicycle Museum of America.

On the way to New Bremen, I stopped by nearby St. Marys, Ohio, to look at remnants of the Miami & Erie Canal. Side note - there is no apostrophe in St. Marys, but I can't tell you why that is. St. Marys is a small town on the edge of Grand Lake St. Marys, a reservoir created in the early 1800's to supply water for the canal. Present-day downtown St. Marys is a quaint place.

The City of St. Marys has restored a portion of the canal, and has built a two-block stretch of brick-paved trail along side it. Here's a replica canal packet, a boat specially designed for canal travel, hauling people, livestock, grain, and other supplies north and south (and a little bit farther north, both east and west).

An interesting side note is Grand Lake was built by damming the St. Marys River, which flows northwest into Fort Wayne, emptying into the Maumee River and heading to Lake Erie at Toledo. On the very edge of the sub-continental divide, water from the lake flows by gravity into the canal, then heads both north to Lake Erie, and south to the Ohio River (then down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico). This lock allows canal packets to be raised or lowered, depending on the direction of travel.

The canal system in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana allowed the fledgling United States transport people west across the Appalachian Mountains, and to transport grain and other commodities from the west to the east. George Washington was convinced that without opening up a travel corridor from east to west, the new territories west of the mountains would become separate countries.

Of dubious distinction, thousands of native Americans were relocated from the Indiana Territory, traveling through this very lock on their way from their home in Indiana south to the Ohio River, west to St. Louis, then on wagons and on foot west to Oklahoma. While some of the Miami people stayed in Indiana, only those who left Indiana and survived the journey to Oklahoma (and their descendants) were granted tribal status by the US Government. Those descendants in Indiana today still do not have federal tribal recognition.

The next town south on the canal is New Bremen. Home to the Bicycle Museum of America. The museum was created to house the vast bike collection of Jim Dicke, owner of the Crown Equipment Corporation.

According to museum staff, Mr. Dicke purchased a sizable collection of Schwinn bikes from the Schwinn Corporation in Chicago. Much of this room is dedicated to Schwinn bikes.

This bike caught my eye immediately. It's one of 70 Schwinn bikes made by Waterford Precision Cycles for Schwinn's 70th anniversary. Oh, those are Campy Record components. Nice bike. Chromed lugs. How do they do that?

A perfect place to be on a rainy day!

Check out the crank on this bike! Alfred Letourner set the speed record on this bike in 1941 - 108.92 mph! He drafted behind a modified race car. Still, quite a feat. For every 1 revolution of the crank, the wheel revolves 9.5 times.

The second floor was a deluge of bikes. Many notable bike styles from the 1940's to the present are up here.

Another view upstairs. One small side room caught my eye, and I apologize for not getting a photo there. In the small room were a couple touring bikes with stories attached of their rider's journeys across the US. All local people.

After spending several hours looking at all of the bikes, I said goodbye to two of the curators standing near the front door. They asked if I had seen the basement yet. "Basement? Why no. You have a basement?" said I.

One of the fellows led me to the basement where he explained about the collection. The bikes in the basement are there because there is not enough room upstairs to display them.

This Raleigh Twenty is a fairly new acquisition and is being carefully cleaned. I got a kick out of the license stickers.

This cool bike was made by the Commercial Bicycle Company.

Several of these old bikes have the same model Brooks saddle I received for Christmas last year. While my Brooks is new, it is made exactly like these saddles 70 to 80 years ago.

So many bikes.

There are many older bikes in this room that are city bikes before there were city bikes. Made in England, France, and Germany, the city bikes are really well-built. With a quick clean up, most of these bikes are ready to ride. I tried to take a couple photos, but the bikes are so closely packed together I couldn't get any good closeup shots that were easy to see what I was trying to photograph. There were a lot of American bikes down here also, a few brought back some memories from when I was younger.

I will definitely return. This place is cool.

Today there was to be a high wheeler demonstration, but the rider was no where to be found. It was a crummy day.

Hope all of you are able to get out and ride.

Happy riding!


Oldfool said...

uh, do they scan you for tools when entering? Also do they watch you? Do you think they would be suspicious of a large backpack?

Big Oak said...

Ha! I bet they'd see your glassy stare and put two and two together!

I did want to sit on the stool and work on that Raleigh Twenty in the basement for a while.

Steve A said...

I conclude it was a good day for bad weather - and that the place may receive added visits.

Pondero said...

Excellent report! Loved the photos and detailed explanation. Maybe when you return, you could do another post for us foreigners, eh?

Chandra said...

Great job, Bill! The photos and the narration took me to the very place you were at!! I saw at least a folder I can recognize!!

Glad you had lots of fun!

Peace :)

rlove2bike said...

This is a post where clicking on the pics is a must. Thanks for the nice write-up.

Big Oak said...

Yes, I'll take more photos when I return. It's overwhelming seeing all those bikes in one place like that!

Rat Trap Press said...

Great report! I could imagine getting lost in that place. It looks like a nice little town as well.

Apertome said...

Looks like a lovely town ... the museum is incredible. Great post explaining everything, too.

jeff said...

Great post and great pics! Thinking about the crank on Letourner's bike climbing a mountain makes me cry, but descending...........

Big River Bikes said...

Thanks for the awesome trip report.
I ride from Richmond, IN to Versailes, OH quite often and have always wanted to ride a little further to check out that museum. Maybe next year I can work that in as I really want to see that speed record rig!