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Sunday, June 5, 2016

The Bicycle Museum of America is a 'must see' for anyone who truly loves bicycles

The Bicycle Museum of America is a ‘must see’ for anyone who truly loves bicycles
By:  Michael Lander

The 1816 Draisine was created by Baron Karl von Drais de
Sauerbrun and it was the first bicycle with a steering
mechanism that was affixed to the front wheel.  The
one at the Bicycle Museum of America is one of only
six that are known to still exist.

Author and
Nobel Peace Prize winner, William Saroyan, once said that, “The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind,” and Lord Charles Beresford insisted, that its inventor, “deserved the thanks of humanity.”

Those, like Saroyan and Beresford, who have a deep affection or an appreciation for bicycles will find one of the best collections of them in the U.S. at the
Bicycle Museum of America in New Bremen, Ohio.

Even though it was called a velocipede by its manufacturers,
the Boneshaker is considered to actually be the first true
bicycle with pedals.  It earned its distinctive name because
of its rough ride, which was caused by its wrought-iron
frame with wooden wheels made of iron.

The bicycle museum, which is in a 3-story, 14,000 square foot historic building in downtown New Bremen, is one of 13 bicycle museums in the U.S.

It is located 108 miles north of
Cincinnati, Ohio in the quiet, rural part of west central Ohio.

For anyone who truly loves bicycles, the museum will make them feel like a kid who has been let loose in a candy store.

The Bicycle Museum of America has a sizeable collection of
bicycles and bicycle-related paraphernalia and memorabilia
in their 14,000 square building in New Bremen, Ohio.

The museum coordinator, Becky Macwhinney, described the museum as being “one of Ohio’s best kept secrets and treasures that is open to be shared by all.”

It is there that the lover of bicycles, or cycling aficionados, are treated to an extensive collection of bicycles like none other.

Those who visit the museum get to experience what is almost like walking back in time and see the evolution of bicycles, spanning over two centuries.

The Bicycle Museum of America has a couple of displays that
show how bicycles played a significant role for women in
the early 20th Century.  The renowned suffragette, Susan
B. Anthony, said that she thought that the bicycle had done
more to emancipate women than anything else in the world
and in giving women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance.

There are over 200 bicycles on display in the museum at any given time with an additional 800 more in storage.  There is also an impressive array of antique bicycle accessories, lamps, head badges, old photos of cyclists, posters, advertisements, signs, medallions, patches, and countless other cycling-related memorabilia. 

From the wonderfully-handcrafted antique bicycles of yesteryear to the sleeker, lighter weight, and more aerodynamic bicycles that are manufactured, today, the museum seems to have it all.

The vast collection of bicycles at the Bicycle Museum of
America is made all the more impressive by the
tremendous amount of cycling-related items and
materials that accompany the displays.

Among some of the most notable bicycles is an
1816 Draisine, which is one of only six that are known to exist in the world.  In addition to that, the museum also has an 1850 Ward Quadricycle, an 1870 Boneshaker, an 1881 American Star, an 1887 American Safety, an 1891 Victor Light Roadster, an 1897 Waverly, an 1898 Old Hickory, and so many others.

"The entire first level of the museum tells the history of the bicycle and its development.  It contains beautiful examples of the workmanship of the early builders in their creation of the velocipedes, high wheels, and early chain and gear-driven bicycles," Macwhinney said.

"Carrying through on the old and new theme, we have wooden bikes of the 1880's and wooden bikes made within the last 10 years.  We also have sections dedicated to motorized or military bikes for anyone looking for those," Macwhinney added.

While there, visitors can also learn about the role that bicycles have played, historically, for women, and the vast number of uses that bicycles have had over the years to include military applications and the development of our roadways, themselves, that first came about because of the bicycle, itself.

The third floor has an enormous collection of Schwinn and
Huffy bicycles with some made by Harley-Davidson when
they were still in the business of manufacturing bicycles.

"The museum attempts to bring out the various factions in which the bicycle has been effective, such as the early use of varying materials, gearing, chains, mass production, uniform parts, and assembly line construction," Macwhinney said.

"We also emphasize the fact that bicycles have long been considered by many as a serious form of transportation and they encouraged the development of good early road systems that have eventually benefited all of us today," she added.

Even though many visitors to the museum might arrive by car, there are some who get there by way of a bicycle and cyclists can ride on the roads or on one of the nation’s largest paved trail networks known as the
Miami Valley Bikeways.

"We often have, for example, individuals or groups who are riding their bikes across the U.S., or parts of it, who stop in for a visit, along with some trike groups out of Indiana who come annually, and some from the Great Ohio Bike Adventure (GOBA) who come through on occasions, boosting our attendance by several thousand," Macwhinney said.

"The Bicycle Museum of America began in 1997 when James F. Dicke II purchased an enormous collection of Schwinn bicycles from a museum at the North Pier in Chicago who put them all up for sale. 

Dicke is an Ohio businessman and philanthropist and the Chairman and CEO of
Crown Equipment Corp., which is a global forklift manufacturer and material handling provider.

Many of the more contemporary, modern-style bicycles
that most people, today, are familiar with can be
found on the second floor of the Bicycle Museum of

With deep family roots and his company being located in New Bremen, Ohio, it is not surprising that Dicke would chose that as the place for the bicycle museum.

It also seems fitting that the museum has found its home in Ohio since the state of Ohio has had a rich history with the bicycle.  The
Wright Brothers, who were pioneers in flight, had a bicycle shop in Dayton and in 1892, the Davis Sewing Machine Company produced the famous Dayton bicycle.

From the inception of the bicycle, each decade seems to
have their own unique look and style like these two in
the forefront, which are from the 1930's.
Ohio has also been home to prominent bicycle manufacturers, over the years, that include
Huffy in Dayton, and five others that are now gone, but not forgotten, which has included Colson of Elyria, the Shelby Cycle Company, the Cleveland Welding, which produced the Roadmaster, and the Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company that made the Roadster.

In addition to the wide ranging type of bicycles, (some of which may seem strange, unusual, or even revolutionary), visitors to the museum will also find some other interesting items on display such as a collection of gemstones and even a large Civil War era U.S. flag carried by Company C of the 37th Ohio Infantry for Auglaize County.

Visitors to the Bicycle Museum of America can see and read
about the bicycles on display and can even mount the
Highwheel bicycle on the left.

Guests to the museum are first shown a short video showing some of the older bicycles and demonstrating how they were ridden and then there is also a 60-minute video continuously running of Ken Burns’ documentary, “America’s Black Army on Wheels.”

The documentary tells the story of the 25th Infantry Bicycle Corps and their 2,000-mile bicycle journey from Montana to St. Louis in 1897.
The military, from various nations, began introducing bicycles
into their infantry units in the 19th Century.  Bicycles offered
an inexpensive and silent movement on the battlefield and,
later, they were used for other purposes to include dispatch
or messenger services and were even used, in some cases,
by paratroopers.
The Bicycle Museum of America has approximately 8,000 or more visitors each year and it is located at 7 West Monroe St. (at the corner of Routes 66 and 274).

Even though there are over a dozen of other bicycle museums across the U.S., The Bicycle Museum of America is unlike any other.

"There are other bicycle museums and many of them may focus on a particular style of bicycle, (muscle bikes, mountain bikes, or antique bikes).  The Bicycle Museum of America is unique, though, because of its history, with its well-known association with a well-known American manufacturer - Schwinn, and the range of bicycles in the collection from examples of the very first bicycles to the most modern production bicycles," Macwhinney said.

Their summer hours (June through August) are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and in the winter they are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  On Saturdays, they are open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

This is an 1896 Columbia Model 40 Roadster that was
adapted for military use with a 22 inch frame that
enabled it to carry heavy weaponry.  It also had a
shorter down tube and chain stay that put less
stress on the tubes, allowing them to carry extra

For guided tours and group arrangements, you can call 419-629-9249.  You can also visit their website is at: or their facebook page at

In addition to the bicycle museum, New Bremen also has several other interesting attractions for visitors to check out as well.

"There are three lakes within 20 miles of the museum that offer camping and fishing.  The Miami-Erie Canal runs right next to the museum and it offers hiking opportunities and a history lesson about a brief attempt to use water for transportation.  The Land of the Cross Tipped Churches surround the area and tells about the early Catholic settlers," Macwhinney said. 

The area is also great for cycling, too, so it's a good idea to bring your bike with you when you come here," she added.

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