(first posted 5/2/2016) There are many backdrops for humanity. I’ve been lucky enough in my life to float in, out, and around many dissonant places and groups of people. By day, I can talk pedagogy with my well-versed coworkers, and by night I live in a typical declining midwestern middle-class town near some very friendly retirees. Sometimes, I’ll haunt the doors of local machine shops and body shops and talk cars with guys who have been in the business for years. On one annual Sunday in April, however, I’ll consort with a troupe of characters who put all of my daily interactions to shame: bicycle collectors.
That’s right. April 24th was the annual Ann Arbor bicycle show and swap meet, and seldom is the year that I don’t come home with something I don’t need. It’s also a refreshing couple of hours wandering around with other people who are unashamed to ride kids bikes or mini bikes around the grounds. People who will trailer dozens of bicycles hundreds of miles to make a few bucks and have a good time. People who know more minutiae about a classic Schwinn than I know about anything. I have to admit, it’s a fun time if you like bikes.
As evidenced by the picture above, I did come home with something new, which I parked in front of the rest of my bicycle herd to accentuate my lunacy. My collection is up to 15 bikes, several of which I bought on a whim in Ann Arbor. I’m up to 16 if you count my 1968 Schwinn Exerciser, which I “ride” during the boring winter months of no bike rides. Also in the background is my ’73 Speedster, which I cataloged here.
This year’s purchase is a very nice, original 1966 Schwinn Deluxe Racer in Radiant Coppertone, which, in my opinion, is one of the coolest colors in bicycle history. My favorite bicycles are “lightweights” from the mid-1960s to the early-1970s, and I have too many of them, but this one was too nice to leave behind.
Only Deluxe models were available in Coppertone in ’66, and the Deluxe also came well-equipped with more chrome plating and a padded seat. Mine has a headlight and taillight, which are powered by a generator (that I haven’t tried yet), and a horn specifically designed to annoy spouses.
This Racer also has an accessory rack on the back fender for when I don’t ride my bike to work because my commute is too long.
And no self-respecting Deluxe model bicycle will come equipped with anything as plebeian as a single-speed Bendix hub. Oh no, my Racer plays the part of an “English racer” by sporting the famous Sturmey Archer three-speed, which is all I ever need when riding a bike. More speeds just get in the way. With a Sturmey-Archer, I just click it into second 95% of the time, and use third down hills and first up hills. Simple as that.
As always, I look forward to many blissful, idyllic days riding my old bikes around town and on local rail trails. Nice, original bikes are always money well spent, as they are fun and they hold their value (not that I often sell anything). I also look forward to next April, when Dad and I can drive down to Ann Arbor and spend some time with a truly unique group of people who just do what they love. We should all be so lucky.