NBHAA Historical Articles


THE FIRST POPULAR MECHANICS ARTICLE ON COLLECTING BALLOON TIRE BICYCLES! THIS IS THE ARTICLE THAT STARTED IT ALL! THE FIRST WORLDWIDE ARTICLE ON COLLECTING AMERICAN-MADE CLASSIC BALLOON TIRE BICYCLES. MORE THAN 30 YEARS AGO...
AND GUESS WHO WROTE IT?

By Leon Dixon
Copyright (c) 1986, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010 by NBHAA and L. Dixon, All rights reserved.

In the early 1970s your curator sent in some photos of a bicycle he had restored in the late 1960s to BICYCLING! magazine (yes, in THOSE days, the magazine title had an exclamation mark in it). The photos were of his own personal J.C. Higgins owned since new (see the J.C. Higgins Historical Article elsewhere in this NBHAA section.)

This article and photos resulted in a lot of interest when a stunned BICYCLING! magazine figured the only interesting bicycles were lightweight diamond-frame boy racer thingies. They were so out of it at the time, they were not even awake to mountain bikes and their connection to vintage balloon tire bicycles.

There was no Ann Arbor swap meet. There were no Do-It-Yourself bicycle web sites. There was no internet. Aside from a couple of shops and a handful of enthusiasts in Southern California and a handful sprinkled across the country... there was NO NETWORK OF COLLECTORS... and there was no established classic bicycle hobby. In fact, there was only one tiny newsletter- our own California Balloon Bike & Whizzer News- which later became Classic Bicycle & Whizzer News. And we had the world's ONLY library of literature, catalogues, brochures, what have you on this subject!

Anyway, we were the first to write about collecting balloon tire classic,first to identify and classify them, first to publicize them to potential collectors, first to gather a nationwide and worldwide mailing list of people interested in them, and FIRST to gather the original and accurate histories on these rare bicycles. This was long before do-it-yourself bicycle web sites and the internet.

Also, in case you haven't seen it, be sure to check out our ongoing series "HOW IT BEGAN" which tells the true story of how the classic bicycle hobby began. And if someone today tells you what a great expert they are on these bicycles... ask THEM what they were doing when this article was published? Better yet–ask them to SHOW you what they were doing and how many articles BEFORE this one that THEY published?

HOW IT BEGANClick here to enter "HOW IT BEGAN"

And now that you know all this information, we figure that some of you out there might enjoy the following original article that launched the CLASSIC BICYCLE HOBBY...

AUTHOR'S NOTE REGARDING COPYRIGHTS:

copyright (c) 1986, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010 Leon Dixon, all rights reserved

We are watching, so you watch your credit line! This article originally was written for POPULAR MECHANICS magazine and appeared in the January, 1978 issue of that publication. We wrote it in 1977. The same article also appeared in the worldwide Spanish-language edition of Popular Mechanics magazine in March, 1978 under the title, Restaure su Bicicleta!. No one had ever done this before. It was intended to be a personal, historical, and nostalgic account of the emergence of collecting balloon tire bicycles. Aside from a previous article in CLASSIC BICYCLE & WHIZZER NEWS (also written by Dixon), this was the only worldwide factual treatise on balloon tire bicycles as collector items published up until that time. We first wrote about this phenomenon in CBWN newsletter and this POPULAR MECHANICS magazine article.

All artwork in the POPULAR MECHANICS magazine article that was written by Leon Dixon were supplied by PM's artists, based on sketches and copies sent to them by Leon Dixon. Some of the artwork is not historically accurate, but that is because PM's artists took a few liberties with the artwork (such as the chainguard on the girl's Murray, the Schwinn sprocket on the Elgin or the "morphed" Monark rear carrier). Captions were suggested by Leon Dixon, but were done by the PM editor at the time.

Somewhere along the way, people at PM who followed years later got collective AMNESIA and could not seem to remember this pioneering article. THEY tried to convince you readers that this whole thing somehow started out of Ann Arbor DECADES after we moved from that location! They forgot that we existed and credited our imitators who came along DECADES later! They could not seem to remember our original 1978 article 10 years later, but they sure remembered enough to include Elgin Bluebird, Elgin Skylark, Schwinn Phantom and Whizzer... but if you read our original article- what do you find? THE SAME BICYCLES! Kinda makes ya go HMMMmmmmmmmm, eh?

There were subsequent and misleading brand-X POPULAR MECHANICS articles that followed YEARS LATER that imitated our original article, used our same theme and covered the same bicycles. You would think that the later articles would be even better... but not so. Just goes to show that EXPERTISE DOES COUNT. One article boldly pictured a Schwinn Phantom with a bogus Wald aftermarket rear fender and the spring fork neck turned backwards (certainly nothing we would ever do!). Rank amateur stuff, but it made it in the big magazine... and SOME people were actually convinced that THIS was the FIRST Popular Mechanics article on collecting these bicycles. We can assure you–it wasn't.

YEARS after our PM article, PM even made outrageous statements claiming that a "NEW HOBBY" had been "discovered" or some such silliness. But none of these bogus later articles were written by us nor did we supply info for them- other than what they copied from our original and from our 1970s CBWN newsletters.

THINK you first read about this hobby in PM? Go back and check the dates. Unless you read this article, you merely read an imitation rehash!

Anyway, there were was additional text with this article and we will upload that later for your reading enjoyment.

As usual, no part of this article or the original article may be sold, reproduced by any means or excerpted without written permission of the author.




Leon Dixon is an authority on bicycles of the "Classic" era, 1920 to 1950... a classification which he coined, defined and copyrighted the definition (one example of which was published in November, 1979 Bicycle Dealer Showcase magazine ). He was the first to actively collect and restore these bicycles and first to write about them. His personal collection includes more than 1000 bicycles. Dixon is curator of National Bicycle History Archive of America


Thank you for visiting the NBHAA Historical Articles! This section will change as time goes on, but will continuously feature rare glimpses at bicycle history, memorabilia and facts you won't find anywhere else. We will eventually be posting the entire series of CYCLIST magazine articles that were written by your curator in the 1980s. We hope you enjoy the photos and information. And stay tuned !


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This page, all design and contents, all photos unless otherwise noted are Copyright (c) 1985. 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010 by Leon Dixon/NBHAA, All rights reserved.
Date of last update to this page: 20 OCT 2010

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