NBHAA Historical Articles


By Leon Dixon
Copyright © 1998, 2007, 2008, 2011 by NBHAA and L. Dixon, All rights reserved.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: A bit of historical information should be kept in mind when examining this information to put it all into proper perspective. Often today, in the 2000s (and many years leading up until now), there exists a great bit of confusion and indeed, rampant misinformation regarding Classic Bicycles, the origins of the Classic Bicycle hobby, how it got started and how much of its lore and terms came to be. For further information please see our new HOW IT BEGAN section.

The following articles are all the first of their kinds and include authentic, accurate information. Whenever photos were used in these articles (and IF the author had control of that part of the publishing process- and he sometimes did not), these photos were all authentic and depicted accurate bicycles. If there were errors in the photos or bicycles, we have attempted to point this out in the listings.

This list has been assembled for those who have an earnest desire to know the facts and do serious research on the hobby and the collectible bicycles it involves. Keep in mind that in the early-to-mid-1970s there was no hobby nor organization, nor publication (the first, Classic Bicycle & Whizzer News began in 1977), no swap meets...NOTHING devoted to American bicycles of the 1920-1965 period. Although at this time, people were collecting antique bicycles (pre-1920s), even these persons and groups did not recognize, nor define Classic Bicycles.

The following listing is far from all inclusive, since the author has written hundreds of other articles in other venues. However these are all (with exception of the video) news stand magazines or large trade magazines. Most of the publications are no longer available, however, check with library sources. If you can't find them, don't despair. We will be posting most of these articles soon on this site in the NBHAA HISTORICAL ARTICLES section. Watch for them and stay tuned!

In the meantime, please read and enjoy the kind of pioneering information we have been providing to the hobby for over 30 years... and the kind of information that is much imitated AFTER we publish it. BUT you won't find anywhere else prior to the time it came from us!


copyright ©1998, 2008, 2011 Leon Dixon, all rights reserved

WATCH YOUR CREDIT LINE. We are watching, so you watch your credit line! If you get information here–PLEASE SAY SO. Don't make it look like it came from you–or give lame excuses like "hey, everybody knows this stuff... blah-blah". Do the right thing and tell people where you got the information. These articles are intellectual property. No part of these articles may be reproduced or excerpted without written permission of the author.


BICYCLING! magazine, January, 1975. Details: In 1973, several photos were sent to the magazine outlining a J.C. Higgins balloon tire bicycle restoration started in 1966 and finished in 1978. Although article was offered, magazine opted to simply publish photo and description. Nevertheless, it was first appearance of a restored deluxe Classic Bicycle in major magazine- and the first introduction of bicycle people to Classic Bicycles as collectibles worthy of historical significance.

POPULAR MECHANICS magazine, January, 1978. Details: In 1977, article was written and graphics for drawings supplied to the magazine. This was the first INTERNATIONAL article (translated into two languages) on collecting and restoring balloon tire bicycles. This was also the first article to treat these bikes as bonafide collector's items and a new hobby. It was the first appearance in an international magazine of Elgin Bluebird, Schwinn Black Phantom, Elgin Skylark, Whizzer and others. Full color illustrations. Title: If it's not too late...HANG ONTO THAT BALLOON BIKE! Note: A Spanish-language version appeared in the March, 1978 Spanish edition. This article was entitled, RESTAURE SU BICICLETA. In a bizarre twist, nearly a decade later, Popular Mechanics developed amnesia about this article and published virtually the same story again and gave another person credit for "writing" it, claiming it was a "new hobby" and acting as if it was just now discovered. PM returned again years later with a third piece, again credited to another "writer", but with the same subject matter and claiming it was a "hobby in its infancy"! Of course, neither of the two subsequent copycat articles even mentioned Leon Dixon or his original articles that had appeared years earlier!

CALIFORNIA BALLOON BIKE & WHIZZER NEWS newsletter, January, 1977. Details: In 1977, the world's FIRST newsletter devoted to classic American balloon tire bicycles was written, published and introduced. This was the first newsletter on collecting and restoring balloon tire bicycles... and there was no hobby existing at the time aside from a few people who were using old bicycles to cruise the beaches and really had no idea what they were. Later the name of this newsletter was changed after the Popular Mechanics article clearly indicated this was not just going to be a Californian phenomenon. The new name was CLASSIC BICYCLE & WHIZZER NEWS. CBB&WN and CBWN both were the first to identify and write about virtually every key collector bicycle known today.

BICYCLE DEALER SHOWCASE magazine, November, 1979. Details: The first published and copyrighted definition of what constitutes a CLASSIC BICYCLE was done in this industry magazine. The definition and story were read by thousands of bicycle dealers and thousands more industry people. The acceptance of the Classic Bicycle was underway. This was also the first official note to bicycle dealers that balloon bicycles and parts were "worth saving" and could be potentially profitable to sell. For the first time in history, the bicycle dealer was aware that he should not simply throw away his old bicycles and parts. This article was so significant that it was allegedly copied without acknowledgement and published in the July, 1981 issue of American Bicyclist magazine. Original title: BICYCLE CLASSICS.

SKATEBOARDER magazine, May, 1980. Details: Although this article was written with the correct premise, unfortunately misguided editing almost completely ruined a good article. Basically the article was destroyed by improper captions and last-minute guess work insertions. Editors added a cobbled 1950s Hiawatha and called it "1939 obscure". Then to make matters worse, captions on photos were reversed. Nevertheless, this article was important because it was the first in a general public news stand magazine to try to define what constituted a true Classic Bicycle as a term versus antique, cruiser, bomber, clunker, etc. Title: CLASSIC CRUISERS.

THE BICYCLING BOOK, Dial Press, 1982. Details: Although this book was mainly written for the nuts & berries and "all-I-wanna-do-is-race-and-exercise-and-talk-about-how-light-my-bike-is crowd", it did have a tiny bit of historical info. Again, Leon Dixon differentiated CLASSIC BICYLES from antiques and defined classics. Nevertheless, this section of the book was important because it was the first in a bicycle BOOK to try to define what constituted a true Classic Bicycle as a term versus antique, cruiser, bomber, clunker, etc. Title: CLASSIC CRUISERS.

BICYCLE DEALER SHOWCASE magazine, September, 1983. Details: The first historical treatise on juvenile wheelgoods of yesteryear. Also the very first article proclaiming and delineating CHARACTER BICYCLES a term coined by the writer. Article covered Lindbergh (Lindy), Charlie Chaplin, Buck Rogers, Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Hop-a-Long Cassidy, Gene Autry, Batman, Spiderman, etc. bicycles. This was the first listing and details of such bicycles. Again read by thousands of dealers. Title: FANTASY ON WHEELS. Note: in one subsequent pulp collector publication a modern revisionist's attack was made upon the origin of this term since an old issue of American Bicyclist magazine made a textual descriptive phrase reference to *a character-type bicycle* thus, supposedly invalidating the work we did listed above. This earlier phrase in ABM was not, in fact, a coinage, nor definition of a collector's term.

CYCLIST magazine, December, 1984. Details: A nostalgic treatise of the Schwinn Black Phantom including accurate specifications and previously unknown data. First of Concours d' Elegance series.

CYCLIST magazine, March, 1985. Details: Iver Johnson Model 90, including accurate specifications, detailed color photos. First historical account of Iver Johnson bicycles and their demise.

CYCLIST magazine, April, 1985. Details: Nostalgic account of Bowden "Spacelander" bicycles. Detailed, full color photos with accurate history and specifications. Aside from the previous article in Classic Bicycle & Whizzer News (also written by Leon Dixon in 1980), the only factual treatise on Bowden and the only photos of correct, as original Bowden Spacelander.

CYCLIST magazine, May, 1985. Details: Nostalgic account of Silver King "Hextube". Detailed, full-color photos with accurate history and specifications. Aside from previous article in Classic Bicycle & Whizzer News (also written by Leon Dixon in 1979), the only factual treatise on Silver King history and the "Hextube" and the ONLY photos of correct, original example with the headlight intact.

CYCLIST magazine, July, 1985. Details: Nostalgic account of J.C.Higgins bicycle (deluxe 1956 model) owned by author since new. Detailed, full color photos with accurate history including first published revelation of how and when the brand name evolved from Elgin. Included specifications and previously unknown facts.

CYCLIST magazine, February, 1986. Details: Nostalgic account of Shelby bicycles. Detailed, full color photos with accurate history and specifications for 1948 deluxe model. Previously unknown information never released to the general public.

CYCLIST magazine, March, 1986. Details: Nostalgic account of Columbia 5-Star model (1949). Detailed, full color photos with accurate history and factual specifications. Previously unknown details.

CYCLIST magazine, April, 1986. First ever written history of Columbia Compax "Paratrooper" bicycles. Includes rare photo of Dutch-bicycle regiment during World War II and detailed, full color photos of the Compax. Authentic, factual specifications. This article included the coining of the term, LUXOCRUISER, now commonly used.

CYCLIST magazine, June, 1986. Details: First factual history of X-53 Western Flyer along with detailed, full color photos and specifications. Nostalgic accounting of neighbor's purchase of new bicycle.

CYCLIST magazine, July, 1986. DETAILS: First ever story of Fendt Cardano Comfort shaftdrive bicycle. Full color, detailed photos with accurate specifications and history. LAST ARTICLE EVER TO BE WRITTEN BY AUTHOR FOR CYCLIST. After this, brand-X cut-rate articles were subsituted with inaccurate photos of bicycles and "information" that was equally inaccurate.

BICYCLING REFERENCE BOOK magazine, 1993. DETAILS: First ever story of how the bicycle industry and bicycle people became the auto industry. Detailed photos and informative text with new history never before assembled. Publication of the Bicycle Institute of America. Story title: FROM BIKES TO CARS, OR...HOW THE BICYCLE CONTRIBUTED TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE AUTOMOTIVE INDUSTRY.


PEDALER'S PROGRESS, 1981. Written for Hester Communications, Inc. DETAILS: First ever video tape history of the bicycle including narration, full color and music. Originally done as a giant multi-screen slide show seen by thousands of bicycle dealers and industry people at Bicycle Dealer Showcase Expo (the predecessor to Interbike ) in Long Beach, California and New York, New York. Later this show was transferred to video tape and shown again nationwide for two more succeeding years. It proved very popular with audiences everywhere and was used in a historical celebration in Sacramento, California by the Wheelmen organization of antique bicycle collectors. The sole remaining copy of this video is in the collection of the National Bicycle History Archive of America.


"As It Happens" CBC NETWORK, Canada, 1980. DETAILS: First ever international radio broadcast reviewing the return of balloon tire bicycles. Leon Dixon was interviewed and the show was broadcast over the CBC Network reaching all of Canada and much of the USA.

Leon Dixon is an authority on bicycles of the "Classic" era, 1920 to 1965 (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, Box 787 Davis, CA 95617


Since we started writing about and publishing the history of CLASSIC BICYCLES in the 1970s, there have been several people who have come forward with every manner of argument- 20-30 years AFTER we did our hard work.

There were people in the mid 80s who decided THEY wanted to take credit for our hard work. Still others came forward with absurd arguments like "Hey, you didn't INVENT the word, "CLASSIC." And no- we didn't invent the word, but we DID coin the term as it applies to vintage American bicycles... and we DID publish a copyrighted DEFINITION of what the terminology meant- and we did it in the 1970s. LONG BEFORE most of you even knew what these bicycles were. So the people who were our detractors and arguers 20-30 years later... where were they and what were THEY doing in the 1970s? NOTHING. We have big publishing companies who had ripped off our concept without so much as a mention of us. THEY MAKE MONEY OFF OF OUR IDEAS, yet they don't even have the courtesy to say, "Hey, thank you for creating a new market for us... here's a book!" Nah. And people in the hobby continue to ignore or minimize our contribution–even as they continue to imitate us. Give credit where credit is DUE... and tell the truth. We did it first... we published it first... and we did our best to start a new hobby that thousands of you out there today apparently are enjoying.

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 © 1998, 2008, 2011 by Leon Dixon/NBHAA, All rights reserved.
Date of last update to this page: 20 MARCH 2013


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