NBHAA Historical Articles


By Leon Dixon

Copyright © 1979, 1986, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 by NBHAA and Leon Dixon, All rights reserved.

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In the mid-1970s your curator visited a big bicycle industry trade show. The people at this show were primarily bicycle manufacturers, inductry and marketing people, and bicycle dealers. The first day your curator was allowed to enter with one of his vintage balloon tire bicycles from the 1950s. It was such a hit that the show's promotors asked if we could return each day with a vintage balloon tire bicycle. We did and... the crowd went wild over them.

The show was sponsored by a magazine, Bicycle Dealer Showcase (BDS) and the editors Steve Ready and Herb Wetenkamp of that magazine called us aside at the show and asked if we could contribute an article about this new phenomenon of recognizing American-made bicycles AFTER 1920 as desireable, valuable collectable items. In those days, bicycle shops and distributors were THROWING THIS STUFF OUT BY THE DUMPSTER LOAD! PAYING TO HAVE IT HAULED AWAY! It may seem unbelievable in 2012 that such a thing ever happened, but believe us... it was a FACT!

We wrote the article you are about to read and provided an image from one of our old Rollfast bicycle catalogues. This article was the first industry-wide heads-up to SAVE this stuff rather than toss it. AND to SELL it. NOBODY was thinking like this in the industry on any wide basis with the exception of a very few rebellious dealers. The article went out to over 20,000 dealers and even more industry people.

We had already published a copyrighted CLASSIC BICYCLE definition matrix in Classic Bicycle & Whizzer newsletter, but the entire bicycle industry was pretty much oblivious to what was going on with vintage bicycles. All they knew was "ohhh, yeah, those old ones with the big front wheel are valuable!" but they were still throwing out brand new old stock middleweight, high pressure singletube and balloon bicycle stuff nearly every day! We knew one distributor that actually HIRED people to come in and toss out ANYTHING that was balloon era stuff. TOSS IT IN THE TRASH! WHO STOPPED THEM? LEON DIXON STOPPED THEM.

This article, definition and images resulted in a lot of interest from stunned dealers who had no idea they were throwing out valuable bicycles and parts. BDS magazine asked us back each year afterward and our yearly "BICYCLE MUSEUM" put on by Leon Dixon was a hit of the show for many years to come (people today have short memories and even many who were there have now forgotten–but it happened). The first two years, our exhibit drew such a crowd that adjacent exhibitors complained of people standing 3 and 4 deep in the aisle. So? Steve Ready and Herb Wetenkamp along with the magazine's publisher arranged for us to have an even larger space! AND we were even asked to teach a special seminar to bicycle dealers at this BDS-EXPO show. And yes, we even still have the flyers from our appearances at these shows including the very first dealer seminar on vintage collectable bicycles and parts! Who did it? Leon Dixon did it.

By the way, during this period is when Murray Ohio Manufacturing Company sent some of their people out to attend the show and visit with Leon Dixon. One attended our seminar and we advised them on many aspects of reintroducing new balloon tire bicycles to the market. One of our first suggestions they adopted was the use of 26 x 2.125 WHITEWALL tires (which became a BOON to collectors when Carlisle followed our advice through Murray). Carlisle was so grateful for the overwhelming sales they had with the balloon whitewalls that years later when they ceased USA production, they sent us the very last USA-made whitewall tire! When we were robbed in 2001, some fool ended up with it... and today we'll just bet that very vaulable tire is on some old POS bicycle, no doubt sold to another fool by the idiot dirtbags who stole it. Our other suggestion (also adopted) was to reintroduced our favorite vintage Murray color: FLAMBOYANT BLACK CHERRY! This was done on the Murray Monterey beach cruisers.

What happened to Steve and Herb? They moved on and started up a new trade show called "INTERBIKE"... ever heard of that one? And yes, when it first began, Leon Dixon also exhibited there as well.

So when some gas bag comes up today criticizing and bemoaning that Leon Dixon wants too much credit for starting the hobby ...and how did one guy get all these people to know about CLASSIC BICYCLES and the hobby that did not exist before... SHOW THE GAS BAG THIS ARTICLE AND the first POPULAR MECHANICS article. THAT's how! And then ask the gas bag where they were when this was all happening and what did THEY do of significance?

Anyway, we were the first to write about collecting balloon tire classics, 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 coined the DEFINITION OF CLASSIC BICYCLE AND HELPED CREATE A HOBBY AS IT SAVED THE BICYCLES AND PARTS FROM DESTRUCTION...


copyright (c) 1979, 1986, 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 Leon Dixon, all rights reserved

We are watching, so you watch your credit line! This article originally was written for BICYCLE DEALER SHOWCASE magazine and appeared in the November, 1979 issue of that publication. We wrote it in 1978. The same article also appeared in CLASSIC BICYCLE & WHIZZER NEWS newsletter under the title, What's A Classic?. No one had ever done this before. Aside from this previous article in CLASSIC BICYCLE & WHIZZER NEWS (also written by Dixon), this was the only worldwide definition on balloon tire bicycles as collector items published up until that time. We first wrote about this phenomenon in CBWN newsletter and this Bicycle Dealer SHowcase (BDS) magazine article.

All artwork in the Bicycle Dealer Showcase magazine article that was written by Leon Dixon were supplied by Leon Dixon.

YEARS after our BDS article in JULY, 1981, the almighty American Bicyclist magazine curiously ran a similar article (curiously with no "byline") with whole sentences lifted out of this article (you can read them for yourself on PAGE 61)!

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 © 1979, 1985. 1999, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2012, 2013 by Leon Dixon/NBHAA, All rights reserved.
Date of last update to this page: 20 MARCH 2013

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