If you go
What: “Bicycles! 150 Years of Gears” exhibit
When: Saturday through July 3
Where: Longmont Museum and Cultural Center, 400 Quail Road
Cost: $5 adults; $2 kids 5 to 12; younger kids free
More info: ci.longmont.co.us/museum/
Even if you have a stellar collection of “classic” bikes in your garage (like your childhood Schwinn Orange Krate), it’s hard to compete with a bicycle built for four and an original Ritchey Mountain Bike.
Those are some of the gems at “Bicycles! 150 Years of Gears,” and exhibit opening Saturday at the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center.
The cycling culture in Colorado is so broad and rich, said curator Jared Thompson, who’s a cyclist himself, that he didn’t have to go far to find collectors for the exhibit.
“Every bike is from the Front Range — except for a couple of bikes in the mountain bike section,” he said. “Everything else is from a 60-mile radius.”
For example, the exhibit features bikes and jerseys from locals Marianne Martin and Andy Hampsten. Martin won the Tour de France Feminin in 1984; Hampsten won the Giro d’Italia in ’88. Both were the first Americans to win these races.
“I went to Andy’s house and picked that up,” Thompson said, pointing toward the red-and-white road bike. “That’s actually the bike he won the Giro d’Italia on.”
Next he pointed out Martin’s Tour bike — “It was all dusty, and parts were missing and she had a box full of parts,” he said. He took it to Vecchio’s Bicicletteria, on Pearl Street, with some photos of Martin riding in the Tour.
“The biggest problem with it was that there were a lot of parts on it that were not original to the frame when she rode it,” said Peter Chisholm, of Vecchio’s, who matched the parts in the box to the photos and reassembled the bike for the exhibit. Chisholm added that it was a straightforward job.
“The bicycle componentry of that era was much simpler and more inter-compatible with other stuff than things are now.”
The exhibit has bikes that are much older than Hampsten’s or Martin’s, too. One of the first bikes at the entrance is an 1860s “boneshaker” — a bike with an iron frame and wheels that was one of the earliest bikes with pedals.
“This is probably the heaviest single-person bike in the exhibit,” said Erik Mason, curator of research and information at the museum. “It’s probably about 100 pounds.”
The curators have also paired originals with the newest cycling eye-candy to show progress. A brand-new Yeti (a Golden-based mountain-bike maker) sits beside an original mountain bike — one of 10 original mountain bikes created by Joe Breeze in the 1970s.
“Joe Breeze was the first one to design a bike for going down these fire roads, and he did a run of 10,” Thompson said. The museum has No. 2 on display.
The exhibit also includes an original ladies’ bikes from the 1880s (one has wooden spokes), classic kids’ Schwinns with banana seats and oddities like a foldable tandem.
“We tried to make it so everyone has something they’re interested in,” Thompson said. “There’s so many niches it’s hard to cover them all.”
Thompson and Mason said the museum has had a lot of help from former racers, bike shops like Vecchio’s and Wheat Ridge Cyclery, and people who are into cycling and have been collecting bikes and memorabilia for years.
“We’re still getting people calling up and saying, hey, I’ve got a cool bike,” Mason said. “People are enthusiastic and keep giving.”