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Vintage Bikes we LOVE 'em!

Scott Wilke, the Bicycle Collector

Scott Wilke has been collecting, restoring, and preserving vintage American bicycles for over 25 years. Starting in 1988, Scott began his hobby by restoring the 1964 Schwinn Traveler bicycle that his mom and dad gave him when he was 10 years old. While looking for the parts to restore his bicycle, his brothers having removed the original 2-speed Bendix kickback wheel while he was in college, Scott "discovered" the world of vintage American bicycle collecting. Being a “collector” of stuff since he was 16, Scott was immediately “bitten by the bug” and the rest is history.

Since that time Scott has acquired hundreds of vintage bicycles and now has many of them on permanent display at South Shore Cyclery in Cudahy, Wisconsin. Know as the Milwaukee Bicycle Museum, the original focus of the collection was American-made bicycles manufactured between 1933 and the late 1950s. This is generally recognized as the “Balloon Tire” era in American bicycling history. But over the years we have expanded the collection to include bicycles from the 1960's & 1970's'. In particular, our collection has many Schwinn Sting Rays and Krates from what is known as the "Muscle" bicycle era.

Recently, (2012) we added an 1867 Boneshaker and an 1887 Rudge Ordinary (high-wheel) to the collection thus providing a specimen from every era of American Bicycling History.

The collection is on display and free to public viewing during the hours of operation of South Shore Cyclery. Located in Cudahy Wisconsin, South Shore Cyclery is a premier Independent Bicycle Dealer offering top-branded bicycles, accessories, and expert professional repair services for over 20 years. You can visit their website at: or stop by at 4758 South Packard Ave., Cudahy, WI. (Near General Mitchell Field airport in Milwaukee, WI).

We always welcome visitors and hope you will spend some time with us enjoying America’s bicycling history.

Vintage Track & Road Bicycles

Last year, a gentleman who had watched our TV segments on the Gus Gnorski Tour in February brought in a couple of his old bicycles for our museum.  But these were not any ordinary bicycles.  Wally Klager, currently a resident of Brookfield, was among the few in the early 1940's to ride road style bicycles.  You see, in the 1930's and 1940's the most popular style of bike ridden by the American public was the heavy balloon-tired bicycle. (We have plenty of examples of these in our museum) The road bike had a tire width nearly half of the balloon and so could go faster and further with the same amount of energy.

Wally had two bikes that he bought and road before he graduated from high school in Detroit, Michigan in 1942.  Then he promptly enlisted in the military for service during WWII.

The first bicycle was a URAGO lightweight which is a handmade bike manufactured in Nice, France (in the French Riviera).  The second is a SCHWINN SUPERIOR made in Chicago, IL.  The Superior was the 2nd tier of quality available from Schwinn; the top tier being the Paramount brand.  Both bikes are in great condition and both have vintage derailleur systems.  These are very strange contraptions but worked well. (See photo links below)

We will be restoring these over the winter and will have them in the museum by spring of 2010.  We will post some photos of the bikes with links in our newsletters as we progress.  I also hope to tell you more about the tales of Wally Klager.  He told me over the phone yesterday that once he road 1,000 miles in ten days!  I'm guessing he must have eaten a lot of Wheaties to get that far!

Here are some links to PHOTOS of these bicycles in the condition we received them from Wally. 


Schwinn Superior

If there is something more you would like to know about South Shore Cyclery, or articles you would like to see, or questions about vintage bicycles let me know at:

Vintage Ads & Photos

Anamosa Iowa National Motorcycle Museum

Bicycle Picking Trip to Anamosa, Iowa

By Scott Wilke

It’s Bicycle “Picking” season…………….again!

After all these years of bicycle collecting and restoration (since 1988) you would have thought that things would have slowed down a bit.  But amazingly, year after year, nice vintage bicycles or bikes with usable parts keep coming out of attics, basements, and garages. Americans seem to have a lot of extra space to store stuff for a long time! Moreover, we are lucky enough that occasionally even good customers of South Shore Cyclery will roll in a vintage bike for us to acquire.  But sometimes it’s a good idea to just get in the ole’ van and drive to a swap meet which is what I did about two weeks ago.

Anamosa Iowa is home to National Motorcycle Museum which was hosting their 6th Annual Vintage Rally.  It was advertised as a Motorcycle AND Bicycle swap meet so that is why I was making the trip.  Anamosa Iowa is only 3-1/2 hours from Milwaukee. 

The swap meet was almost entirely comprised of motorcycle parts and motorcycles.  Not too much bicycle related stuff.  But I did find and buy two vintage speedometers.  One was a J.C. Higgins from the 1950’s and the other an Elgin”X-Pert” from the mid 1930’s.  Both were equipment used on bicycles sold by Sears & Roebuck.  I also ran across a fellow that had a large green plastic container which had some older Schwinn bicycle cables, brakes, vintage Simplex derailures and some 1960’s Japanese-made rear fender lights.  Nice pick at the right price!  But that was about it.  The best part about the show was the people and the museum.  As this was my first motorcycle swap meet, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But everyone was personable, welcoming, and willing to share stories and their knowledge with a guy wearing plaid! Black tee shirts are the order of the day (I should have known) but once a geek always a geek I guess.

Even better was the National Motorcycle Museum.  Founded in 1989 this 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization has grown from a collection of 40 vintage motorcycles to over 400!  And what a collection it is!  Emphasis in the collection, naturally, is placed on Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles. But lesser known makers like Henderson, Excelsior, and The Miami Cycle & Mfg. Co. makers of the “Flying Merkel” are given good exhibition. Also included are motorcycling accessories, clothing, and other cycling memorabilia.  Beautifully and meticulously curated, the museum offers faux motorcycle shops in period settings.  Fortunately, for guys like me, there were a couple of dozen antique & vintage bicycles. Many of them were related, at least in head badge branding, to their motorcycle counterparts.

I was able to harvest a few good ideas for curating our bicycle museum and I took a bunch of photos which you can see at the link below. 

If you visit (and you should!) you will need a day at least to see everything.  Maybe more if you are a motorcycle aficionado.

Here is a link to my Google photo site if you are interested in seeing photos of this trip.