This collection of bicycles was purchased by the group of folks who have put on the Madison WI Art Bike ride for the last half-dozen years. They have been collecting fun and wacky bikes, mostly manufactured stuff like the Super Trick Cycle, the Giant Cruiser, and the Le Run, and have made a few crazy bikes themselves. They purchased this set of vintage freakbikes from a Shriner's Group.
These bikes are old, apparently made somewhere between 1920 and 1950 for Shriner's parades. There is no welding on any of them. The bodywork is linoleum or some similar material. They've been maintained and ridden all these years, and some newer parts have been used to replace worn out ones, but they seem to have come from a time when pennyfarthing wheels were plentiful and unwanted and welding was expensive or not available.
Most impressive is that the owners aren't interested in museum pieces- they want people to ride these bikes. That means they break sometimes, but so what? It always saddens me to see an old Schwinn in a store display, unridden. These are pieces of our freakbike heritage that I am honored to have seen and ridden. In fact, given the way bicycle manufacturing was widely inventive until the assembly-line standardization of the 1920s, these may well be the first aftermarket mutant bikes ever made.
photos by Pickl∃-Rat
They called this one "Tractor Bike". Chain steering plus a huge front wheel makes for a very interesting ride. The frame seems to be made out of some kind of folding device, maybe not even a bike frame.
"Bustle Bike". The obvious counterpart to the Tractor Bike.
"Big Bike". I can't even imagine what this must ride like. Look at the spokes- they split in two (apparently to fit the spoke-holes on the hub).
Uh oh... what do you do when this happens? This wheel makes the 36-inch wheels of the Giant Cruiser behind it look puny.
"Pushme-Pullyou". This was rigged up so that the rear rider still pedaled forward (that is to say, normally) to propel the bike in one direction. This is different that every other pushmepullyou I've seen in that the riders are cooperating, not competing. The rear handlebars are fixed. Each rider gets a brake. You can go very fast on this, resulting in a terrifying ride for the backwards rider. Also the view over what seems to be normal handlebars and a front wheel, while riding backwards, is a unique experience.
World's Oldest Pixie?
I called this bike the "Stupid Bike" because of the commonly held belief that a front-wheel-drive, rear-steer bike is impossible to ride (email me if you think otherwise, there's a prize for making one). This bike is front-wheel-steer, but if you shifted your center of gravity too far forward, it would immediately become unrideable.