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Family of Antique Bicycles

Kansas dad and daughter build collection of antique bicycles.

| May 2014

  • Hannah and Gary with three extraordinary pieces: an 1896 Featherstone triangle-sprocket bicycle, an 1889 Gormully & Jeffery adult tandem tricycle and a 1901 Columbia shaft-drive bicycle.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • The ignition-style key lock on the Evinrude Streamflow kept the front forks in place when left unattended and prevented thieves from making an easy getaway.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • This Evinrude is one of very few remaining with the original aluminum "torpedo" headlight.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • Hannah and Gary Schroller stroll through a box storage trailer that houses numerous brands of girls' bicycles including: Rollfast, Colson, Monark, Huffman, Hawthorne, Shelby, J.C. Higgins, Elgin, Iver Johnson, Dayton, Cleveland Welding Co., Roadmaster and Western Flyer.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • This 1937 Evinrude Streamflow balloon-tire bicycle, the most valuable piece in the Schrollers' collection, was recalled because of its faulty design. It is one of few known to exist.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • The odometer on the Streamflow showing 1,243 miles indicates that this delicate bike was treated with care.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • The Evinrude’s seat is suspended on springs and its seat bar is connected to the pedals.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • The 1896 Featherstone’s eccentric rear sprocket is designed to keep the chain from slipping off the triangle sprocket in front. The rearward stage of its rotation syncs perfectly with the loose stage of the chain’s rotation around the triangle sprocket, keeping it in place.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • Gary believes this to be the only 1896 Featherstone triangle-sprocket bicycle in existence.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • This 1889 Gormully & Jeffery adult tandem tricycle was found in pieces at an auto salvage yard.
    Photo by Matt Kelly
  • This circa 1940 Rollfast bicycle is one of many in the collection with a hand-strung skirt guard.
    Photo by Matt Kelly

A Kansas family’s collection of antique bicycles offers an impressive array of treasures honoring another era. Composed of more than 100 unique pieces, the collection runs the gamut from little-known spectacles to what many consider the holy grail of antique bicycles: the elusive Evinrude.

The bicycle obsession began in 2004, when Hannah Schroller and her father, Gary Schroller, Randolph, Kan., were searching for something special for Hannah to ride on the campus of Kansas State University, where she was attending classes. As they learned about various two-wheeled contraptions, the sprockets of Gary’s imagination started turning.

“She wanted to get a balloon-tire bike and paint it up, fix it up and ride it — so we bought a J.C. Higgins Colorflow from about 1951,” Gary says. “We didn’t know one bike from another but that Higgins was a real fancy one with (decorative) jewels; we just lucked into finding that.” The Schrollers intended to do little more than replace the tires and spray paint the bike, but instead they took it to a body shop and had it painted and rechromed. They ended up putting $1,000 into the bike. But it was money well-spent: Hannah used the bike so often during her four years at KSU that she became known as “the girl on the bike.”

The Schrollers’ fascination led to more purchases. They bought another bike of the same make and model, then started buying all the J.C. Higgins bikes they could find. It wasn’t long until they started collecting other brands. “We started looking for any original girls’ bikes in good condition from that time frame,” Hannah says. “It just kind of snowballed from there.”

As a rule, the Schrollers focus on girls’ bikes, but they occasionally find a boys’ bike that’s too special to pass up. “Some bikes weren’t made in girls’ models and they’re so rare we’ve got to have them,” Gary says. “Once we restored the first one for Hannah to ride, we found so many variations. Back in that era they were chroming everything like crazy and they all had springer front ends and they really decked them out.”

The collection is scattered throughout the family’s house, garage, box storage trailer and barn in a way that allows each bike’s level of uniqueness or rarity to be, perhaps with some accuracy, inferred from its location. If a bike is in the barn it’s probably just a parts bike. Bikes near the back of the trailer have some degree of rarity. Those near the front have special stories. “Of all 80 bicycles we have in the storage trailer, nothing’s touched up. It’s all original,” Gary says. Some of the bikes, especially some in the garage, are extraordinary. But there’s only one bike in the entryway of the Schrollers’ home: a 1937 Evinrude Streamflow.


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