Family of Antique Bicycles

Kansas dad and daughter build collection of antique bicycles.

| May 2014

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.