Hi. I’m Walking Bob, and I hadn’t worn a jacket during Picnic in the Park on Wednesday, so I decided it would be a good time to get inside and enjoy the displays at the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame on 3rd and D. The first good news was that I could still enjoy Papa Hip’s take on some great Creedence Clearwater Revival songs as I wandered through the three floors of bicycling history.
The first displays showed some of the unique frames designed by local frame builders Steve Rex, James Olsen-Lee and Kimo Tanaka. Each has developed amazing frames for years and the docent told me that Kimo is still working at Ken’s Bike and Ski in Davis as well as creating frames in Winters. Although the displays change regularly, those frames will be on display through the month of May.
Since May is Bike Month, there are several events on the schedule, beginning with a May 1 lecture and booksigning by Andrew Homan, author of a book on one of bike racing’s pioneers, Bobby Walthour. Walthour was a true sports star around the turn of the century, as shown by his bubblegum card, and won $60,000 in 1904 by racing bikes behind primitive motor cycles.
The displays around the Hall of Fame include jerseys worn by riders like Greg Lemond, Eric Heiden and Nelson Vails, the silver medalist in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Those elected to the Hall of Fame have plaques scattered throughout the museum. A series of videos play continually, showing famous cyclists and interesting insights like the fact that Vails may have gained more fame for playing a bike messenger in the Kevin Bacon film “Quicksilver” than he did as an Olympic star.
There are also displays that highlight pioneering women like Rebecca Twigg and early African-American riders like Major Taylor. If you go to the bottom floor, you’ll find a wide variety of early forms of the bicycle and bicycles like the early Schwinn bikes that brought affordable bikes into households all over the country. Some of the old bikes like the Velocipede from the 1860’s have fitting nicknames like “Boneshaker,” and others had large bells designed to avoid spooking the horses that were much more prevalent than bikes a century and a half ago.
Another event coming up on May 7 is what they call a “Tireside chat” with Craig Calfee. Calfee gained fame by designing and building high-end carbon frame bicycles, but he now has a new humanitarian venture called “Bamboosero.” His goal is to launch bamboo bike factories in Africa and other locations where the raw materials are plentiful so they can turn out bikes like the one Calfee built that is shown at the left.
The Hall of Fame is a treasure trove of plaques, jerseys, unicycles, bicycles and other historical memorabilia in an ever-changing collection with some exhibits leaving and new ones coming in. If you haven’t visited the Hall of Fame since the move from New Jersey to Davis, it’s time. They’re open on Wednesdays from 4 to 8 and Saturdays from 10 to 2 with very reasonable admission. Check out the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame website for more information.