Club Members Take A Shine To Old Bicycles
Twenty riders on vintage bicycles – horns honking and foxtails dangling from the handlebar grips – conjure up images of cyclists on the boardwalk in Atlantic City when Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and Elvis Presley was king.
Members of the new Reading Classic Bicycle Club are enamored of Schwinn and Columbia bikes built when Cadillacs had fins and Detroit was the automotive capital of the world.
On a recent Saturday outing, they proudly displayed bicycles with balloon tires, coaster brakes and ching-aling bells on the handlebars.
Martinez, 50, one of the group’s founders, scours junk yards and flea markets for American bikes built from the 1940s to the 1970s.
His Schwinn Corvette, for example, had been discarded in a Reading scrap yard. When Martinez got it, the three-speed gears were jammed, and its chrome fenders were pitted with age.
Laboring over it for months, Martinez restored the luster of newness that had been tarnished by more than 40 years of use.
The club members, who are mostly Latinos from Reading, work on their bikes in center city garages, basements and backyards.
The restoration projects range from a Schwinn Panther from the 1940s to a 1971 Schwinn Hollywood girls bike.
William Gonzalez blended the old and new into a custom three-wheeler he crafted from parts of several bikes.
Featuring a seven-speed gear system and a car stereo, Gonzalez’s bright-yellow customized trike is a definite eyecatcher.
Luis Perez, 24, who’s restoring a Schwinn from the 1960s, said working on bikes has had a positive effect on his outlook on life. Since he’s been involved with bikes, Perez said, he’s less likely to be hanging out on the streets.