Two-wheeled elegance: Bikes on display at museum |

Two-wheeled elegance: Bikes on display at museum

Joyce Hollister

Miss the carefree days of summer, when you rode your big ballooned-tired bike to visit a friend – back in the innocent days when mothers didn’t worry about their kids out alone for a quick ride down the lane?

Recapture those days at the Carson Valley Museum and Cultural Center with a new display, “The American Bicycle, 30 Years of Two-Wheeled Elegance.”

Twenty-four two-wheeled machines owned by Scott and July Callahan are lined up around the walls of the changing gallery at the center, “roped off” with bicycle chain.

The bikes depict the era of cycling in America from the 1930s to the 1960s.

“Right now,” said Scott Callahan, “I’m collecting bicycles for their esthetic value. They really are a representation of the era.”

It was an era when kids rode their bikes and adults took their cars.

“They really bring back memories,” Callahan said. “The memories come back when you get on them.”

The “elegance” in the title of the show comes from the design of the bicycle beginning in the 1930s: The art deco styling which gave bicycles a steamlined look and dazzled the kids.

The display is highlighted by the time trial bike used in 1985 by Greg LeMond, the American originally from Reno who astonished Europe by winning the Tour de France.

This bicycle has never been seen by the general public and was restored just last month.

“It’s really cool,” Callahan added. “It should be in the Smithsonian, it’s that neat.”

Scott and Julie Callahan live in a tiny house in Reno with two cats and 130 bikes. They are fourth-generation Carson Valley natives.

The bikes are not just for display.

“We try to take them out and exercise them on a regular basis,” Callahan said. “They have to be able to be run as well.”

The ballooned tire bike was developed in 1933 and died in the ’60s. One bike in the show was even built before the balloon tire came out.

Another interesting portion of the exhibit is the comparison between a 1939 balloon-tired bike and a brand-new mountain bike lent to the exhibit by Carson Valley Bicycle Center.

Visitors are challenged to see the similarities between the two bikes.

Posters from the ’30s and ’40s tout bikes and bike parts and some unique and not-so-unique parts in a display case round out the exhibit.

Above all, Callahan said, people are asked to see the show with a light heart.

“Some shows are to teach,” he said. “Some are kind of serious. This is definitely not a serious show. It’s made to bring back all the memories. It’s made to be fun. It’s made to hit all the generations.”

Cecile Brown, curator of the museum, said she wanted a summertime-type of exhibit, and this is perfect.

“It’s really a beautiful collection of bicycles. We’re very proud to have it at the museum.”

The exhibit will go along nicely with events coming at the center in Gardnerville, particularly Hot Valley Nights in August, which incudes a Return to the Frosty Spot and other ’50s and ’60s-themed activities.

“We want to have people come in and share their experiences with their own bikes in their youth or the present time,” she said. “I have some ideas (for a related event) but don’t have anything lined up yet.”

She said it was through the generous help of the Carson Valley Lions Club which donated money for insurance that the bike exhibit was made possible.

Nonsuch Classic Bicycles is co-sponsoring the display. A brochure lists all the individuals and businesses who gave support to the exhibition.

The show went up early this month and will be up for six months. The guest book reveals that people already have found it to be of interest.

A tourist couple visiting the museum wrote: “This show is better that the bicycle exhibit at the Smithsonian.”