Muscle cars are a staple of cruise nights. But on June 10, Cruisin’ to Clinton, the local cruise night on the Square, will also feature muscle bikes.
Skipper Buckley of Clinton is sharing his collection of Schwinn Sting-Rays at Bike Fest, plus bringing four vintage bicycle collectors to town. There will also be drawings for a Mongoose bicycle and BMX bicycles.
Skipper, 58, grew up in the 1970s. His parents saw the family had everything they needed, he said, but the budget didn’t extend to the bicycle of his dreams: a Schwinn Krate Sting-Ray.
“That was my crush,” he said. “I rode a hand-me-down.”
In 2010, Skipper started collecting bicycles, mostly from the “muscle bike” era that started in the 1960s. His favorite bicycle in his collection is a ’69 Schwinn “Pea Picker,” a type of Sting-Ray Krate Bike, which were named for their colors. The metallic green and silver Pea Picker is like the one coveted by Robin Williams and Tommy in David Duchovny’s coming-of-age movie, “House of D,” Skipper said.
It was the black and white Huffy Penguin that started the muscle bike craze in 1963, Skipper said. The Penguin had extended handlebars, known as “high bars” or “ape hangers,” a sissy bar in back, and a banana seat, like on a motorcycle. Muscle bikes also featured 5-speed stick shifts, suspension systems, disc brakes and slick tires, and a smaller wheel on the front, like a drag racer.
Skipper doesn’t have a Penguin in his collection — they are now too expensive —but does have two Huffy bicycles from 1968-1969.
“What’s unique about them is they have steering wheels instead of handlebars,” he said.
Another collector participating in Bike Fest is Charlie Dixon, a window-cleaner in town. Charlie has bicycles from earlier eras, including a high-wheeler known as a Penny Farthing from the 1890s. He and Charlie became best friends, Skipper said, after he saw Charlie riding his high wheeler and chased him down the street. Charlie also has a large collection of French 10-speed bicycles.
James Allen, who has the Pedalers Bicycle Museum in Springfield, is also bringing vintage bikes. Part of the Southwest Missouri Cycle Collectors Club, Allen holds an annual swap meet for people who want to buy, sell or trade antique, classic, muscle and modern bikes, motor scooters and antique toys.
Coming from Galena, Ill., is Daniel Dahlquist, who restores antique bicycles to their original “steampunk” look.
His virtual museum website, dahlquistcycleworks, features an article on two bicycles he restored, titled” ”A Story of America in Two Bicycles: an 1896 Buffalo Soldier Bicycle and a 1904 Teddy Roosevelt Campaign Bicycle.” Daniel, who is a poet, calls his bicycles “works in progress.”
“I think of antique and classic bicycle projects much as I do poems or paintings,” Daniel writes. “They are never finished, only abandoned.”
His collection includes a 1890 Columbus bicycle, made by the Columbus (Ohio) Bicycle Company, a subsidiary of the Columbus Buggy Company, owned by Clinton Firestone. Clinton’s nephew was Harvey Firestone, who founded the tire company. World War I ace Eddie Rickenbacker was also an employee of the Columbus Buggy Company.
Bicycles that Daniel has restored include a 1950s Jean Aets, named for a Belgian racer who won 11 stages of the Tour de France.
Skipper also considers bicycles as art and history if you know what to look for.
“Each bike had a design of their own,” he said.
Skipper said he collects bicycles because they reflect the culture of their time, and he wants to share that appreciation with the next generation. When he was young, bicycles were also a passport to adventure. One of his fondest memories is the day he and his friends -- the “Carter Street boys” -- decided to ride from Clinton to Deepwater, when you could ride all the way down Hwy.13, before the lake went in.
They only made it to the outskirts of Deepwater, he said, but didn’t make the trip any less memorable.
The oldest bicycle in his collection is a 1948 Schwinn B-6 Autocycle, a fat-tire bike known as the Cadillac of bikes, he said. It was succeeded by the “Black Phantom,” the “King of the 50s.”
He also owns his namesake bicycle, a 1961 Schwinn Skipper.
What Skipper doesn’t own is an example of one of the most famous bike icons in movie history —the Kuwahara BMX bicycle like the ones in “E.T.” He came late to the hobby of bicycle collecting, he said, and for anything collectible, the prices are high. E.T. bikes go for $5,000 to $6,000.
“You can’t touch them,” he said.
Bicycle show protocol calls for not touching the bicycles, Skipper said, much less asking if you can ride them.
A 1983 CHS graduate, Skipper retired three years ago from the Missouri Department of Transportation, where he was a construction inspector for four-lane highways built in the area, including the bypass around Warrensburg. In addition to his passion for bicycles, he is restoring a 1974 Volkswagen bus, a gift from the late Rich Theiler, who owned R.A.T. Rods in Clinton.
Skipper said he has removed five layers of coating from the VW, which is now its original orange. He drives a mid-size black Honda pick-up, which he uses to transport bicycles. He now has a collection of 40, which he keeps in a designated bicycle room at his house. His wife is understanding of his obsession with Schwinn Krate Sting-Rays, he said, and his first love, the ’69 Pea Picker.
The Schwinn factory no longer makes bicycles, Skipper said, but it’s easy to tell the real ones from reproductions — the real ones have a sticker saying “Made in Chicago, Ill.” He recently acquired a pair of Schwinn mechanic’s overalls, with the badge to show they were qualified, that he’ll have on display at the June 17 Bike Fest. Schwinn trained all its own mechanics, he said.
At the June 10 cruise night, the Cruisin’ to Clinton committee is raffling off a Mongoose BMX-style “Stranger Things” freestyle bicycle, like the one seen in the television series.
Truman Lake Moose Lodge 2723, of which Skipper is a member, is holding drawings for three BMX bicycles, a girl’s model, a boy’s bike and an adult Cruiser Classic. Jane Marshall at Walmart helped the lodge acquire the bicycles, Skipper said.
Matt Wray, Brent Winter and Marty Loyd reorganized Cruising’ to Clinton last year. Clinton’s cruise night, on the largest town square in Missouri, is held on the second Saturday of the month, May through September, plus the third Saturday in October. It starts at 4 p.m., and is a family-oriented event, free to participants and spectators. Disc jockey Bud Powell plays classic car songs, Kettlecorn is popping, and the TLC Barbecue Truck has pulled pork and burnt ends for sale, along with sides and soda.
All types of cars are welcome —old, new, original or kit cars., organizers say.
Cruise nights end at 7 p.m. with a drive-through of the grounds of local senior homes, then out to Primitive Olde Crow and Winery for brick-oven pizza and craft beer on tap. For information about Clinton’s cruise night, go to Cruisin’ to Clinton on Facebook.
For Bike Fest information, contact Skipper Buckley at Skip69camero@yahoo.com.
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