After a great brunch in Fairfax, CA, my partner and I walked across the street to the Marin Museum of Bicycling. It’s a fairly small place with a ton of history contained within. It’s run by volunteers and we’re happy to donate a few dollars to see the place. The Igler collection is worth it alone, never mind the rest.
While in the museum, the woman volunteering that morning mentioned the curator was in today. Having heard his name a few times, he popped out from the backroom with a big smile and asked if we’d like to learn the history of cycling. Of course, we said yes. His enthusiasm alone was pretty infectious. I’ve read a lot about the topic, and spend a lot of time looking at very old bicycles in various European museums. However, it’s always great to learn more about the topic.
A quote from Susan B. Anthony has always stuck with me.
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel…the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.”
This is a large part of the history of the bicycle. It was the great equalizer. So much so that women’s fashion was forever changed into more natural fitting clothing to allow women to ride, and to ride with other women and men alike. The bicycles was the high technology of its day. The mechanics of riding, the gears, how to wire a wheel, etc. We’re still experimenting today with better setups, such as pinion gears, belt drives, electronic shifters, etc. The history and rapidity of improvement are on display in the museum.
“So, are you interested in the history of the rest of the museum?”
Such an innocent question, and I almost said no, after having spent an hour on the first 150 years of bicycling. Of course, the curator was so excited, we couldn’t help but say yes. I’m very glad we did. The curator was Joe Breeze himself. This didn’t become obvious until one casual sentence, “and there we were, on our 1950s kids bikes, bombing down the mountainside.” He’s pictured along with Gary Fisher, Ritchey, and other names from that era. His Breezer number 1 is on display. He knew the entire history of mountain biking, since he basically created it. He knows the people, their attitudes, their histories, and relays all of this with a humble, matter-of-fact storyline. After the tour was finished, we had a decent conversation about the “other 99% of riders” who don’t want to race on the road or mountains. This is where changing the world is done. Electrics are the next big change.
I’m not going to repeat the stories here, but just encourage every biking fanatic to head to the Marin Museum of Bicycling in Fairfax, CA and experience it for yourself.
The place is amazing. Of course it is, it has Joe Breeze as the curator.