2018-10-06 / News

Retro Colors, Gleaming Fenders Showcased at Vintage Bike Show

By Stephanie Fortino


Participants in the Mackinac Island Vintage Bike Ride and Show gather at Marquette Park before heading off on a bike ride around the Island Saturday, September 22. Participants in the Mackinac Island Vintage Bike Ride and Show gather at Marquette Park before heading off on a bike ride around the Island Saturday, September 22. Vintage bicycle enthusiasts gathered here for the second Mackinac Island Vintage Bike Ride and Show Saturday, September 22. Participants brought about 30 bicycles in an array of colors and styles from across Michigan. The day began with a leisurely bike ride around the Island and ended with a show at the base of the Father Marquette statute, where owners shared the stories of their bicycles and the improvements that were made to them.

Among participants was John Cooper of Eaton Rapids, who came with his parents, John and Leigh. The 16-year-old was among the youngest participants, although one wouldn’t know it based on his vast knowledge of bicycles and mechanics. Back at his family’s farm, John has about 70 vintage bicycles and more than 30 other bicycles as part of his business, The Kid. The young mechanic purchases used bicycles, refurbishes them, then sells them, mostly to new students at Michigan State University. Living so close to East Lansing, John has an endless supply of college student customers, his father says.


Sixteen-year-old bike mechanic and collector John Cooper is flanked by his parents, John and Leigh. The family brought four bikes to the Vintage Bike Ride and Show, including (from left) a 1978 Schwinn Varsity, a 1957 Schwinn Hollywood, a 1962 Schwinn American, and a 1974 Schwinn Suburban. Sixteen-year-old bike mechanic and collector John Cooper is flanked by his parents, John and Leigh. The family brought four bikes to the Vintage Bike Ride and Show, including (from left) a 1978 Schwinn Varsity, a 1957 Schwinn Hollywood, a 1962 Schwinn American, and a 1974 Schwinn Suburban. To the show here the Coopers brought a red 1978 Schwinn Varsity that the elder John Cooper purchased with his own money when he was 15. Young John’s real passion, or “addiction” as his father calls it, is vintage bikes. He likes to collect the family series of each make and model, the men’s and women’s versions as well as the boy’s and girl’s bicycles. Back home, he has bicycles stashed in many of the family’s barns, and he’s always adding more.


The original headlamp on the 1923 Peerless features green and red jewels to indicate the direction of travel at night, like marine vessel lights. The original headlamp on the 1923 Peerless features green and red jewels to indicate the direction of travel at night, like marine vessel lights. The younger John Cooper brought with him a striking violet 1957 Schwinn Hollywood, which he was drawn to by the color, a 1962 black Schwinn American, which was the only Schwinn made entirely in America, and an orange 1974 Schwinn Suburban that he found buried in a field. Each bicycle has a unique story and features that John was happy to share with everyone at the show.

The family was unable to attend the event last year, but made sure they didn’t miss it in 2018. Mrs. Cooper even purchased a subscription to the Town Crier to learn when this year’s event was to be held.


Charlie Puttkammer shows off his father’s circa 1910 Westfield bicycle, which has been restored by Vintage Bike Ride and Show founder Casey Leithauser. Charlie Puttkammer shows off his father’s circa 1910 Westfield bicycle, which has been restored by Vintage Bike Ride and Show founder Casey Leithauser. John’s favorite bike at the show was a 1965 copper tone Schwinn American owned by Gene Fradette of Cheboygan. Mr. Fradette purchased the bicycle when he was just 13 years old, using the money he earned on his Detroit Free Press paper route. With gleaming fenders, a glittering body, and the original carrier that he added on for $3.95, Mr. Fradette has taken excellent care of the bicycle over the years, said his wife, Carol. Mr. Fradette even has a copy of the original bill of sale, showing he paid $56.95.

Mrs. Fradette, who works for Arnold Freight, also brought a vintage bike over for the show, a 1977 Schwinn Breeze. The 41-year-old bicycle features the original black metal and leather seat her son used to ride on. His children also enjoy the seat while going for bike rides with their grandma.


Angela and Andy Thompson of Rockford were happy to ride around the Island on a 1982 Schwinn Deluxe Twinn tandem that was previously rented to visitors here by Orr Kids Bike Shop. Angela and Andy Thompson of Rockford were happy to ride around the Island on a 1982 Schwinn Deluxe Twinn tandem that was previously rented to visitors here by Orr Kids Bike Shop. Returning to the Vintage Bike Show were Andy and Angela Thompson of Rockford. This year, they rode a red 1982 Schwinn Deluxe Twinn 5 tandem bicycle, which actually came from the old Orr Kids Bike Shop on the Island. The bicycle was welded in 1980 right before a large labor strike, Mr. Thompson explained, and it was assembled in June 1982. It was one of the last bicycles assembled at Schwinn’s factory in Chicago, which he discovered by looking at stamps on the frame and head badge.

Mr. Thompson received the tandem from Grand Hotel historian Bob Tagatz, who traded it for restoration work on his grandfather’s 1923 Peerless. Mr. Tagatz could not attend the bike show, but Mr. Thompson shared the vintage bike with the participants, explaining the work he had done to it.


Deluxe features include this generator-powered light on John Cooper’s 1974 Schwinn Suburban, which he found buried in a field. Deluxe features include this generator-powered light on John Cooper’s 1974 Schwinn Suburban, which he found buried in a field. The bicycle was purchased by Mr. Tagatz’s grandfather, who used it until the 1940s in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, as his daily transportation to work. It features the original basket and lamp, which is adorned with green and red jewels to signify which direction it is traveling, much like the lights on a boat, Mr. Thompson explained. It also features a kickstand that folds up under the back fender and a gear plate with a star in the middle.

Annex cottager Charlie Puttkammer brought his father’s bicycle to the Vintage Bike Show. His father, Ernst W. Puttkammer, purchased the circa 1910 Westfield while attending Princeton. It features the original frame and seat, but has new wooden wheels, wooden grips, chain, and hub.

Vintage Bike Show founder Casey Leithauser restored the bicycle for Mr. Puttkammer, which hangs with other antique bikes in the lobby of Star Line’s old Union Terminal Piers dock.

“I had allowed it to deteriorate terribly,” Mr. Puttkammer said, “and Casey restored it.”

The bicycle has spent many years on Mackinac Island, as Mr. Puttkammer’s father spent nearly every summer here, from the time he was born in 1891 until he passed away in 1977. The only summer he wasn’t here was when he was a private in the U.S. Army during World War II.

Charles Puttkammer rode the bicycle in the Vintage Bike Show and Ride last year, as well.

Other first year participants included Joan and Barry Schubring of Menominee, who brought two tank bikes with them. Tank bikes, Mrs. Schubring explained, feature frames that mimic motorcycles, originating when Harley-Davidson started making bicycles in the 1950s.

Mrs. Schubring’s CBC Ross is more of a rat rod, she said, as she has collected parts from different bicycles over the years, customizing it to her tastes. She added 1950s vintage fenders to the 1970s frame and decorated the fenders with blue and green paisley decals.

Mr. Schubring also rode a tank bike, a red JC Higgins from the 1950s. The model was sold at Sears stores, he said, noting he added fenders to it from a beach cruiser bicycle.

Tank bikes were known for their looks, as the designs mimic motorcycles. While the faux gas tanks look cool, they also made the bikes much heavier, Mrs. Schubring said. Many vintage tank bikes have had the tanks removed over the years to make the bicycles lighter and faster. Her bicycle didn’t have the fender, but she has since added one.

Some of the earliest tank bikes also featured small two-stroke engines, Mr. Shubring said.

The couple has about 15 vintage bicycles, which they take to bicycle shows all over Michigan.

Mr. Leithauser was delighted with the turnout for the second event, which exceeded last year’s participation. He was also thankful the weather on the first day of autumn cooperated, with sunny skies and relief from the strong winds the day before. He is already looking forward to next year, noting the event may be moved to early June to ensure better weather.

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