Event to showcase classic bicycles - with special salute to Schwinn Stingray
"On the internet, as far as the antique and classic bicycle hobby goes, the conversation is: 'What are you bringing to Ann Arbor?' 'I'll see you in Ann Arbor,'" says Paul Kleppert, who runs the Ann Arbor Classic Bicycle & Mini-Bike Show and Swap Meet with his wife, Anne Kleppert.
In its 33rd year, the enormous exhibition and swap meet will fill all 7 buildings at the Washtenaw County Farm Council Grounds on Sunday with about 250 vendors, according to Kleppert. More than 7,000 bicycles showed up last year. "We have grown to the largest show of its kind in the country," he says.
Kleppert has a lot of fun stories about rare classic or collectible bicycles that people have brought to the show to swap or signed up for the Poor Man's Auction. Sometimes people do not even know what they have and start a bidding war.
"There are many stories about people coming in with a bike their grandfather had, and no idea in the world what it was. You never know what might be hanging in the garage," he says. His favorite example: "There was a bicycle from the 1930's known as the 'Death Bike.' When it was manufactured, they developed a suspension system for the front wheel. It would break and send kids over the handle bars. The front wheel would fly off and you went straight over. They recalled it and thought they got them all. But sure enough, this guy comes to the show with one of these 'Death Bikes.' He had no idea how extremely rare it is."
Major highlights include this year's theme, which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Schwinn Stringray. "We will have a significant display of Stringrays from 1963, their first year," Kleppert says. "Those bikes set the entire tone of bikes from kids from then on. It really went from Stringrays to Krates to BMX," he says of the model's historical significance.
Something new this year: There will be a special display featuring Rat Rod bicycles. "They are some of the neatest looking bikes that people have made out of junkers. It is like having a car with a Ford fender on one end and a GM fender on the other, and a hood off a Chrysler. They are put together in pieces and some of them end up being absolutely astounding," Kleppert says.
Another type of bicycle to look out for is the customized lowrider. "These are like works of art that people create. A lot of young kids are doing these customized bikes," Kleppert explains. You can also buy parts to customize your own.
And as in past years, Frank Mattison will hold an "Old-school Mini-bike Show & Swap Meet" at the event, which will feature gas-powered bikes and parts.
Adults who buy bikes at the show are usually just as excited as the kids, according to Kleppert. "As you get older, you start looking for things that made you happy as a child. Now you can get that bicycle that your parents never bought you, and you can ride it and feel like a kid," he says.
The first time he attended the bike show, he found a long-lost friend. "I found my 1959 Columbia Newsboy Special that I had when I was a kid. Mine got stolen. This one was brand new. It felt great to have my bicycle back again," he recalls.
The show's success is evidenced by how prime the real estate has become. "I'm astonished when I look through all the names of the vendors and see how many of them have been coming here for over 20 years. And it's almost like the vendor spaces are being passed down from one generation to the next. My son wants my spot now," Kleppert says.
The show runs 8 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday, April 28, at the Washtenaw Farm Council Grounds, 5055 Ann Arbor-Saline Road. Admission: $4 (children under age 10, free). Free parking.