The Ancient Bicycle with a Motor in Great Grandma’s Cellar
A True Story by the Editor of Worldwide Bikers
Shortly after I began walking more often than falling, the older kids wanted to play in Great Grandma’s back yard. This was the first time I was both walking and in the back yard. Grandma sensed I was fascinated by the beautiful yard, so she gave me the ‘grand’ tour.
It was a fine New England back yard, with good lawn and occasional boulders and rocks, with a stone wall and huge oak trees along the border, and woods in the back. The yard had apple trees in the center, with fresh apples recently dropped to the ground. On the left side of the yard was a vineyard with grapes that Auntie and Grandma made into home-made grape jelly. Further back was a rock garden. The flowers which were in blossom on my first visit seemed to be replaced by others on subsequent visits. Grandma said that’s because they are perennials, and they bloom at different times of the year.
The house was an ancient building that had been a Wells Fargo building in the late 19th century. The house was amazing, with plank floors that slanted due to their age.
In the garage, was a large hull of a 30’ fishing boat my great uncle was building. After years of working on his Noahs ark, it was ready to be hauled to the sea. It was so large, that although the garage doors were wide, the entire wall of the garage had to be torn down, then put back up.
In the cellar, which was a bit musty, the things that would catch a childs’ interest were old ski’s, a toboggan, some old bicycles, and a motorized bicycle. It looked too heavy to be a regular bicycle. I was so young that I had seen just a few bicycles, and was still looking forward to the day when I would be old enough to ride one. I had never seen a motorized bicycle, and thought it was a splendid idea.
In wide-eyed amazement, I asked Grandma as many questions about it as I could. She told me about my grandfathers’ love of inventing. When they were teens, he and his brother made motorized bicycles before there were any other motorcycles. They actually opened a shop and sold their motorized bicycles. People came from miles around to see, and buy, the motorized bicycles. The first one used a regular bicycle frame and tires. Each one was better and faster than the last. Eventually, they got so fast that the frame, wheels, tires, and brakes were not strong enough, so they made everything stronger, which also meant heavier. I tried to lift it, but couldn’t.
Did they make this one? “No. They bought that one, disassembled it, and put it back together with parts they made so it would go faster. The people who made it called it a motorcycle.”
“Why did they stop making bicycles with motors, Grandma?” It seemed like too wonderful an idea to me to ever stop. I vowed to myself I would ride one some day.
Grandma explained that other people from far away places were also making them, and people began buying them from these other people. Grandpa invented some that would go on snow and even tried to put pontoons on one, with special paddle tires. The pedal version worked, but the motorized version was never perfected.
Grandma knew that I could ask endless questions about the bicycles with motors. “Let’s get some milk and cookies then I’ll show you a cannon your Grandpa made?”
A cannon?! Okay!