Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Give us some background to your company. American Vintage Bicycle Supply simply finds neglected bicycles and parts and gets them into the hands of enthusiasts in the vintage and antique bicycle community. I love finding a bicycle rotting in the back of an old barn and get it back on the road. I specialize in 1930s to 1960s bicycles, so most of these bikes have been out of commission for years! Whether I refurbish it, or get it in the hands of someone who will, I love seeing these old machines being cherished again.
(ABOVE: Tyler Newsome with his girlfriend Hannah. The bike is a 1936 Elgin Bluebird.)
Interview: Tim Schamber
What spawned this? It started after I graduated high school in May 2013. Turning what was always a hobby into something more was difficult at first. I hated letting go of each bicycle I found, but that’s why I started AVBS. I knew that I could not keep all the bicycles I found and pay my bills each month, especially since I was headed to college that fall.
Where did the love for vintage bikes come from? When I was about 12, I found an old bicycle at a classic-car swap meet. I was told that I could not start working on building a hot rod until I had proved that I was ready for all the work. I found a 1955 Western Flyer bike at the swap meet and started tearing it down, cleaning the old ball bearings, sanding down the paint and finding some new wheels and tires. After about a month, the bike was back on the road. By then, I had forgotten about the car I wanted to build and kept looking for more old bikes.
ABOVE: A typical find for Newsome. When he refurbishes bikes, he tries to keep them as original as possible.
How do you find this stuff? Since I have been at this for about eight years, I have built a great group of local friends and contacts. Leads get passed on and before you know it everyone has an old bicycle they want me to come see. Sometimes I find five or 10 bicycles a week, and sometimes I can only find a few each month. Staying connected on my AVBS Facebook and Instagram pages has helped me find other collectors and enthusiasts.
“For me, it’s all about the hunt.”
What’s been your biggest find? My best find just rolled into the shop in November. I was lucky enough to find an 1885 Columbia high wheeler. About a year ago, I met the owner of the bicycle. He shared with me that he rode a century on that high wheeler back in the 1990s. I gave him my number and asked him to call if he ever wanted to sell. He called me in early November and I was there what seemed like the next day and proudly brought the bike home.
Take us through the process of rehabbing a vintage bike? When I refurbish antique bicycles, I make sure to keep everything as original as possible. I never want to take away the original finish and/or patina. Everyone wants something authentic, and nothing is more authentic than the original paint and chrome plating. Next, I clean out all the old grease and grime and replace it with clean grease. Last, I make sure the bike is dialed in. Even if it looks 100 years old, it still needs to ride like new.
How big is the thrill of the process for you? For me, it’s all about the hunt. When I find something really rare, I instantly get pumped, go to social media and share my find with the AVBS followers. Nothing is cooler than bringing an old bicycle back in the light—cobwebs, critter nests and all.
Which brand or model is your Holy Grail? My Holy Grail would probably be the Schwinn Aerocycle. Even though that bike was produced in the mid-1930s, it looks cooler than anything on the market today. I just so happen to know where one is, but it’s not for sale—yet.
Ever find something you knew nothing about? The first time I found a wood-rim bicycle I had no idea what I was looking at. Since then I have grown to love anything pre-1933 and I actually have one sitting on the mantle over my fireplace.
Online at facebook.com/AmericanVintageBicycleSupply and Instagram @americanvintagebicyclesupply
ABOVE: That’s the 1885 Columbia high wheeler. Newsome is 6’3”!
From issue 50 of PELOTON. Buy it here.