I was thrilled and honored to purchase a 1920’s Iver Johnson Firearms Co. flat tracker bicycle at an estate sale this past weekend. The Missus called me at around 2:30 in the afternoon while out hitting the garage sale circuit to tell me that she was at an estate sale with a plethora of vintage goodies at great prices, including a really old bicycle that the proprietor of the sale claimed, “…used to have wooden rims…”. She said I should get over to the sale to check it our quickly because some 12 year old kid was trying to convince his parents that he needed this bike. I was skeptical, as usual, and thought that at 2:30 in the afternoon the only kind of bicycle left at a sale would be some 1970’s British commuter bike, at best. The Missus actually had to come and pick me up and force me to go to the sale to look at it, in case the bratty kid had not already convinced his yuppie parents that he needed a junky old adult bike to throw in his garage.
When we rolled up I sauntered around, acting disinterested, as the family was still at the sale and the kid was still whining. It seems that a price of $100 had been thrown out there by the proprietor of the sale, IF he was going to sell it at all, because he had a sentimental attachment to the bike, as he claimed his grandfather had ridden the bike around the great lakes as a teenager in the 1930’s, on wooden rims, no less. The $100 price tag had the parents put off. I wandered into the garage to check out the goods. The bike was definitely old, but didn’t have wood rims and the seat and handlebars had been updated at some point, along with the rims. The original hub was still there, but newer rims had been retrofitted. The head badge was old but was only partially there and the bike had been ridden hard for many years. It was a single speed tracker with a coaster brake. It was worth the $100 price tag, at least, so I didn’t even bother negotiating. If he was going to sell it at all i knew it would be the $100. We bought it and stuffed it in the back of the Missus’ car and took home my next project, as IF I needed one…
A few days later an article came out in our local paper about the gentleman that had owned the bicycle. His name was Bernard (Barney) Duberow. The article mentioned that infamous bike ride around the Great Lakes, confirming the grandson’s tale, by stating, “As a young man, one of Barney’s fondest memories was riding his single speed bicycle around all of the Great Lakes, a trek of over 1,500 miles with his buddy, Bob Hayes.”
Originally I was going to sell the bike, but I feel the need to restore it in Barney’s memory. I have been obsessed over the past week in researching Iver Johnson bicycles in hopes I could confirm the wooden rim part. Indeed they did have wooden rims, which means I have to obsess over finding a replacement set. Nevertheless, my friend Clay rolled by Casarama the next day to show off his wooden rimmed Racycle flat tracker he just picked up. I can’t believe it is a coincidence, so I will restore the bike, alongside Clay’s Racycle and we will ride in memory of Barney.
For more about Iver Johnson Firearms Co. and the bicycles they built visit their museum website here.