Paul Schmidt's Bicycle Page:
Antique & Historic Cycling
(Part 2 - The Wheelmen)




About The Wheelmen

I used to ride my highwheel bikes around the neighborhood and for small local parades, but I never really started enjoying the activity, at least as more than a passing novelty, until I joined The Wheelmen. This is a national group with many international members, and is organized within the States according to state chapters. Each state that has more than a couple of members has a State Captain, and the captain organizes rides, formal 'meets', assists members with mechanical issues, helps train new members, acts as the contact and spokesperson for the organization, and in general contributes to functioning of the club. 

This website shows only a few of the Wheelmen activities. For more information, use this link: The Wheelmen

Some Wheelmen

Fellowship >

One of the primary functions of The Wheelmen is to get people out and riding their old bikes. To this end, the State Captains, as well as other riders, schedule small and informal rides, often in places with nice scenery or historical importance.

Here, some Illinois riders are enjoying a ride along the historic I&M Canal southwest of Chicago.


Larger or more formal events are called 'Meets ' and my include riders for one or more states. Here riders from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois are posed to duplicate an historic photo in the town of Mantorville, Minnesota. The photo session was sandwiched between a morning ride through the countryside and a late afternoon feast.

Initiation >

Wheelmen are always eager to show off their bikes and riding techniques, and are keen to introduce others to the experience. Here a youngster is given his first 'ride', while a more experienced youth waits with his child's bike.

< Education

Wheelmen stage many events geared to educating the public about bicycle history, allowing them to get up close and personal with bikes they may have seen only in pictures. Here, the Illinois chapter of  The Wheelmen has a booth at The Chicago Bicycle Show at Navy Pier.

Getting the hang of it >

There is some danger in riding highwheel bikes, both to the rider and the bike, so many owners refuse to allow 'civilians' to mount their machines. Still, when the situation is right, demonstration rides may be given. This rider has signed a waiver before getting his first ride at a bike show.

Some Parade Tricks

< Legs over the bars

The Wheelmen ride in lots of parades, and riders have mastered several tricks that entertain the crowd and show that these bikes are not just for stately riding. Here is the easiest stunt; even this one takes a bit of getting used to to do it comfortably.

Side riding >

A slightly more advanced trick is to stand on the mounting peg and ride along side the bike. It is possible to do this without touching the handlebars, waving to the crowd with both arms!


< Look hands!

Audience favorite is the more difficult technique of riding no-hands. It is easier to coast no-hands on the highwheel than to pedal no-hands, since the pedaling force tends to swing the wheel sideways.

Supine >

Few riders have mastered the supine riding position, which is coasting while laying on one's back across the seat and handle bars. The more advanced riders can do this while performing figure-eights.

< Saddle standing

Another nice trick is the saddle stand. Not difficult to do, once the rider has managed to get into that position. The rider also needs to learn to get back down smoothly and gently to avoid breaking the bike's backbone (it has happened).

The Brace >

Requiring experience, good technical riding skills and coordination, the brace can be performed by two or more riders, either moving or stopped.

< The Pyramid

An advanced brace with one or more extra riders, this is a trick seldom performed.

The Wheelie >

Only a few of the best trick riders have mastered the 'track stand' where the bike is balanced without moving, by alternately applying forward and reverse torque on the pedals. This is the only rider I have seen that can do the track stand using only the front wheel; a stationary wheelie! It's only a hair's breadth from becoming a 'header'.



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Copyright Paul Schmidt 2002