For many of us, our first taste of freedom in childhood came with our first bicycle. While memories fade and first cars replace first bikes, not so with Jim Walstrom. He not only still proudly keeps his middle-weight 1960 Schwinn Spitfire in his garage, but also several other vintage bicycles he is restoring.
“All of the guys in my neighborhood could ride their bikes really early, and I couldn’t ride until I was 7,” Walstrom says. “I was late coming to it, but once I got started I never quit.”
Walstrom credits his love of bikes to his father. When he was about 7 years old, his father repainted the bike he often rode to work.
“It was shiny and bright, and I liked the idea of restoring things,” Walstrom says. “I loved that bicycle.”
Visitors to Walstrom’s garage will see several vintage bicycles in various states of restoration, but he doesn’t restore just any bike. His preferences run toward bikes manufactured between 1930 and 1960.
Walstrom explains that 1933 was the first year bicycle manufacturers began building bikes as toys for children. Prior to that, bicycles were primarily built for transportation. Walstrom’s 1952 Schwinn is a good example of the bicycle toy market. The Schwinn emblem on the front of the bicycle shows a picture of a train, a plane and an automobile. It is easy to see how, in a child’s imagination, the rider of the bicycle could become an engineer, a pilot or the driver of a car.
“I’m very grateful to Ignaz Schwinn who historically made bicycles toys,” Walstrom says.
Bicycles last sported big balloon tires in 1959. Walstrom says this is the reason why he loses interest in bikes manufactured after 1960.
Walstrom’s bicycle roots run deep, but what really motivates him to restore bikes is his sense of stewardship. Speaking with Walstrom, visitors are struck by his strong belief that vintage bicycles should be ridden, not just restored.
“I have responsibilities to these bicycles and the people who had them,” Walstrom says. “There’s nothing worse than having something that is not used. Everything needs to be of use.”
Contact Darren at 953-4822 ext. 304 or email@example.com to recommend someone for an upcoming issue of “What’s In Your Garage?”