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A CENTURY-OLD BIKE TRAVELS THE PATHS OF HILTON HEAD

When I moved to Hilton Head Island in 2012 and discovered its fabulous bike paths and beaches, I decided to restore an old bike that once belong to my father so I could cruise around town. But first, I took it for a ride down memory lane.

My father, Alvin J. Huester, was born in 1921. As a teen, he used the bike to deliver papers and get around his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, during the mid 1930s. His family wasn’t well off and, because it was during the Depression, I can only assume he bought the bike used. Based on some pictures and ads from the Mead Bicycle Co. I found, the bike likely is a Mead Ranger Motorbike, or possible a Deluxe, that was manufactured in the mid-1920s at the Mead factory in Chicago. 

Mead sold the bikes through mail-order catalogs, even offering a 12-month payment plan for families that couldn’t afford the expense — the bikes ranged in price from $18 to $60, quite a bit of money in those days. My father’s bike is a cruiser, so it only has one gear and a coaster brake. It’s made of heavy-gauge steel and has 26-inch wheels, with a rear drop-stand instead of a kickstand to hold it up when parked. 

When my father went off to college, the bike was given to his younger brother Peter. My Uncle Peter was a bit of a pack rat, and he kept the bike until he passed it on to me in 2010. When I received it, it was a mess — the rusty wheels missing half their spokes, dry-rotted tires, no pedals, missing its seat. At the time, I was living in the mountains of North Carolina and a single-speed cruiser couldn’t handle the hills, so I put it in my barn and forgot about it.

Then I moved to Hilton Head, whose flat beaches and level bike paths are more this bike’s speed. Boone Bike and Touring, in Boone, North Carolina, did an excellent job of bringing the bike back to life, restoring it to its former glory without changing the bike’s original features or patina.

I’ve added a few of my own personal touches to my father’s bike — a horn and a small handlebar bag — but nothing that would affect its original charm and personality. I also own a newer, 21-speed bike, but I much prefer riding my father’s. It’s comfortable, smooth and quiet, and always starts a conversation among other bikers who recognize it as a unique machine. Dad died in 1990, so I feel blessed to be able to reconnect with him every time I ride our bike.