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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Bicycles From The 1800s Take A Ride On Middlebury's Streets

Cyclists were out enjoying the sunny weather in Middlebury this weekend, including some perched atop antique bicycles from the 1800s.

The Henry Sheldon Museum held a demonstration event Sunday in conjunction with its ongoing exhibit "Pedaling Through History: 150 Years of the Bicycle," which features the antique bicycle collection of Glenn Eames. Sunday's event allowed the public to see similar bicycles outside and in use.

"Everybody who sees one usually has a huge smile on their face," Eames said. "The other magical aspect of riding one of these things is how people respond and react to them."

Eames is the founder of the Old Spokes Home in Burlington, a bicycle repair shop that he sold last year. He talked with passersby who stopped to admire his 1889 "Rational Ordinary" style bike with a 50-inch diameter front wheel and a 22-inch back wheel. Eames took a few spins around Middlebury's Main Street roundabout, mixing in with local traffic. 

Watch a compilation of video clips of Eames riding this bike below.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the first pedal-driven bicycle patent by Pierre Lallement, Eames explained. "Pedaling Through History" opened in at the Sheldon Museum in June, and the exhibit continues  through Oct. 16.  Eames' collection of bicycles is on display, and also photos, posters and other memorabilia says Bill Brooks, executive director of the Henry Sheldon Museum. Three rooms are dedicated to the exhibit, with other pieces of the collection spread throughout other historic rooms of the museum.

Members of the "The Wheelmen," a group that celebrates antique bicycles, were also in attendance on Sunday with examples of other styles of nineteenth-century bikes. "The bicycle's time is still here," Eames said. "We aren't looking at some ancient technology. I could get on any of these bicycles and ride to Burlington. Might take me a little longer than a modern road bike, but ... it's still probably the simplest, most effective machine that mankind has ever invented for getting from here to there."

See more antique bicycle photos in the slideshow above.

As Sunday's show-and-tell concluded, Eames and fellow Wheelmen set off on a ride toward Weybridge on some of the antique bicycles.

VPR is a media sponsor of the "Pedaling Through History" exhibit.

Meg Malone was a producer for Vermont Public Radio until January 2020. She joined VPR in May 2016 as digital producer for Vermont Edition.
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