Juston Anderson is a collector, but it isn’t just old bikes he’s after. The Captain of the Minnesota Wheelmen and co-founder of the Cycling Museum of Minnesota prizes the stories he’s collected more than the bikes themselves.
When we meet up to chat in the church basement where the Cycling Museum is currently located, he tells me, “I view the bike as the prop for the story. The story is the main thing; you can tell so many great stories with a bike.”
I’ve met Juston before, on group bike rides that took me to the Cycling Museum. Then, as now, his enthusiasm for old bikes is infectious. The museum has moved and evolved since I first encountered it above Recovery Bike Shop. Now taking up two rooms in Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral off Hennepin in an space aptly named The Vault, the museum looks like a collector’s storage locker. A couple bikes are proudly on display: One of the first bikes for women from 1890s with its skirt guard, wooden rims, and inflatable seat; and a towering penny-farthing bicycle, the kind you’d imagine a dapper fellow in a tweed jacket riding across a black and white movie screen.
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Juston Anderson stands in front of the bike collection at the Cycling Museum of Minnesota, and a Columbia Lady’s Pneumatic Safety Bicycle, ca. 1897 // Photos by Dan Murphy
Most of these bikes are on loan from Juston, though the collection as grown along with the museum, and they all have their stories. There’s the Japanese bike from the ‘50s still sporting its shipping label, unique for its incredible attention and for the fact that it was imported during a time when anti-Japanese sentiments were still widespread in the U.S. There’s the bike produced by Lindsay Brothers here in Minneapolis, a company that made farm equipment but branched out into bicycle manufacturing during the bicycle boom of the 1890s. My personal favorite is the courting tandem, a bike specifically designed so proper gentlemen could take their ladies on a ride, all while dressed in their finest formal wear, of course.
The history of women and cycling is especially interesting to Juston. “One of my favorite aspects of cycling is what it did for women and the role it played in women’s freedom and their rights,” he says. He loves reading and collecting stories written by 19th century women cyclists, and the articles written by men who were opposed to women cycling. “There are some that were written by doctors about how it’s okay for men to ride bicycles but if a woman rides a bicycle her organs are going to become dislodged,” he says, laughing at the absurdity.
Juston’s interest in old bikes came about through a love of cycling and plain curiosity. It was one of those iconic high wheel bikes that was the first in his collection. He thought they looked ridiculous and impossible to stay upright on, but soon a different problem presented itself. His first ride on his first penny-farthing took him around the block once, then twice, until he realized he had no idea how to get down. After a couple more laps, he crashed the bike in front of his house. He says, “I was laying on the grass and I remember laughing.” It was exhilarating, and he was hooked.
This love eventually led him to the Minnesota Wheelmen, a group whose purpose is collecting, restoring, and riding antique bicycles. The club in its current form has been around since 1967, though they trace their roots to the League of American Wheelmen from 1880. If you were to attend an annual meet, you’d be strongly encouraged to participate in a 100-mile ride. “They really want you to get out and do a century, because that’s what they did back in the 19th century,” Juston says, “They got together and they rode 100 miles in one day.”
Minneapolis, with its cycling trails and modern commitment to complete streets, seems an ideal location for the Cycling Museum whose mission “celebrates how cycling has shaped our culture and communities and provides us with tools to transform the future.” Juston along with Brent Fuqua and Seth Stattmiller incorporated the museum in July 2014 after months of planning with members of the local museum community. That September the Cycling Museum secured a grant for collections management from the Minnesota Historical Society and became an official nonprofit in January 2015. By the next January, the museum moved to its current location, The Vault at Saint Mark’s.
Though the museum is still in its infancy, Juston’s hopes for it are anything but small. He looks forward to the day when they’ll have a brick and mortar location and regular hours, so it can become a destination for antique bike enthusiasts around the country. “I want our museum to be the biggest cycling museum in the world, square footage and number of bikes. I want our website to be the number one go-to for everything cycling related,” he says. “I want it to be everything.”