MSU’s Bicycling History

Late 1800s-MSU bike-scene
Scene from campus in late 1800’s. Click photo to enlarge. Click here for high-res. version for printing.

MSU, like many older universities and communities around the country, has a long and storied history around bicycling.  Read on for what information we’ve been able to collect over the years thanks to some good customers, MSU’s University Archives and others.  Have more historical information you’re willing to share?  Please contact Tim with your submission via email.


It’s a fact! The Cycling Club (Team) at MSU has ruled the competitive bicycling scene longer than… well, for a heckuva long time. Read on… The book, “Michigan State, The First Hundred Years”, written by Madison Kuhn & published in 1955 by MSU Press, notes on page 192:

Did you know that the MSU Cycling Club is over 100 years old?

Early MSU Club members standing with high-wheeler
Early MSU Club members standing with high-wheeler circa 1894

“A companion development was the bicycle fad, fostered when the high-wheel type was replaced by the modern, chain-driven, “safety” wheel. Students and faculty formed the M.A.C. Cycling Club in 1894, with a Captain to lead and a Whipper-in to follow each club ride. The club used dues and contributions to build a gravel path to Lansing along the north side of Michigan Avenue. Bicycles and street cars scattered the students in their idle moments and encouraged men to move from the unsupervised dormitories into Lansing homes or into those that were springing up in the Collegeville subdivision that Beal and R.C. Carpenter laid out at the west entrance in 1887.” This rich history of the Cycling Club makes it one of the oldest student clubs at MSU if not the oldest.


MSU’s Sesquicentennial Exhibit – Bikes Rule!

The MSU Museum displayed a spectacular Sesquicentennial exhibit in 2005 to commemorate the 150 years of MSU which features three bikes that you can read about below covering the late 1880’s, early 1900’s and current cycling. The following information relates to these periods and the 3 bikes on exhibit. It’s also encouraging to note that the main display that greets visitors to this exhibit features 3 bicycles in 3 different photos out of 8 or so photos. Let’s hope the importance of cycling wasn’t lost on the thousands of visitors (especially university VIPs) going thru this exhibit.

This special exhibit was a rare glimpse at some of the bikes in the museum’s vast collection that dated back to the late 1800’s.

The following pics show:
– an American Light Champion high-wheeler leading the parade of bikes awaiting their place in the Museum’s Sesquicentennial exhibit (this high-wheeler was made by the Gornaully & Jeffrey Mfg. Co. in 1887; nothing seems to capture this period like the high-wheeler; it is quite the work of art when viewed up close; the rear fork looks so much like current carbon-fiber forks it’s amazing);
– a Deluxe Flyer from about 1927 that was used for commuting to campus by a student from ’49 – ’51 (Note the closeup of the Flyer’s tank & the small clip-spring for the door to the secret compartment; this is a Trail Blazer brand Flyer model is dark maroon with black & gold outlining; a tool compartment is attached to the cross bar; the “Flyer” logo is on a sliding panel; the push-button horn on the handlebars sounds a bit like the old police car horns of yore)
– Ernst “the Can Man” Lucas and his last bike used for collecting cans around campus (Ernie’s Magna was lined up behind the museum’s Flyer). “Mountain” bikes have come to rule the MSU campus since the 1990’s for many obvious reasons and some not so obvious (to us purists). Apparently the beefy tires/ wheels, upright riding position, shocks, etc. are ideal for the hazards of campus life and area roads. A good example of these bikes is one of Ernie’s last used bikes, which is also on display at the museum. Ernie, a friend to many & seen regulary on campus collecting cans using his bikes for hauling his precious cargo, passed away Jan. 2004. Here’s a couple links to more information on Ernie. – State News articleMemorial notice in MSU News Bulletin. The Bike Project donated some parts and time to tune-up Ernie’s bike (left) for the exhibit to make it more presentable.


Early Promoter of Bicycling for Conservation @ MSU

Dr. Milton Muelder, a champion & architect of many important aspects of MSU as we know it today, and recently announced awardee of the 2005 MSU Philanthropist Award, was apparently an early proponent of bicycling to conserve gasoline. This photo was discovered in a book celebrating MSU’s Centennial, “Michigan State: The First Hundred Years” by Madison Kuhn, published by MSU Press in 1955. Caption reads: “Early in WWII, Tom King, Milton E. Muelder, and Karl T. Wright, when gasoline was scarce.”

Milton Muelder-on-bike in '50s
Dr. Milton Muelder riding with friends on the MSU campus
Milton-muelder-cycling-w-friends on MSU Campusiends
Another shot of Milton and friends from University Archives, probably from the same shoot as above.

Other Historical MSU / E. Lansing Bicycling Pics

Here’s more pics from MSU / E. Lansing area cycling history for your viewing pleasure:

MSU-women in early 1900s

Another early photo of a group of MSU women bicyclists. (source: University Archives)

MSU-50s kinesiology bike-based testing

Photo from the 1950’s of early VO2 testing in the Kinesiology dept. possibly? (source: University Archives)

crossroads-imports-storefront One of the many bike shops in E. Lansing during the 1st bike boom in the ’70s: Crossroads Imports & Cycle (source: University Archives)
weathervane-storefront-Un Another shop in E. Lansing selling bikes in the ’70s: The Weathervane (source: University Archives).

If you have a historical story or photo related to cycling at MSU please email us.


Famous MSU Cyclists

MSU’s long tradition in competitive (club) bicycling (see article below on the MSU Cycling Club) has produced a number of world/ national-class bicyclists. Here’s a list of those we’re aware of:

    • Roger Young, '72
      Roger Young, pictured in ’72; photo hanging in Jenison Fieldhouse stairway.
      Roger Young racing on a board track, early '70s
      Roger Young racing on a board track, early ’70s, Wolverine Sports Club kit.

      Roger Young, MBA, Business, ’69, was a member of the ’72 & ’76 Olympic track teams & member of the gold-medal winning US National Team in the Mexico City Pan Am games of 1975 in the 4,000 m pursuit event. See references in “The Evolution of American Bicycle Racing” about Roger’s racing in the ’75 Pan Am games. He was also 6-time national sprint champion and a member of the 1st national track team in ’73. Roger was also the first track director for the Major Taylor Velodrome when it re-opened under that name in 1982. Roger’s sister, Sheila Young, was the first athlete (male or female) to hold world titles in both bicycling and speed skating; both their parents were competitive cyclists and speedskaters (read more about Sheila’s remarkable career); their step-mother, Dorothy, ran Young Originals, a sports clothing company which made jerseys for many sucessful bicyclists over the years especially those in the Wolverine Sports Club.

Jeff_Pierce racing in Pro-Am Criterium in '84 in Detroit
Jeff Pierce racing in Pro-Am Criterium, 1984, Detroit. Photo by Tim Potter
  • Jeff Pierce, ’82, BA, Business, Operations Management – Jeff raced as a professional from ’85 – ’97 (according to this site) on the 7 Eleven Team and then later with the Chevrolet – L.A. Sheriff team. Here’s a photo taken of him the summer of ’84 in Detroit Pro-am crit (by Tim Potter).
  • John-Novitsky-2009-podium at World Championships
    John-Novitsky-2009-podium at World Championships

    John Novitsky, Lyman Briggs, ’81, started to race bicycles mid-life (1998); 2 consecutive US national championship in the individual time trial, for men aged 50-54.   Raced in ’08 & ’09 world championship race.  Has also raced in four US national senior Olympic bike races (two road races, two time trials), and the world time trial championship. Full USA Cycling race record here.

  • Wolfram Meingast, ’79, BS, Mechanical Engineering
  • Christoph Meingast, ’80, BA, Natural Science, Physics Christoph and his other brothers ruled bike racing in Michigan, throughout the midwest and even nationally. See a nice photo of Christoph in the article below about the 6-day Madison races that were held at MSU in ’81.
  • Herb “Always in the Money” Meingast, BS, ’84, Mechanical Engineering. Raced very successfully throughout Michigan and around the country.
  • Klaus_Meingast in 1984
    Klaus Meingast in 1984 Pro-Am Criterium race in Detroit. Photo by Tim Potter

    Klaus Meingast, ’84, BS, Civil Engineering; Here’s a photo taken of him the summer of ’84 in Detroit Pro-am crit (by Tim Potter).

  • Here’s a couple State News articles from the spring of 1975 about the long-running W. Circle Criterium where some of the best bike racers in the country came to compete against our very strong Spartans.  Before race articlePost race report article
  • If you know of other accomplished MSU bicyclists please drop us an email with their information and any photos you have.


Historical Campus Bike Related Files

  • Bike count data and reports (1960- 1993, Campus Planning & Administration archives)
  • Campus bike path map (1974, courtesy University Archives)
  • Bike safety educational 4-H Extension Svc. grant press release (1979, courtesy University Archives)
  • News Bulletin article featuring Phys. Plant employee riding bike for work (1978 – courtesy of Main Library archives)
  • MSU Alumni Magz. article about the first campus bike paths (Oct. 1960, courtesy University Archives)
  • MSU’s bike ordinance (1974, found on back of 1974 map, courtesy University Archives)
  • MSU Bike Ordinance – Notice circa 1949 (first known ordinance, courtesy University Archives)
  • MSU Bike Ordinance – Notice circa 1954 (courtesy University Archives)
  • Bicycles out-pace autos in commuter race (MSU State News, 05-1971, courtesy University Archives)
  • 90 more pages of bike-related articles from the 70s/80s, (courtesy University Archives)
    • Some highlights culled from those articles:
      • The problem of too many bicyclists on sidewalks terrorizing pedestrians has been a big issue since the early ‘70s.
      • The EL Police Dept. appointed their first “bicycle safety director” in 1973 to address the growing numbers of bike-related accidents; in ’73 there were 31,000 registered bikes in EL and 9,700 on campus. (“Police Confront problem of bikes”, Oct. 29, 1973)
      • There were 72 reported bike accidents on campus in the ’72-’73 FY w/ 46 being bike-car accidents. There were 29 in E. Lansing.  (“Police Confront problem of bikes”, Oct. 29, 1973)
      • In ’72-’73 campus police wrote 346 tickets to bicyclists, up 32 from the previous year . (“Police Confront problem of bikes”, Oct. 29, 1973)
      • “The MSU Police have no future plans for educating the campus public on bicycle safety”.  (“Police Confront problem of bikes”, Oct. 29, 1973)
      • The MSU Police Captain quoted said that ticketing will increase with the implementation of a new “improved ticket making it easier for patrolmen to ticket (bicyclists)” that was being reviewed by the St. of Mich. (“Police Confront problem of bikes”, Oct. 29, 1973)
      • There were a total of 156 accidents involving bicycles from 6/73 – 10/74 up from 112 in the same 16 months in the previous year. (“Campus Cycling Risky Business” , 11/13/74)
      • There were about 12,000 cars driven/ parked on campus in ’74 and approx. 12,000 bicycles (“Campus Cycling Risky Business” , 11/13/74)
      • There were an estimated 28,000 bicyclists on campus in Nov. ’75 when a ‘crackdown’ by MSU Police was underway; tickets were a “minimum of $9”. (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)
      • There were 14,000 bicycles registered in ’74 (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)
      • 145 traffic citations to bicyclists were written for moving violations from 7/74 – 7/75 (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)
      • MSU DPS (Police) were working on to “develop a citation form acceptable to both courts that would be used specifically for bicycle violations.” (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)
      • There were 60 bicycle – car accidents in the ’74-’75 school year w/ 44 resulting in personal injury. (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)
      • There were 77 bike-bike accidents in ’74-75 school year  (“Bikers Face Crackdowns”, Nov. 4, 1975)


Historic Bike Safety Commentary

A fellow MSU cyclist dropped off this copy of an old State News article (May 1980) on the topic of bike safety (riding on the road vs. sidewalks) on campus which is very interesting for several reasons.  (Would be nice to see the other editorial referenced here, but we can imagine what it said) You might enjoy reading it to see how things have changed and other things haven’t on our campus.

The most interesting point is that MSU apparently had a mandatory side-path law at the time requiring bicyclists to use sidewalks/ paths and not the roads.  Since our campus (and national safety/ design standards) has evolved and shared-use paths have been developed, designed, installed and marked it makes sense to modify our ordinance again to allow for the safe and responsible use of the paths by bicyclists, but we still are faced with the challenge of encouraging more bicyclists to ride on the roads where they’re safest.


MSU’s Demonstration Hall 6-day Madison Track Races

In the spring of 1980 a track-cycling uber-enthusiast, Dale Hughes, (the designer of the Bloomer Park velodrome track as well as many others around the world incl. the Atlanta Olympic velodrome; here’s a great article about that track and others;  he also organized and ran the Tour de Michigan for about 10 yrs. or so; what a great national pro series of crits those were in the 90’s) came to MSU with 3 tractor trailers loaded with a portable wood velodrome track. Dale was hauling this velodrome circus around the country putting on some of the most exciting 6-day Madison races the country had seen in over 50 yrs. The whole thing, 125 m approx. in length, fit neatly inside your average hockey rink with a little room leftover. This was the first track that I had seen and got to ride in person; as a 16 yr. old it left a huge impression on me and I continue to love tracks and the machines that are designed for the banks (I also ended up marrying the daughter of a former Japanese pro-track (keirin) racer). One of the extremely steep banks had the Schwinn logo on it and the other Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” album cover art; very suitable for those banks as they were well over 45 degrees and would feel like a wall if you hit one head-on!

Anyway, we just rec’d some old treasures by a local former bike racer, Bob Pratt; they’re newspaper clippings and photos that he kept from the 6-day Madison races in Demonstration Hall.

Additionally, MSU’s Cycling Club & IM Sports (with support from the ASMSU) also hosted a big criterium race that attracted some of the best bike racers in the country and collegiate race teams; the race course went around West Circle Dr. and they were called the MSU Criterium/ IM Race; Bob gave me some scans of a program, an actual ticket from the races and a news article from the 1980 (approx) race, but so far I have no action photos.  Help!  Here are two articles (before and after reports) from the May 1975 State News about the races that year that were discovered in the MSU University Archives.

Here are the scans!

6-day-dem-hall-races-article-1 6-day-dem-hall-races-article-2 dem-hall-racing-SN-article-may-1980_Page_1 dem-hall-racing-SN-article-may-1980_Page_2
dem-hall-racing-SN-article-may-1980_Page_3 dem-hall-racing-SN-article-may-1980_Page_4dem-hall-velodrome-article_resizeDem Hall Madison Races ticket, May 1980

dem-hall-velo-race-program1_resize dem-hall-velo-race-program2_resize

Captions:  Yes, that’s local cyclist Lenny Provencher officiating one of his first international pro races.  That’s a very happy Christoph Meingast (lower left); Chris was one of 5 Michigan brothers and MSU student who dominated bike racing in the mid-west and nationally for a long time.  MSU 6-Day Indoor Cycling Classic, Schedule of Events, April 15, 1980 (2 pgs).


MSU’s West Circle Criterium Races

Not certain what years these happened but they were big deals attracting some of the best bike racers in the country, and not just collegiate racers, both men and women as early as 1971 as you can see below from a collection of photos recently found in the MSU Archives.  Unfortunately there were no names recorded with these photos, so if you happen to know some names please email them to us so we can identify them here.  I did hear from one of our local alums who used to race that at some point the races were moved to south campus for liability reasons and then only happened a couple more years before dying out sadly.  Our MSU Cycling Club continues to host a spring classic bike race each year which I believe is the first big race on the Big 10 collegiate racing schedule.

 

 

Here are some articles and flyers from the races:

MSU Cycling Club hosts spring bike race
MSU Cycling Club hosts spring bike race, May, 9 1975, MSU State News article, courtesy MSU University Archives
Colorful-cycle-race-on-campus-compliments-spring-day-at-MSU-05-12-75
Colorful Cycle Race on Campus compliments spring day at MSU, May, 12 1975, MSU State News article, courtesy MSU University Archives
msu-club-race-race-results_resize
(MSU) Cycling Club races results from May, 1980
msu-crit-race program
MSU Cycling Club’s MSU Criterium Race program, circa late ’70s early ’80s

 


 

E. Lansing Bike Co-op

For many of us old-time bicyclists in the area our introduction to bicycle mechanics was courtesy of the E. Lansing Bike Co-op, which used to be located in the building on Grand River just West of the alley next to the old Taco Bell (which sat at the corner of Bailey St. and Grand River). This co-op was a treasure trove of experienced bike mechanics (some paid, some volunteers) who helped others work on their bikes. Unfortunately, I can’t locate a photo of the Co-op (if you happen to have one please send it to me). One of the first mechanics, Donald Ayers-Marsh, recently contacted me and has this to share about the Co-op.

“To let you in on some history, The Bike Co-op was founded in 1974 at a meeting of people who were mostly already involved in the housing co-ops. We were founded as a member owned not-for-profit with a goal of offering the best service and fair pricing. The store first opened in the middle of winter in a tiny brick building about 10 ft across on Evergreen Ave just behind the Gibson’s bookstore building. I remember Ralph Ellis, Tom Moore and Chris Johnson as well as myself being among the first people involved.
By 1976 we had moved to 547 E. Grand River Ave, occupying part of two floors in the back of the building and eventually storing used bikes waiting for repair in the basement. The Bike Co-op had the best repair turnaround in town and close to the biggest volume. We had a paid mechanic staff, some of whom completed a 60 hour Bicycle Technician Course, as well as some volunteers who helped with stocking and sales and the bike clinic. We were very proud of our repair quality and tracked all guarantee work. We actually had a 7 day no-flat guarantee on tire and tube repairs.
The Co-op had a large market in used bikes (many of which were produced at our winter mechanic courses) and sold new bikes as well. We also sold and rented cross country skis for a time. We offered a winter storage program, one option of which was free storage with a complete overhaul. The Co-op offered the only public repair clinic in town and did a lot of bicycle and safety education on and off campus.”

Discovered an article in the MSU University Archives stash from the State News in 1976.  Check it out here or click image below.

EL-bike-co-op-offers-wide-range-of-services-01-1976
E. Lansing Bike Co-op article, Jan. 1976

 


1950 MSU Alumna Donates Raleigh Bought in ’47

Ed Farmer (1950 alumna and former Kellogg Center Conference Consultant – retired 1989) bought this bike used in 1947 at a bike shop that used to be located where the current day Brody complex sits. He traded a 1-spd. Schwinn plus $75 for it. It was stolen 3 times while on campus. Lights/ generator worked fine. Rear wheel had never been off! This bike was sold in 2013.  Click here for more pics of this fine machine.

Mr. Farmer's 1936 Raleigh
1936 Raleigh donated by ’50 grad, Ed Farmer.  Click pic for more details of this lovely old bike.


MSU’s Bicycle Racing Theme Yearbook – 1978

Recently discovered in the MSU Alumni Assoc. library of old yearbooks is this lovely yearbook apparently designed by a bicycle racing enthusiast, but who didn’t have enough editorial clout to get much more than a design theme. There’s nothing in the content about the MSU Cycling Club which surely had to have been very active during this hey-day of bicycling in the USA. Anyone know of other MSU yearbooks that feature some of the bike racing action in the 60’s-70’s? Drop us an email (include a scanned image if possible). The West-Circle Drive criterium race was a huge event for a decade or so until the insurance/ liability issues forced it off campus and then to obscurity according to our sources (former Cycling Club advisors).

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Author: Tim Potter

Sustainable Transportation Manager, MSU Bikes Service Center; member of the All University Traffic & Transportation Committee (http://auttc.msu.edu); founding member of MSU Bike Advisory Committee (https://msubikes.wordpress.com/volunteer-donate/msu-bac/); advocate for local & regional non-motorized transportation issues thru the Tri-Co. Bike Assn. Advocacy Committee (http://groups.google.com/group/tcatc); board member of the Ride of Silence (http://www.rideofsilence.org); year-round bicyclist of all sorts; photographer; soccer player; father of 3; married 30 yrs. to Hiromi, Japanese national (daughter of former Natl. Keirin Champion, Seiichi Nishiji); Christ follower.

5 thoughts on “MSU’s Bicycling History”

  1. I think you need to mention the TCBA Rides from Y-Lot in MSU cycling lore. Many of the first DALMACs started from there. They are special to me since I met my wife on a TCBA Wednesday night Y-Lot ride during the summer of 1979.

    1. Didn’t know about the MSU Mountain Biking Club nor the Fat Tire Club. I do remember (fondly) racing in the MSU Police mountain bike races in the early to mid 90’s on the Ag Expo grounds; I’ll have to look for some pics from those races. If you send me more info. about those clubs (pics especially) I’d be happy to include them!

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