An Early History of Bicycling in Detroit

Below is a brief five year span of early Detroit bicycling history.

Landmarks of Detroit;  By Robert Budd Ross,  George Byron Catlin,  Clarence Monroe Burton

The Detroit Bicycle Club was organized in the spring of 1879. There were only a few persons in Detroit who rode bicycles at that time, the membership did not exceed twenty, and there was no club house.

In the summer of 1886 there was a State bicycle meet in Detroit, under the auspices of the local club. The membership increasing, the club rented a club house on Miami avenue near Wilcox street, and from thence to another near Bagley.

In 1890 the members of the Star Bicycle Club, which had been organized a few years before became members of the Detroit Bicycle Club; the name was changed to Detroit Wheelmen; the club was incorporated; the club house was removed to  No. 64 Washington avenue; and about 125 members rode through Canada on their bicycles to Niagara Falls, a distance of some 300 miles, where the League of American Wheelmen held their national convention.

In 1891 the national body held its annual meeting in Detroit, at which time one of the bicycle shows held in the United States was held in the Auditorium, and an exhibition of first class bicycle racing was given on the old Hamtramck course, on Jefferson avenue.

In 1892 a twenty-five mile road race was contested on Belle Isle Park, and W.C. Rands of Detroit, made the distance in one hour and fifteen minutes — the fastest on record.

In 1893 the club house was removed to No. 298 Randolph street. A road race was held on Belle Isle, and the world’s amateur record was broken by W.B. Hurlburt in one hour eleven minutes and fifty nine seconds.

In 1894 another road race was held on Belle Isle, and W.W. Grant won in record time of 1:00:26.5. In 1895 the club promoted another road race on Belle Isle. This time A. Callahan of Buffalo, won in 1:07:48.8. This was the last road race promoted by the club, but it has always been foremost in putting on track race meets in which the best talent participated, and they have generally been successful from a financial standpoint. Several fast riders have been developed in the club, the most notable being Tom Cooper.

The next club house was built by the club at an expense of about $40,000. It is at Nos. 53 and 55 Adams avenue east, is built of stone and brick, three stories in height with a basement, a fine auditorium, bowling alley, billiard and whist tables, baths, library, kitchen, dining room, etc. The membership is about 450, and the present offlcers are: President, Charles W. Lloyd; first vice-president, Pearce M. Bland; second vice-president, J. H. Hungerford; secretary, Fred C. Winckler; financial treasurer, Frank L. Chidsey; treasurer, George C. Sharer; captain, Frank J. Kremer; directors, L. Vineburg, H.E. Perry, Frank Byrne, W.H. Speaker, W.H. Willebrand, James Cranshaw jr., W.E. Sewell, Louis Schneider.

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6 Responses to “An Early History of Bicycling in Detroit”

  1. The Detroit Wheelmen Clubhouse on Adams | m-bike.org Says:

    [...] A photo of the club interior was included in an earlier m-bike post. [...]

  2. Roundup for 11/3 « Public Historian Says:

    [...] has been posting about Detroit bicycling [...]

  3. Aaron Says:

    Hey is there any info on the six-day madison races @ the Olympia Stadium?

  4. Todd Scott Says:

    @Aaron: I haven’t found anything yet but that’s primarily because the Free Press on-line archives end in 1922, before Olympia. There might be more information at the Burton Collection.

  5. Mark Says:

    Does anyone have information about the Detroit Velodrome Gardens on Morang Rd? My wife’s grandfather was the general manager

  6. Todd Scott Says:

    It’s mentioned briefly in this article. http://www.m-bike.org/library/history/TracksAndVelodromes.pdf

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