Metz Bicycle Museum

Today I took a half day off of work and had the great pleasure to visit the
Metz Bicycle Museum ( in Freehold, NJ.

David Metz is a long time member of the Wheelmen organization
( whose membership consists of antique bicycle riders
and enthusiasts. He is also a collector of antique bicycles, tricycles and
various cycling oddities and other items (including mousetraps). He has
accumulated about 100 or so antique cycles dating from around the 1850s on up.

Among the collection are, unfortunately, only two unicycles. One is a generic
looking 5’ giraffe from 1920. There are no details or history accompanying this

The other is a unicycle constructed from a golf bag and golf clubs. A judge
from Atlantic City, NJ by the name of Edison Hedges had this made in the early
1940s and he rode it on the Atlantic City Steel Pier, part of the famous
boardwalk. The frame runs through the bag and is not visible. The uni sits on
an 8" hard rubber tire. The seat is made of two golf clubs welded (?) side by
side so that the clubs for a seat. There is a photo of him displaying it on the
boardwalk, but not one of him riding it. Mr. Metz has agreed to let me
photograph it at some point and when I do I’ll post it. (May be a while

Among the other items are various highwheels (penny-farthingss) some with the
small wheel in front and some with the small wheel in back. He has quadricycle
which is supposed to be the only known one in existence. He has numerous
tricycles. He has a few boneshakers which are wooden bicycles, so called
because the riding them is literally a boneshaking experience. There is an
aqua-cycle, which is a cycle with water wheels rather than tires. There are
floatation devices on the front and rear and the rider is submerged up to the
chest in the water. A bicycle with square wheels and a cycle with runners on
the front and a rear wheel which has blades that propel the rider across ice.

The museum is quite delightful and two other items are worth mentioning. There
is a collection of antique children’s cycles among which is one which converts
from a tricycle to a small highwheel. The rear axle is attached to a fork in
the back and it can be detached. Then one of the rear wheels can be fitted into
the fork.

He also has a collection of miniature, to scale bicycles which include
phenomenal detailing. All the more so because they were made by a Belgian WW II
prisoner of war, while in the prison camp. Among these is a monocycle of the
type that the rider sits inside the wheel.

For anyone interested there is also a coffee table book coming out in June
called The Bicycle: Boneshakers, Highwheels, and other Cycles. You can find it
on Amazon now.

This museum opened up about 2 years ago after Mr. Metz decided that his garage
wasn’t sufficient for the display of his treasures. Metz is a gentleman in the
classic sense of the word. He spent a great deal of time with me, answered all
my questions and seemed genuinely pleased to be telling stories and providing
explanations that he has probably repeated many dozens of times. He is in his
70s and if I understood him correctly still rides his 52" highwheel in parades
now and then.

After we were done going through the museum I gave him a demonstration of my
Coker riding prowess.

I highly recommend a visit to those in the area or will be visiting. Freehold
is about 1 1/2 hours from NYC and probably about the same from Philadelphia.
The museum is open on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons (about 12:30 to 4:30)
and by appointment, I think for groups. Admission if $5.00. I thoroughly
enjoyed the experience.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ


Neat review! Thanks.

As my local papers websites have no search functions, I post the below as a follow up, rather than posting a link which would probably have a photo or two.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

It’s a ride down memory lane Collector, 87, has filled his museum with antique bicycles from 1850s to 1950s.

ELIAS HOLTZMAN Correspondent
1,606 words
2 April 2003
Home News Tribune
© Copyright 2003, Home News Tribune. All Rights Reserved.

Writer Willam Saroyan said, “The bicycle is the noblest invention of mankind,” and Dave Metz is out to prove it.

The Metz Bicycle Museum at 54 West Main St. in Freehold contains more than 150 antique bicycles from the 1850s to the 1950s, including high wheelers, quadricycles, tricycles, tandems, child bikes and trick bikes.

Metz sometimes looks at the stuff in his museum and says, “How could you ask for anything more interesting than that?” You really can’t.

The museum also contains what Metz calls “Treasures of Years Gone By,” such as riding toys, cash registers, kitchen gadgets, antique tools, Amish door knockers, bicycle lamps, early mechanical pencil sharpeners, mouse traps, bottle cap openers and antique cars.

Metz, who is 87 years old, has been collecting his bikes and other items for more than 50 years in a quest that has taken him all over the world but has also led him to places not that far away. He recently traveled to New Egypt - about 15 miles away - to inspect, and possibly purchase, an early bike.

“The bike was not a high wheeler,” he said. “It had 28-inch wheels and was made in New Egypt around 1901. It was the first bike with a coaster brake.”

Metz also has acquired and restored a “Zimmy,” a two-wheeler he recovered in New York State but which was made right in Freehold by Arthur Zimmerman, the world’s first bicycle-racing champion in the 1880s. When Zimmerman retired from racing in 1895, he opened his own bike manufacturing plant in on Elm Street in Freehold.

Metz takes a visitor on a personal tour and shows off his clown bikes: One has square wheels, another has six shoes mounted on the rear wheel. A third has a horse-head figure over the front wheel and a rear wheel that is chain-driven but off center that it gives a “bucking bronco” ride.

Metz has ridden most of the bikes, including the shoe bike. “It’s a good ride, but a little bumpy,” he says. “It goes over great in parades.”

Metz has appeared with his bikes - notably the high wheelers - in lots of parades: the Mummers in Philadelphia, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, the Main Street Parade at Disney World in Florida.

The high wheelers were called “ordinaries” back when they were popular in the States. With their large wooden wheels and iron frames, they also were known as “boneshakers.” In England, where many of the early bikes were made, they were known as “the penny and the farthing” because of the comparison in size of the big and little wheels: the penny was a large coin and the farthing was a small one of very little value. In France, the bike was called the velocipede.

Metz has many one-of-a-kind bicycles in his collection.

One is the 1885 Coventry Club Tandem Quadricycle, made in Coventry, England. It has four wheels and seats two people. Once known as “King of the World,” it can be converted to two high-wheel tricycles by removing three bolts.

Metz’s lamplighter bike, built in 1894, is eight feet high and was used in the 1890s by the men who lit gas lamps on New York streets. A lighting torch is attached to the frame.

An 1896 Brentwood ladies bicycle has a frame made entirely of one length of wood bent to shape. The ends were split in half to create the rear forks.

How did Metz collect all these bikes?

“In the beginning, when I started out collecting, I used to travel with the big wheel sticking out of the trunk of the car, and people would see that and say that they knew someone who had a bike like that. I’d follow up the leads and go to flea markets and antique shows,” he says.

The first acquisitions in his collection were a few riding toys and a girl’s bike for $40. Metz started the museum four years ago in a 7,500-square foot former Cadillac showroom.

He is a past New Jersey captain and past national commander of the Wheelmen, a bicycle club based on the clubs in existence when high wheelers were in vogue. In the 2000 Memorial Day parade in Freehold, Metz led 20 high-wheel bikes and riders from various states.

Metz was born on a farm in Cranbury and moved to Freehold in 1927. He got his love of things mechanical from growing up on a farm. “If a piece of machinery broke down, you had to fix it yourself,” he said.

In the course of his hobby, he has fixed and restored many of the bikes now in his museum.

Metz has loved bikes at least since he was in the fifth grade in Cranbury and worked all summer to make $6 to buy his first bicycle.

“It was a 28-incher,” he recalls. “I learned to ride it backwards at the time.”

In the museum, there are scooter bikes and one-wheel bikes. Metz showed off a golf-bag unicycle, in which the rider - Atlantic City Judge Edison Hedges - sat on the clubs as he rode.

“He used to ride this on the Atlantic City boardwalk,” said Metz.

Metz is not the only who thinks the museum is interesting. “I have people coming here from all over the country, telling me,” he said.

He has a sign next to an adjustable bicycle seat, which reads:

“Bicyclists, protect your buttocks with amazing E-Z Ride bicycle seats. Recommended by doctors around the world.”

There’s a bike with three standard-size wheels, two seats and two handlebars. It’s the 1898 Wolfe American Duplex Tricycle, made by Wolfe and Co., in Limited, N.Y.

Metz has a lady’s bicycle made in 1891 which is part hickory and part metal.

The 1887 Eagle has a 50-inch rear wheel. In order to mount the Eagle, the rider took several running steps and, when the pedal was at the lowest point, stepped on it and rode it up into the saddle. It was made by the Eagle Mfg. Co. of Torrington, Conn.

His collection includes an ice-bike - actually a convertible bike whose wheels can be removed and replaced by two runners; a rear paddle wheel is connected by chain to the paddle wheel sprocket. Another ice bike is a 1910 racer with a skate blade in front and sharp steel studs in the rear tire. It was made by Pop Brennan of Irvington.

In addition to bikes, Metz has been collecting mouse traps for more than 35 years and has more than 150. “There are more mousetraps patented than any other mechanical item ever invented,” he says.

Metz has some humor that goes along with his mousetraps: “The early bird catches the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese.”

Metz has wall-mounted bottle openers and Amish door-knockers. When you lift the knocker, the eye-lids open.

He also has a collection of old bike bells and kazoos and tiny grease guns.

He has dozens of mechanical pencil sharpeners and a collection of German steins, each with an image of a high-wheeled bike.

He has a collection of 30 miniature high-wheeled bikes made by a prisoner of war in Belgium in World War II. Metz saw the collection at a museum in Belgium and traded three antique bicycles for it.

“Did you ever see so much junk?” he asks, but he hardly considers his collection to be junk.

People who visit the museum include bike-riding clubs, people with steam-engine collections and antique motoring clubs. Groups from assisted-living facilities love to come down and browse, he says.

He’ll go through his kitchen utensils with visitors. Here’s a hot dog fork, he says, noting how it works. And then he picks up another specialty fork, demonstrating how one can twirl spaghetti with it. He then takes a device which looks like it’s not useful for anything, and clips it on the side of a pot. It’s a pot picker-upper. He flaps a pancake-flapper and opens a toaster.

Other gadgets include early slicers, apple peelers, asparagus bunchers and “eight or nine varieties of cherry pitters.”

“How many different ideas people have, and end up doing the same thing?,” he asks.

Metz collaborated with Gilbert King on a newly published book which featured the various antique bikes in his museum. In the dedication, Metz says he looks forward to having his great-grandchildren become the fourth generation “to enjoy my bicycle collection.”

His museum includes four cars: a 1915 Metz, built from 1908 to 1921 in Massachusetts; a 1916 Willys Overland five-passenger touring car; a 1923 Model-T Ford truck, and a 1931 Model A Ford Coupe.

Metz’s collection of antique tools includes a cattle horn clipper and a lawn edger, patented in 1906.

A retired businessman, Metz started out in business making concrete block. He had never in his life seen a block made. “I never had a salesman, and I sold everything I made,” he said. He later made specialty block, used in well and cesspool construction. He eventually went into the swimming pool business.

The museum is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. and by appointment with groups and organizations, by calling (732) 462-7363

Raphael probably already noticed this, but the golf bag unicycle was one of the first pictures to appear in the USA Newsletter, back in 1974. I think it was the cover picture on the first issue that contained pictures. I’m not at home so I can’t check.

That’s a cool cycle! Can’t wait to see some (recent, color) pictures of it. Thanks for the museum report!

The city of Davis, CA has a bicycle collection, and displays it annually at the Davis Cyclebration. But it has no permanent home, yet. When it does, I have pledged my old 1970s Oxford unicycle to be part of their collection. This is a unicycle that JeanPaul Jenack and I assembled from parts in Bill Jenack’s garage and attic after he passed away in 1982. It represents one of the typical unicycles he used to sell to the neighborhood kids, and people around the country, before there was a Unicycle Factory and

Close, John. Judge Edison Hedges is profiled in the USA Newsletter (Jan 1974) Vol 1 Issue 1. Both photos in this issue are of him on his dual-chain giraffe.

The USA Newsletter Vol 1 Issue 3 (July 1974) has a photo of the honorable judge showing off his golf bag unicycle on page 11.

Raphael Lasar
Matawan, NJ

Ok, this is ancient, but I’m resurrecting it. Shoot me. The Metz Bicycle Museum in Freehold, NJ is currently hosting an international cycling conference. One photo in the story is of Pierre Bernier who in addition to what the article states, rode the entire perimeter of North America in 1983 and 1984.

Freehold museum home to international cycling conference

I don’t normally like to steal photos, but:

Wow. Toe clips. Gutsy.

those arent really attached to the pedals, hes just enough of a cycling nut that he actually modified a pair of shoes to permanently have toe clips on them (they’z for decorations).