This is my 1986 Schwinn Collegiate 3-speed bicycle. It’s a Taiwan Schwinn, meaning purists look down their nose a little. But it’s sturdy and of good quality. I bet if I compared it part by part with my 1973 Chicago-made Schwinn Collegiate 5 speed, I wouldn’t detect significant quality differences.
I photographed the bike at Washington Park North Cemetery. I use cemeteries as backdrops a lot. I’ve made many portraits of my sons in them, and I shot a series of my bicycles in Washington Park North. I usually don’t show the cemetery bits in shots like those. But tomorrow I’ll share lots of photos from this cemetery. It’s a favorite subject because it’s within walking distance of my home.
Knightstown, pop. 2,182, isn’t what you’d call a big town. But it’s the biggest one Henry County has to offer along the National Road, which cuts across the very bottom of the county. It’s a typical Indiana small town, with most buildings fronting the main drag built within 20 years either way of 1900. What makes Knightstown stand out to the person just passing through is the bicycles.
Chained to every pillar and post, a basket or tub or pot sits on each one, filled with flowers. Mums, actually, given that it was autumn when I passed through.
Each is painted a bright color — not just the body, but the tires, the chains, the gears, the seat, everything.
But it’s a clever idea that makes Knightstown stand out.
I’ve driven the National Road from its beginning in Baltimore, MD to its end in Vandaila, IL. To read everything I’ve ever written about it, click here.
During my 1970s kidhood, Schwinn was the ultimate bike. Especially the 20-inch Sting-Ray: banana seat, chopper-style handlebars, chrome fenders, bright colors. All the boys in my neighborhood wanted one, especially if it came with the 5-speed Stik-Shift on the crossbar or the “slik” treadless rear tire. My first bike was an old, battered 20-inch Schwinn with a slik. Since its previous owner had removed its model-identifying chain guard, I never knew whether it was a Sting-Ray. I always imagined it was so I could feel cool.
As we kids outgrew our small bikes, brand loyalty drew us toward the bigger Schwinns. I saved my allowance for years, a five-speed 26-inch Schwinn in my sights. I hadn’t saved enough when my old 20-inch bike in no way fit me anymore. Desperate, I bought what I could afford: a maroon 3-speed made by, horrors, AMF. Yet I rode that bike more than any other I’ve ever owned. I figure I put 10,000 miles on it. I wish I still had it. But childhood dreams can eventually come true: a friend recently gave me the 5-speed Schwinn of his teen years, in Sierra Brown. I had it mechanically restored, and from time to time I take it out for a cruise.