Monday, April 7, 2003

Bike maker evokes Wright brothers with new line

The Associated Press

DAYTON, Ohio - A bicycle builder hoping to capitalize on the Wright brothers' early ventures has introduced a line of bikes named for the ones that Orville and Wilbur Wright built before they turned to airplanes.

"The Wright brothers were on the cutting edge of technology in their day, and so are these bikes," said Gary Boulanger, owner of Cycles Gaansari in Dayton.

Boulanger's bicycles are called the VanCleve and the St. Clair, names that haven't been used since the Wrights sold bikes bearing those brands from their Dayton cycle shops.

The Wrights designed and built their VanCleve and St. Clair custom bikes, starting in 1896, during the bicycle craze that swept the nation. Their bikes were priced around $100, which would be worth $2,150 today, said Wright State University economist James Swaney.

Boulanger's bikes start at $3,185 for the VanCleve and go as high as $4,200.

The St. Clair is $2,500, including the hard-shell case.

Boulanger's bikes are painted black with gold lettering, similar to those made by the Wrights, but the traditional-looking, tan leather seat is made of high-tech titanium.

The St. Clair, a touring-adventure-expedition model, folds into a 3-foot-by-3-foot luggage-size carrying case.

The Wrights brothers began repairing and selling bicycles in 1892 and starting making their own bikes four years later.

Double-triangle frames similar to those on a bicycle formed the frame of the Wright's first airplanes. Bicycle chains drove the propellers.

Three VanCleve bicycles were built by the Wrights.

Two are at Carillon Park's bicycle shop and one is at the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

One St. Clair bicycle by the Wrights is known to have survived.

It is in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

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