Before the Internet became the most important medium for communication, fans of classic bikes communicated by phone, or in person at the occasional “Classic Bike Show” organized somewhere. Through word-of-mouth, I learned that Gabe Konrad in Michigan was publishing a little “zine” about classic bikes called Aeoleus Butterfly. I sent him a check, and received a delightful photocopied newsletter. On 16 pages, it featured articles reprinted from old magazines, and other articles written by fellow collectors of old bicycles. (The name of the magazine came from a turn-of-the-century bicycle pedal.)
For my children’s generation, it is hard to envision the excitement when the folded zine arrived in my mailbox every other month. There was no internet where one could find images of classic bikes. There were no blogs and forums where one could exchange thoughts and ideas with like-minded cyclists. Thus, I devoured the pages of the Butterfly, and learned more about all the things that I had seen, like Zeus components, but knew little about.
By today’s standards, the articles were a bit amateurish – based old catalogues and anecdotes rather than first-hand information – but back then, it was all we had, and it was a great foundation for further research.
In 1998, Gabe decided to start a “real” magazine called On The Wheel. It was a promising start, but sadly it never saw the growth it needed to survive. After two years, Gabe refunded unused portions of all subscriptions, and the magazine folded. Gabe then published two books with similar articles, Bikelore and Bikelore 2.
When I wrote articles for Gabe about racing in the spirit of the Touriste-Routiers, about touring in Venezuela, about randonneuring in Washington and about old bikes, I learned a lot from Gabe’s editing comments. When another contributor’s “interview” with Jack Taylor in On The Wheel turned out to be a complete fabrication (the contributor was apparently trying to swindle his way into money by taking orders for these bikes), I realized that proper references are essential for historic articles.
Before I started Bicycle Quarterly, I called Gabe one more time. He offered advice freely: “Never get behind in your publishing schedule!” was the most emphatic one. I am grateful for being able to learn from his experience. He is one of the pioneers who paved the path for Bicycle Quarterly’s success. Perhaps he came too early, before there was widespread appreciation for cycling off the beaten path.
If you want to enjoy Gabe’s best publications, Chuck Schmidt of Velo-Retro offers xeroxed reprints of the Aeoleus Butterfly.
Gabe Konrad now runs a used bookstore, and he has copies of Bikelore 2 available.
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