People who have inspired us: Gabe Konrad

People who have inspired us: Gabe Konrad

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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Comments (5)

  • Chris Kostman

    I was a subscriber and huge fan of Gabe and his publications. I still have every issue he published and keep them carefully archived, right next to my copies of Bicycle Quarterly! Gabe now runs a use and rare book store in Michigan and I’ve loosely stayed in touch with him. I look forward to visiting him in June when I’ll be in Michigan for the 30th anniversary National 24-Hour Challenge.

    February 20, 2012 at 4:17 pm
  • Biking With Brad

    Brilliant quote! “Never get behind in your publishing schedule”. It’s a really testament to you, Jan that you are always so prompt with the magazine and are branching out in such great ways. Keep up the great work.
    The quote reminds me of a wise sage who, when asked what makes a great orchestra conductor, replied “fund-raising ability”.

    February 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm
  • Leonard

    Thanks for a great post. I have had the good fortune of meeting Gabe, subscribing to On The Wheel, getting both Bikelore & Bikelore 2, and purchasing all reprint copies of Aeoleous Butterfly from Chuck Schmidt. Delightful & educational reading. And his committment to subscribers was exceptional not like the publication from Walnut Creek CA that stiffed me out of $200 on a “life” subscription to a supposedly quarterly Reader. Thank you Jan for being so timely and on time with your great quarterly ( formerly Vintage Bicycle Quarterly now Bicycle Quarterly).

    February 22, 2012 at 7:39 am
    • Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

      I was disappointed, too, at the demise of the Reader as we knew it. However, I felt that my $ 200 had bought a lifetime membership, not a subscription. The Reader was only one of the membership benefits.

      February 22, 2012 at 8:48 am
  • Gabe Konrad

    Ha, I was wondering why my Bikelore 2 sales took a jump this week. I Googled the title and your very kind post popped up! Thanks very much for your nice words. The Butterfly and OTW were a lot of fun. A LOT of work, but a lot of fun. Yes, it was an amateur endeavor, but I like to think that it helped, in a small way, to spawn a school of thinking that is no longer considered “retro” but simply quality—quality gear with a reverence for what came before us. The Taylor “interview” was frustrating. Not only because I was fooled (who would’ve thought a scammer would exists in our little world!), but because I found out only after OTW was dead and buried and couldn’t put things right. Ah well, regrets are in the past. Thanks again, Jan, and all my best wishes!

    February 24, 2012 at 1:48 pm

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