Throwback Thursday: inside Velo Cult’s incredible vintage museum

One of the USA’s finest collections of historical bikes pays a visit to the Sea Otter Classic

Traveling exhibits are commonplace when it comes to the arts and sciences but it’s rare for a bicycle museum to let a substantial portion of its collection roam outside its doors. For this month’s Throwback Thursday, we take a special look at some vintage bikes from Portland, Oregon shop Velo Cult, which graciously loaned out several of its prized machines to a display that Subaru put on at this year’s Sea Otter Classic.

While many see Velo Cult as a bike shop that happens to have a vintage bike collection, the reality is the latter came first and actually allowed the former to exist.

Rear-suspended mountain bike frames are hardly a new concept. in fact, this skinner descender harkens back to 1982 with a whopping six inches of travel using a motocross-based swingarm suspension design : rear-suspended mountain bike frames are hardly a new concept. in fact, this skinner descender harkens back to 1982 with a whopping six inches of travel using a motocross-based swingarm suspension design
Rear-suspended mountain bike frames are hardly a new concept. in fact, this skinner descender harkens back to 1982 with a whopping six inches of travel using a motocross-based swingarm suspension design : rear-suspended mountain bike frames are hardly a new concept. in fact, this skinner descender harkens back to 1982 with a whopping six inches of travel using a motocross-based swingarm suspension design

The Skinner Descender sported six inches of rear wheel travel - in 1982!

“I own Velo Cult bike shop but really my shop started as an online business buying, restoring and selling vintage road bikes,” said shop owner Sky Boyer. “This was quite a few years back and while my business was restoring and selling road bikes, my personal passion is classic mountain bikes. Since my job was finding classic bikes, it was a full time objective searching them out and at the time classic mountain bikes were easier to find and not worth nearly what they are today. Not being worth much meant I could buy quite a few and trade up often. Selling off most of that collection is how I funded the build-out of my new store.”

On the surface, the collection certainly is extremely diverse, comprising everything from a Ti Cycles beam bike to a 1950s Hetchins to a late 1970s Victor Vincente Topanga.

“My collection is pretty much reserved for custom made rarest of the rare bikes,” he said. “I have an affinity for mountain bikes that were game changers in the industry so my collection can seem very diverse for that reason.”

This 1992 yeti ultimate was the result of mountain bike action's quest for the 'ultimate mountain bike'. at the time, elevated chainstays were a radical idea: this 1992 yeti ultimate was the result of mountain bike action's quest for the 'ultimate mountain bike'. at the time, elevated chainstays were a radical idea
This 1992 yeti ultimate was the result of mountain bike action's quest for the 'ultimate mountain bike'. at the time, elevated chainstays were a radical idea: this 1992 yeti ultimate was the result of mountain bike action's quest for the 'ultimate mountain bike'. at the time, elevated chainstays were a radical idea

The Yeti Ultimate was unquestionably an object of lust in the early 1990s

Subaru’s display at Sea Otter paired several generations of the Japanese company’s cars with bikes of similar vintage. Modern steeds such as from Argonaut and Breadwinner decorated newer models but we were obviously more interested in the older stuff. Booth PR coordinator Billy Sinkford told BikeRadar that of all the bikes he’s had shipped over the years, he was certainly most worried about these. While many bikes are expensive, the ones that Boyer loaned out were simply irreplaceable.

“My favorite would be the Yeti Ultimate for its iconic look and backstory on those frames,” Boyer said. “Second would be the Skinner Descender from 1982. That’s the same year as the first production Stumpjumper yet it has long travel rear suspension and a rigid fork. Both those bikes are indicative of early Los Angeles mountain bikes, which took their style cues from BMX and motocross. Bay Area bikes took their cues from 1930's Schwinn cruiser bikes.”

Trimble was an early pioneer of carbon fiber, using the then-exotic composite material in this inverse model from 1993: trimble was an early pioneer of carbon fiber, using the then-exotic composite material in this inverse model from 1993
Trimble was an early pioneer of carbon fiber, using the then-exotic composite material in this inverse model from 1993: trimble was an early pioneer of carbon fiber, using the then-exotic composite material in this inverse model from 1993

Carbon is hardly a new phenomenon in mountain bikes. This Trimble dates back to 1993

Perhaps not surprisingly, Boyer doesn’t grant himself the luxury of riding the bikes in his collection. Many are priceless, after all, and the reality is that modern bikes are often simply better suited for the job.

“I have other bikes I prefer to ride and honestly Portland has very few trails; ones we do have are suited to full suspension modern bikes. Maybe someday Portland will see the light and more trails and trails of different types will pop up. Until then I will continue to ride my four regular go-to bikes.”

Moots is known for its titanium bikes today but like most back in the day, the company started out making steel frames. this zirkel dates back to 1989: moots is known for its titanium bikes today but like most back in the day, the company started out making steel frames. this zirkel dates back to 1989
Moots is known for its titanium bikes today but like most back in the day, the company started out making steel frames. this zirkel dates back to 1989: moots is known for its titanium bikes today but like most back in the day, the company started out making steel frames. this zirkel dates back to 1989

Moots is best known for its titanium frames now but it started out with steel

Though the Velo Cult museum is quite well stocked already, Boyer admits that it’s always a work in progress with several notable omissions.

“I have owned most every rad bike out there but there are two that have eluded me actually: a Doug Bradbury Manitou and a Cunningham.”

Anyone out there have one they’d like to sell? You can contact Boyer – and take a virtual tour through the museum – at www.velocult.com.

James Huang

Technical Editor, US
James started as a roadie in 1990 with his high school team but switched to dirt in 1994 and has enjoyed both ever since. Anything that comes through his hands is bound to be taken apart, and those hands still sometimes smell like fork oil even though he retired from shop life in 2007. He prefers manual over automatic, fizzy over still, and the right way over the easy way.
  • Discipline: Mountain, road, cyclocross
  • Preferred Terrain: Up in the Colorado high-country where the singletrack is still single, the dirt is still brown, and the aspens are in full bloom. Also, those perfect stretches of pavement where the road snakes across the mountainside like an artist's paintbrush.
  • Beer of Choice: Mexican Coke
  • Location: Boulder, Colorado, USA

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