Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wheelie Bike

A wheelie bike, also called a muscle bike, high-riser, or banana bike, is a type of stylized children's bicycle designed in the 1960s to resemble a chopper motorcycle and characterized by ape hanger handlebars, a banana seat with sissy bar, and small (16-to-20-inch) wheels. Notable examples include the Schwinn Sting-Ray and Krate lines and the Raleigh Chopper line. Other notable manufacturers and retailers that offered models include AMF, CCM, Columbia, Huffy, Iverson, J. C. Penney, Malvern Star, Monark, Murray, Ross, and Sears.

In 1962, Schwinn's designer Al Fritz heard about a new youth trend centered in California for retrofitting bicycles with the accoutrements of motorcycles customized in the Bobber or Chopper style. Inspired, he designed the first such mass-production bike for the youth market as Project J-38, and the result was introduced to the public as the Schwinn Sting-Ray in 1963. Sales were initially slow, but eventually took off. By 1965, several other American and foreign manufacturers were offering their own version of the Sting-Ray.

BMX bikes began to supersede wheelie bikes in the 1970s, though Schwinn continued to offer them until 1982 and Raleigh until 1984. Original wheelie bikes are popular collectors' items now, and some manufacturers have reintroduced updated versions.

The seating position nearly over the rear tire facilitated performing wheelies. Styling cues were also taken from muscle cars, and features included different sized wheels, with the smaller in the front, and square-profiled tires. Small, chromed fenders, a style borrowed from bobber motorcycles, were also popular.

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