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'Two wheels to adventure': Bicycle exhibit now open at Elmhurst History Museum

'Two wheels to adventure': Bicycle exhibit now open at Elmhurst History Museum
'Two wheels to adventure': Bicycle exhibit now open at Elmhurst History Museum 03:49

ELMHURST, Ill. (CBS) -- Imagine riding a bicycle sitting more than five feet in the air or getting another look at that Schwinn you longed for as a kid.

You can find both, and a whole lot more, at an exhibit at the Elmhurst History Museum.

Come coast into "The Bicycle: Two Wheels to Adventure."

Curator Sarah Cox assembled this collection of vintage spokes, gadgets and gears showing how the bicycle evolved from novelty to a transportation necessity.

"All I ever knew about bikes was that I used to ride one," Cox said. "So, I really had to delve deep and find out more about how the bicycle came to be, how it influenced society, how it influenced infrastructure in the United States."

The exhibit begins at the top with "The Bone Shaker" designed by Karl Von Drais in 1817.

Not really a speed demon with wooden tires and a wrought iron frame.

As Cox described, "it's extremely heavy." 

Safer bikes came along by the late 1800s.

"That led to an explosion of bike manufacturers," Cox said. 

With mainstay Schwinn leading the way, there were more than 400 bike makers in the Chicago area near the turn of the century.

In Elmhurst, more bikes spawned a new business of bicycle repair shops.

"he first bike shop was actually a plumbers shop so he fixed bikes and did your plumbing," Cox said. 

Cycling also affected fashion, especially for women riding their way to independence.

"Women were supposed to be in the home taking care of the family. The clothing they wore was not conducive to riding a bike," Cox said. "Women decided they wanted to change fashion so instead of those big Victorian skirts, they wore bloomers."

The exhibit introduces Elmhurst's own J. Hart Rosdail, who for years held the distinct title of "The World's Most Traveled Man."

The Indiana Jones-style explorer visited over 200 countries, accompanied by his trusty bicycle he nicknamed, Jacqueline.

Another fun fact: The Illinois Prairie Path was founded in 1963 and inspired by the bike trails of Europe.

"Hopefully [the exhibit will] inspire people to take the bike out of the garage, and get out there and create your own two wheels to adventure," Cox said. 

With that in mind, CBS 2's Ryan Baker hopped on a bike for a virtual tour.

The exhibit runs through September 17 at the Elmhurst History Museum, right in downtown Elmhurst.

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