Is there anything better than a shiny new bicycle? Try this: Four thousand shiny (and not-so-shiny) antique, vintage, and collectable bicycles. This is the size of the collection at Bicycle Heaven, the self-proclaimed “World’s Largest Bicycle Museum and Shop,” in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The first thing I notice about the shop, tucked into the corner of an industrial park just one block from the Ohio River, is the storefront’s colorful outdoor mural. The artwork spans two stories and depicts a quaint cityscape that brightens up the otherwise indistinct industrial building. Several long bike racks decorate the front entrance, although most visitors arrive on four wheels.
Pittsburgh has many wonderful, well-marked, and scenic bike trails, so if you don’t arrive in town with your own bike, you may want to rent one. Those coming to Bicycle Heaven on two wheels can follow signs located along the North Shore Trail along the river.
Cookies and Coke
Bicycle Heaven is the brainchild of Craig Morrow. He opened the shop and museum in 2011, when his growing bicycle collection began to exceed the capacity of his own home. Morrow started collecting bikes in 1987 and acquired thousands of bicycles and antique parts that were scattered around homes and garages across Pittsburgh.
Though the shop rents, repairs, and restores bicycles—and carries a dizzying selection of parts and accessories—it’s best known for its museum. Thousands of bicycles and accessories span two sprawling floors, with vintage bikes dating from the late 1800s. The collection includes a one-of-a-kind Yellow Submarine bicycle made for the Beatles by Capital Records, bikes made for Oreo, and a bike outfitted with a Coca-Cola-themed rear rack stuffed with vintage Coke bottles.
Fans of Tim Burton’s 1985 directorial debut, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, don’t have to hitch a ride with Large Marge or scour the basement of the Alamo to find Pee-Wee Herman’s beloved bike. Several identical bright red bicycles were made for the movie, which a promotional poster describes as “The story of a rebel and his bike.” One resides at The Bicycle Museum of America in neighboring Ohio, one recently sold for $36,000 on eBay, and one resides here at Bicycle Heaven—it’s my favorite in the entire collection. A close second is the Happy Days-themed “Fonz Bike.” (What can I say? I’m from Milwaukee.)
On the main floor, brightly painted wheel sets line the aisles, decorated with Smurf figurines, Spiderman action figures, and G.I. Joe memorabilia. “OH, SHIFT!” souvenir t-shirts depict a cyclist riding up a local street that any Pittsburgh native will recognize as the steepest public street in the U.S. (the 630-feet-long Canton Avenue has a steepness of 37 percent). Bowden Spacelander bikes hang on the walls; released in 1960, less than 600 of the space-age fiberglass bikes were ever produced, and Bicycle Heaven has four of them.
Vintage Schwinn bicycle posters portray frustrated, bathrobe-clad parents standing in front of a Christmas tree, struggling to transform parts strewn across the floor into a functioning bicycle. “SCHWINN bicycles are assembled, adjusted, and ready to ride!” the poster reads, capturing mid-century marketing at its finest.
Though the museum’s focus is on bicycles, the collection also includes pinball machines, a toy rodeo horse, extensive Beatles and Elvis memorabilia, and 500 Pittsburgh-themed bobbleheads, contributed by Marrow’s son, Henry, who began working at the shop in 2014. Marrow’s wife Mindy is also involved, running a therapeutic massage and nail salon inside the shop.
The store is far larger than the exterior lets on—don’t miss the psychedelic “Groovy Cranky Panky Sprocket” room, where a neon green bicycle is surrounded by painted gears from the 1960s and lit by a black light.
Even if you don’t need to use it, visiting Bicycle Heaven’s bathroom is a crucial part of the experience. A late-1800s penny-farthing bicycle welcomes visitors to the unisex bathroom decorated with an array of memorabilia, including a children’s banana seat bicycle hanging above one of the toilets and a royal blue unicycle leaning against the wall below it—functioning as both artwork and toilet paper holder. The restroom technically has three stalls, but a tricycle blocks off the urinal.
The museum—with its many storage rooms and steep staircases—is so big that I get lost among the rows and rows of bicycles, until a “Back to Earth” arrow directs me to the exit.
If you go
Bicycle Heaven is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m and closed only on Christmas Day.