- If you like vintage bikes, MOMBAT is a great place to spend an afternoon. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- First Flight Bicycles is the home of MOMBAT, the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology in Statesville, North Carolina. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- This 1983 Moots Mountaineer has a lot going on. Because of custom moveable brake mounts, this bike can accept 24", 26", and 700c wheels. It also has a built-in portage pad and 4 water bottle cages. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- This 1990 Fisher was built by Tom Teesdale, specifically for Bob Weir of the Greatful Dead. The custom paint was done by Prairie Prince, and was the inspiration for the Hoo Koo E Koo which was produced in 1995. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- Defiantly a product of the 80's. This 1989 Mantis Valkarie was formerly owned by Richard Cunningham of pinkbike.com. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- The Breezer, the original mountain bike. This one is #9 of 10, from the second run of Breezers. Essentially the 19th mountain bike ever made. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- A rare Ibis Scorcher. There were only 100 of these made, and only 25 made in this size, which is a large. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- At one time, this Aerowind sliced through the air because of the shaped tubing, speedometer, sideview mirror and fuzzy seat that it is equipped with. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- One of the coolest bikes when I was a kid, The Schwinn "Manta Ray." Photo: Brad Kaminski
- 1988 F'n Fat Chance. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- This 1985 Mountain Machine is one of the original bushwackers. Made in Colorado, The Mountain Machine is equipped with a 24" front wheel and a 20" rear wheel, a bottom bracket bash guard, and a chain roller for tension. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- A nice 1990 MOOTS with pink accents. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- This Huffy is a 1988 USA Olympic Team bike. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- Old bike, new bike. First Flight Bicycles sells new bikes, and is also the home of more than 300 vintage bikes. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- More than 900 studs per tire, installed by hand. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- Tucked away on a corner shelf, I found this autographed Lance Armstrong lunch box. Photo:Brad Kaminski
- High on this wall of mountain bike gear evolution is a Tioga Disk Drive rear wheel, which was raced and signed by John Tomac. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- One of the first mountain bikes ever, The Breezer. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- Bike parts with a story to tell. The log won. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- A cool collection of old head tube badges. Photo:Brad Kaminski
- The special collection room, where some of the most prized bikes from the collection are kept, including a couple 2nd run Breezer bikes. Photo: Brad Kaminski
- Jeff Archer shows me his complete collection of Dirt Rag Magazine. Photo: Brad Kaminski
The sun shone brightly on a crisp, clear North Carolina morning. Brad Kaminski and I had just spent two days at the A2 Wind Tunnel and were both happy to spend a moment in the fresh air after our drive to Statesville.
Across the street from our rental car was a bicycle shop. After years of visiting every bike shop I could find, I’ve become pretty good at sizing them up before I even go in. Signage and window displays can be very telling. I expected a tidy showroom and a small collection of vintage bicycles.
But as I breached the entrance to First Flight Bicycles, home of the Museum Of Mountain Bike Art and Technology, I knew that my initial thoughts were about to be blown away.
Overhead hangs both a Graftek and a Teledyne, the earliest of carbon and titanium road bicycles. A 1988 Olympic team time trial Huffy is flanked by an early Slingshot mountain bike. Instead of noticing the shiny, new bikes on the showroom floor, my eyes stared up at the heaven that hangs from the ceiling of First Flight Bicycles. Clearly, the owner of this collection has a sense of history.
Jeff Archer is the owner. He’s been in the bicycle business a long time. He started First Flight Bicycles in 1994 and bought the building it currently occupies in 1995. In 1997, he hired Wesley Davidson and the two have worked together ever since, occasionally hiring a part-timer during the summers.
Archer started his bicycle collecting with balloon-tire cruisers. When values started to skyrocket, Archer shifted his focus to mountain bikes. Technology moved so quickly in the 90s that gently used, or even NOS, could be purchased for a song. Quickly the space he had available was packed with bikes. One reason he moved into the downtown Stateville location was that it finally gave him room to increase the size of his collection, and to display it.
Archer doesn’t charge admission to his collection. Anyone with the commitment to travel to his shop to view his 350 bikes (as well as hundreds of jerseys and thousands of vintage parts) gets Archer’s undivided attention. Those that can talk the talk are given great respect by both Archer and his comrade Davidson. Those new to vintage mountain bikes are gently educated.
Unfortunately I’d only budgeted a couple hours for our visit to First Flight and MOMBAT. I could have easily spent days sifting through Archer’s collection. And to his credit, he would have patiently answered my questions and comments the whole time had I stuck around. In fact, one mountain bike history fanatic planned a holiday around his four-day visit to MOMBAT. He only interrupted his trip down memory lane for sleep, food and a couple rides on the local singletrack.
Upon leaving I felt that Brad and I had only been able to scratch the surface of Archer’s collection. If you’re in the area, say hello to Jeff and Wesley, it’ll be more than worth your time. And buy a t-shirt or other item from the shop. They deserve your business for giving back to the cycling community with their thankless work.
FILED UNDER: Bikes and Tech