When a man has more than 4,000 bikes, you’d think he might be riding the two-wheeled modes of transportation every chance he gets. But for Craig Morrow, owner of Bicycle Heaven on Pittsburgh’s North Side, it’s not about the ride—it’s about the chase.
“I’m not an avid rider—I’m an avid collector,” he says of his collection, which now makes up the largest bike museum in the world. “I’m always on the hunt.”
Morrow started his collection with a discarded bike that he found in the trash—now some bikes in his collection are worth more than $50,000 apiece. He stores them all—along with bike parts, accessories, memorabilia, banana seats, bells and horns—in his two-story museum on Preble Avenue, which is open seven days a week, at no charge, to the public. There visitors can see one of the bikes used in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, 17 Bowden Spacelanders—some of the most sought-after bikes in the world—and even a couple of bicycles with a tree growing through them.
“People always ask me which one is my favorite, but I like them all—they all have a story,” said Morrow. “The Bowdens are worth the most, but I also like Stingrays, because that’s what I rode when I was a kid. And I like the oldest wooden bicycle just because it’s the oldest.”
Unlike a typical museum that might be curated by time period or style, Bicycle Heaven is more of a massive celebration of all things bike. There’s barely a square inch of extra space in the building, and that includes on the ceiling, where banana seats and tires vie for space against bumper stickers and signs. “I might have to find a different building soon; someone gave me a poster the other day, and it took me three hours to find a place to hang it up,” laughed Morrow.
The Bicycle Museum is also often crowded with people, with 300 to 400 visiting on each weekend day. The museum is rated the #1 museum and #1 thing to do in Pittsburgh on TripAdvisor, and attracts people from all over the country and all over the world.
While many people come to see the bikes, that’s not all there is to see. “People come for a lot of different things—we have an art section, a music section, not to mention a massage therapist and a nail salon inside,” said Morrow, who co-owns the museum with his wife, Mindy. “We also have a large G-scale train that runs along the ceiling; a lot of people like that.”
While Morrow never went to school to be an artist, his talent and love of color is on display throughout the museum and is especially evident in the Groovy Cranky Panky Sprocket Room, a psychedelic, neon-infused space decorated wall-to-wall with bike parts.
“I like to make things look like art, and I’m into music, too—I just want it to be fun for everybody,” said Morrow.
This includes other collectors, who might be looking for specific types of bikes. “I’m currently working on the BMX bike collection because a lot of the newer generation is coming in for that,” said Morrow. “It’s a real big thing now; people in their 20s through 60s are starting to collect those types of bikes, mostly those from 1974-87.”
In May, Morrow also added a $4,000 Schwinn Stingray Krate that was licensed by The Beatles to his collection, which he believes was designed by the same artist who created the Yellow Submarine album cover. He is still on the search for an Elgin Bluebird—the Holy Grail in his collecting world.
In addition to displaying thousands of bikes, Morrow also sells bikes, does repairs, and rents bikes to people riding the trail that runs behind the museum. He has even held weddings in the warehouse, just moving the bikes aside to create a dance space.
On June 9-10 and August 25-26, Bicycle Heaven will be hosting a big bike show and swap meet, which is free and open to the public. Vendors are invited at no charge to set up in the parking lot, and music will be provided by Johnny Angel, whose store, Johnny Angel’s Ginchy Stuff, is located beside Bicycle Heaven, as well as by Get Hip Records, which is upstairs in the same building.
Bicycle Heaven is supported by donations, and Morrow encourages everyone to visit. “People tell me that I should charge admission since I’m the #1 museum in Pittsburgh, but I don’t want to scare people away,” he said. “I’d rather it just be a fun place for right now. I’ve had people from other museums visit and wonder why they’re spending millions to get people in the door when I don’t. I think it’s just because people relate to bicycles.”
To learn more, visit www.BicycleHeaven.org, or better yet, go see it in person. The museum is located at 1800 Preble Ave., Pgh., PA 15233.