Shelby Bicycle Days

12 W Main Street
Shelby, OH 44875

Shelby Bicycle Days is an annual community festival that takes place in the heart of Downtown Shelby. The festival is designed for family fun, while incorporating the history of Shelby Bikes that were once manufactured by the Shelby Cycle Company. The festival has taken place for more than 25 years in Richland County.

Each year a group of Shelby residents, help to plan a festival that includes signature events like the Shelby Bicycle Days Parade, Spokes4Kids Community Challenge and the area's best firework display. The event takes place annually in early to mid-July in Black Fork Commons.

History:

Shelby has a rich history in bicycle production that, through foresight and perseverance, prospered through the Great Depression and World War II. It was a profitable 30-year venture that almost didn’t come to be.

The Shelby Cycle Frame Builders was formed in 1921 by A. D. Meiselbach of Chicago, a pioneer in the industry. Lured by a local supply of seamless tubing and the promise of free factory space, Meiselbach began producing frames and forks in Shelby.

Despite increased capitalization, the company was failing by the summer of 1924. Shareholders abandoned the venture, but factory superintendent Leon A. Smith found work to keep the factory open. By November 1924, Smith and 18 employees began to turn a profit.

In 1925, the company name was changed to Shelby Cycle Company and began assembling complete bikes. The company displayed their newest creation, The Whippet, at a trade show in Madison Square Garden in January 1927. There they met trans-continental cyclist Clarence Wagner, who agreed to ride a Whippet cross-country later that year. Wagner broke the transcontinental record from Newport Beach to Atlantic City in 20 days, 17 hours.

In the 1930’s, there were several plant expansions. By 1937, Ohio companies made 50 percent of American bicycles; the Shelby Cycle Company was responsible for 1/3 of the output. More than 200,000 bicycles were made by 400 employees working day and night.

World War II and a required industry shutdown in 1942 would impact the mission of the mighty bicycle company. The company made a bold decision in 1941 to build a two-story addition in anticipation of national defense orders. At shutdown, the plant was already doing some war work in addition to manufacturing bicycles.

Through sub-contracts, Shelby Cycle Co. made tank rangefinder telescope tubes, gun shells, and airplane rockets. In 1945, bicycle production resumed. To fill orders more quickly, the most popular models were mass produced.

The company signed contracts with outlets such as Western Auto Stores, Sears Roebuck, Montgomery Ward, and others.

With the retirement of Leon Smith, the decision was made in 1953 to sell the company. The Shelby plant would continue to operate under an agreement with the Cleveland Welding Company, a subsidiary of AMF. By year’s end, the Shelby plant was closed; operations were moved to Cleveland, then Little Rock, Ark. About 100 local workers were laid off. Within 10 years, the name Shelby was no longer used.

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