ASU design teacher restores vintage bicycles

When he's not confined to a classroom, Eric Montgomery repairs vintage bikes at his shop Velosuperbe

First he finds a worn-out, old, rusty bike. Piece by piece he tears it apart, inspecting every nut, bolt and chain along the way. Once he replaces broken pieces and repaints the frame, he breathes life back into an almost forgotten piece of history.

When he’s not confined to a classroom teaching design courses at ASU, Eric Montgomery can be found restoring vintage bicycles for his self-run business Velosuperbe

Operating entirely online and through social media, Velosuperbe sells a collection of ready-to-go restored vintage bikes and offers custom restorations based on each client’s needs.

Montgomery first discovered his passion for biking at the age of 5. Riding his hand-me-down bike around the neighborhood felt like another world, he said.

“When you’re a kid, it’s the first time you separate yourself from your environment, your family. Maybe it’s only a couple blocks, but in your head, you feel so far away,” Montgomery said. “There’s a freedom in that, I think.”

Montgomery graduated ASU in 1987, and during his time there, he rode his vintage three-speed Raleigh to class. It wasn’t until the past few years that he stumbled his way into the process of restoration.

One afternoon, Montgomery received a phone call from his friend, who insisted he come check out a vintage touring bike at Goodwill. Although he did not know much about it, he determined the parts were in good enough condition to purchase. When he got home and did some deeper digging, he found out the bike he spent $40 on was actually worth up to $6,000.

He started fixing that bike and soon, the single project became a newfound business.

“There’s just something simple and beautiful about this machine,” Montgomery said. “Cycling has really become a huge part of my life.”

Wanting to grow his collection and pass down his previous projects to others is ultimately what pushed him to start Velosuperbe, he said. Montgomery now has over 30 bikes from the 1940s to the 1980s.

Coming across a bike he has never heard of always fascinates Montgomery. If he can help it, he tries to restore unfamiliar bikes to learn more about them. 

Perhaps it is the artist within him, but detail is important to Montgomery. Once, when he could not find a decal for a bike, he remade the design in Illustrator and sent it out to a company in London that could print it for him. 

Montgomery’s passion for vintage bicycle restoration exceeds the word itself. Currently, he is considering releasing merchandise for Velosuperbe and opening a pop-up shop.

When working with clients, he starts by determining what kind of bike they’re looking for, which he uses as a jumping-off point in the research process. From there, he figures out what year it is from and what parts it needs.

“When I told him I was in search of a road bike to use around town instead of my mountain bike, he was quick to help me track down a bike from Craigslist and got it back in working order,” Mollie Heiden, a Velosuperbe customer, said. “It’s great because he also lives around the corner from me … it feels like I have an in-house bike shop.”  

In “The Bicycle Room,” within his home, which contains his workspace and his favorites from his collection, Montgomery takes the entire bike apart while working on it. This way, he can determine if each part’s age is historically accurate and see the overall condition it is in.

Although he replaces parts, he likes to keep the scratches and wear within the bike’s paint to keep it authentic and tell the bicycle’s history.

“If I go buy a brand new bike, in six months, they’re going to have a new model. In my mind, I would want the new model,” Montgomery said. “But with these, if I can get it to its period-correct point, then this bike will never be any better than this.”


Reach the reporter at swindom@asu.edu and follow @SaraWindom on Twitter. 

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