- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

MONETTE, Ark. (AP) - Fred Dowless has vintage bicycles as far as the eye can see, and it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon for the passionate collector.

Dowless started out as a casual collector who had just a few vintage bicycles here and there. About 10 years ago his passion for the old school two-wheelers gained momentum, and now the collector has amassed an impressive collection of more than 100 bikes.

The Jonesboro Sun (https://bit.ly/1ZHdAVR ) reports that along with the 50 to 60 complete bicycles in his store in Monette, Dowless said his bicycles can be found in every nook and cranny.

“I’ve got some upstairs, and I’ve got some in a warehouse out back, and I’ve got some out at the lake house, at my house - just everywhere,” he said. “I have been collecting a little bit over the years, and it just increased when my interest became a little more intrigued with vintage bicycles. It’s not that they’re that popular in this area, but there are areas that they are very popular. So it escalated from there.”

His collection consists mostly of bikes that were made between the 1930s and the 1960s. At 73, Dowless said he grew up in the 1950s and the bikes from that era are what catch his attention personally. Of all the bikes in his shop, a completely original 1954 JC Higgins cycle stands out as one of his favorite two-wheelers.

“This one here is a JC Higgins, it’s 1954 and it’s all original,” Dowless said, as he looked at the bike with a sense of admiration. “Retail value on it is upward of $1,000 in good condition.”

Dowless said the real gems are pre-World War II era bikes, which are highly collectible, particularly men’s bikes. The collector said a men’s bike in good shape is almost always worth more than an identical women’s version.

“A man’s bike will bring about twice as much because women took care of their bicycles, and men didn’t,” he said. “So you can find women’s bicycles in very good shape but you very seldom, in the 50s at least, find one in really good condition that’s a man’s bike.”

Many of the bikes that come into Dowless’ possession are in rough shape and require some tender loving care, but Dowless and his son Brant don’t mind spending a little extra time on a bicycle that comes in a little banged up.

Dowless and his son will “embellish” a bike if needed with a polishing, repairing and even replacing missing pieces, preferably with original parts when available, but they don’t go as far as to completely restore the bikes.

This is a labor of love for Dowless who said it is not cheap to restore and embellish these bikes. While he is not really looking to make a lot of money off his passion, Dowless said he does sell the bikes he has, but only in his shop.

“I don’t sell them on the internet, and I don’t have a Facebook for it or anything,” he said. “Much like with vintage cars, it’s something you have to do because you love it because you’re not always going to get your money back. I make my living selling flooring, and that’s the seed money to buy them. It’s not a real profitable situation, it’s just a passion that I have. I’m always in search of a new bicycle.”

And he does mean always. Dowless said there is no place he won’t look to find a two-wheeled piece of treasure.

“I go to estate sales, yard sales, old barns - so they come from a lot of different places. And people know that I collect bicycles, and they’ll say, you know, they know where a bicycle is, and I’ll go check it out,” he said. “Sometimes it’s not anything I’m interested in because they aren’t vintage, but sometimes they are.”

Dowless also has a few reproduction bicycles, including a reproduction of a bright red 1954 Luxury Liner by Roadmaster which is his go-to ride when he’s home. An original version of this bike is no small investment.

“Some of these bicycles, if this was a real bicycle in 1954 in good shape, you’re looking at $2,500 to $3,000,” he said.

Dowless said one of the oldest bikes in his collection is one he’s had for more than 30 years. The bike was made by Boren Bicycle Co. of Little Rock, which produced bikes from 1929-1957.

A collector of many things, Dowless has more than his share of unique and exciting items, but for him the real passion will always be bicycles and the search for vintage pieces.


Information from: The Jonesboro Sun, https://www.jonesborosun.com

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