Words and photos: Jeff Archer
By the end of 1941, the United States had entered World War II and the war had dramatically altered the bicycle industry. Recreational bike production mostly ceased since the bikes would have used much-needed wartime supplies, such as steel, chromium and rubber. Bikes that were produced during the war years were usually very bare-bone machines, and the parts were often finished with black paint instead of chrome plating.
This 1941 Roadmaster was made earlier in the year when materials were still available for consumer goods. It has extras such as the horn tank, rear rack, truss rods and battery-powered lights on both ends along with chrome plating.
Roadmaster bikes can be traced back to 1936 when they were produced by the Cleveland Welding Company in Ohio. AMF purchased the company in the 1950s and eventually moved bike production to Arkansas to avoid the demands of unionized labor. In 1962, the headquarters moved to Olney, Illinois, where bikes were produced until 1999.
Pacific Cycle then purchased Roadmaster and moved production overseas since it was becoming difficult to profitably make an entry-evel bike in the USA. Pacific Cycle also had overseas experience with other brands it owned, such as Schwinn, GT, Iron Horse, Mongoose and Cannondale.
The Roadmaster name can still be found on inexpensive big-box store bikes today. Roadmaster bikes were ridden in the Little 500 bike race in the 1979 movie “Breaking Away.” This bike saw some screen time in the DeFeet Socks video “The Adventures of the Graveled High Rouleur” which can be viewed at vimeo.com/defeet.
This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology, which is housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection on the MOMBAT website.