Peddling to the past

Published 4:18 pm Thursday, November 17, 2011

For a little more than a year now, Jim’s Vintage Bicycles has been the go-to place for hard-to-find bicycles and bicycle repairs in Berrien Springs.

James William Baney is a self-proclaimed bicycle nut.
He fell in love with bicycles at an early age, and, at 50, he still hasn’t gotten rid of the itch. If anything it has gotten stronger with age.
“Everyone’s got to have a hobby, and this one’s mine,” he said. “Bicycles always meant freedom, a way to get away from home.”

Off the Water/CRAIG HAUPERT Self-proclaimed “wheelie king” Jim Baney pops one inside his Berrien Springs business, Jim’s Vintage Bicycles.

Owner of Jim’s Vintage Bicycles in Berrien Springs, Baney says he can still pop a wheelie and ride it for about 1,000 feet.
A few times a year, Baney dresses in early 1900s apparel and rides a high-wheeler bicycle in parades. He also rides a unicycle and is an avid skateboarder.
He hopes others can catch his youthful spirit while visiting his store at 665 Michigan 139, or Old 31. It is open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
“Right now, I’m living every day like it is going to be my last because life is too short,” Baney said. “I want to put a smile on everybody’s face. It’s as good as cash in my pocket is the way I look at it. I don’t care to get rich, I just want to put a smile on people’s faces.”
Baney buys, sells and trades vintage bicycles, specializing in 1970s and earlier models. He has a couple high-wheelers, or bicycles that have a large front wheel and tiny back wheel. He says one of them is more than 100 years old.
Two of Baney’s favorite vintage bicycles are a 1936 all-aluminum Monark Silver King and a 1933 Elgin  Skip Tooth. He also sells unicycles.
“I’ve got a lot of stuff that isn’t easy to find,” said Baney, who also repairs, restores and customizes bicycles.
“Before you throw it away or put it in a garage sale, bring it to me,” he said.
Baney used to sell bicycles from a store in the 2500 block of Pipestone Road in Benton Harbor. He relocated to Berrien Springs in September 2010 because he needed more space to display what he calls “50 years worth of accumulated stuff.”
In the back of the store, a wall is dedicated to the “Lords of Dogtown,” a 2005 film based on a group of skateboarders that helped revolutionize the sport in the 1970s.
“Ever since that movie came out, I wanted to build a pool and get them guys out here,” Baney said.
Just last year, Baney attended a bicycle party in Ann Arbor with a bunch of other bicycle enthusiasts. As is tradition, Baney said they created a fire and burned a Huffy brand bicycle in it. Baney then jumped the fire with his bicycle.
“That may have been the first time anyone has jumped a fire with a bike in it,” Baney said.
Jim’s Vintage Bicycles can be reached at (269) 408-0430 or online