Eliot Houses the BMX Museum

BMX bike frames hanging from ceiling
Only some of the bike frames and gears at the BMX Museum. Photo credit
Micah Kranz, Niiro Circus

Gary Sansom doesn’t have to go far to visit a museum. He has one of the world’s largest collections of BMX bikes in his house.  There are bikes in the kitchen and bikes in the dining room – which really isn’t a dining room at all, just a room in the middle of the house with custom shelving units built to display different bike parts from different eras.

The museum began as a website, BMXmuseum.com, in 1998 to collect data on every BMX bike ever made. The site has over 57,000 bikes catalogued and a worldwide audience. He also has a massive personal collection, which has become the physical manifestation of the site.

Although there are bikes all over the house, the basement is the real treasure trove. “I should have a camera to capture people’s faces when they see this,” he jokes, turning the corner at the bottom of the stairs. In front of him is a narrow path lined on either side with hundreds of bikes, a library of two-wheeled trick machines, each with its own story.

Gary got his first bike in 1969. Like many kids of the time, he wanted a bike like his dad’s motorcycle. Original BMX bikes were designed to ride low and usually had big wheels, mimicking the cool style of their motored version.

What’s valuable to Gary is often personal. His favorite color is red, and it shows in the collection. In the mass of bikes he points out tiny details, like specialized welding techniques or a custom sticker. It is a room overflowing with details.

Gary doesn’t just like to look at bikes, though, he likes to ride too. “I get grumpy when I don’t ride,” he said. Other bike enthusiasts are excited to see what he’s riding around town or at a park, but says for the most part people act put-off to see an adult riding a low bike.

Gary’s collection is somewhere in between a proper museum and a personal collection. Although there are no regular hours, he likes to share his collection and knowledge with people who are interested. Visitors from all across the world have found themselves admiring a rare titanium frame, a signature Evil Knievel bike or something else no longer in production.

By Ruth Eddy