The tandem bicycle hangs on hooks from the ceiling in Dick Foltz’s garage.
A road bike that Foltz once took on a 200-mile ride and a speedy white racer manufactured by famed French company Peugeot are carefully racked in a closet in the back. Spare tires, seats and other parts are stored and ready.
And by the back door, a simple cruising bike is ready for when Foltz wants to ride around locally.
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“I’ve got too many bikes. I don’t use them anymore, except this old one I ride around the area here,” he said.
Foltz, 81, mainly rides his bicycle around his home in the Franklin United Methodist Community these days. But all around him, he carries a lifetime of experiences on two wheels.
Sixty years ago, he and his wife rode to Massachusetts together, covering more than 1,800 miles. He has crisscrossed throughout the Midwest, followed the coastline around Lake Huron, and has won dozens of competitive rides, including some 100 and 200 miles long.
Cycling has been a huge part of his life, and now his hope is to share his experience to encourage others to get on a bike.
“It’s been something I’ve really enjoyed, and think other people will too,” he said.
Foltz started bicycling as a student at John Herron Art Institute in the late 1950s. He had $35 budgeted for transportation — and trying to figure out how to make that last an entire semester, he decided to buy a bike.
“I rode every day, winter and summer. In that way, I really got connected with cycling,” he said.
Foltz and his wife, Martha, were both living in Indianapolis when they got married in January of 1957. As a delayed honeymoon, they decided to bicycle to Boston.
They had taken up cycling to classes and around the city. They had done some extended rides in the area, but nothing like what they were going to take on. Prior to leaving, they took a test run to Versailles State Park in southeastern Indiana to gauge their equipment for a longer trip. They wanted to see if their bicycles would hold up, and what kind of other gear they might need.
“We wanted to see if we’d be able to make it,” he said.
On June 23, 1957, they set off on their European bicycles. The couple carried a combined 85 pounds of camping gear on their backs, and headed to northern Indiana before shifting direction east through Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York into New England.
When they wanted to stop for the night, they’d try to find a state park or other place to set up a tent. Barring that, they’d just look for a protected area off the road.
“We’d look for those places where the road goes through a hill, and you have the steep part on one side. We’d go to the top of that steep part and nobody could see us, camping on the edge of the road,” he said.
One of his enduring memories of the trip is camping at John Boyd Thatcher State Park in New York, waking up and looking out over the central Hudson River valley spread out before them.
“It was pretty high up. You could look out and see Albany, maybe 50 miles away. It was clear enough to see the city, and we knew where to go,” he said.
The entire trip cost them about $4 a day. In an interview with the Indianapolis Star upon returning after the ride, Foltz said the best day only set them back 65 cents — lounging around on the beach at Cape Cod.
They were minor celebrities, having been interviewed by numerous newspapers along their route and then in Indianapolis after getting home. The cycling community also took notice.
“We didn’t have 10-speeds back then. We tried to get them, and no one wanted to talk to us. But we got home, and the phone was ringing off the hook,” he said. “It was too late then; we’d already made our trip.”
From that point on, cycling was a major part of their lives.
Foltz is a trained artist specializing in sculpture, and his artwork often intersected with his passion for cycling.
He designed and carved the trophy given out at the yearly Tour of Brookside, an annual biking event on the east side of Indianapolis. Foltz also did trophies for the Hilly Hundred bike race in southern Indiana.
He worked for RCA, designing models of their televisions, radios and other electronics. On the weekends and vacations, he took to his bike.
Some of his greatest accomplishments are “double centuries,” 200-mile-straight rides that tests a cyclist’s willpower. Finishing requires strategy; Foltz learned that with 50 miles to go, you have to pace yourself with a mix of riding then hopping off and walking the bike for a short while.
“It gives your muscles a break from pushing that bike all the way,” he said.
At his fastest, he completed one in 13 hours and 20 minutes, riding on his prized Peugeot.
Another time, he cycled all around Lake Huron with three of his friends. Starting in Bay City, Michigan, they weaved their way along the coast, over the Straits of Mackinac, around the Upper Peninsula and throughout Canada.
The group careened through old growth forests and rode along the coast. The views were breathtaking; the only problem was the mosquitoes.
“We get in the woods to stop for the night, and you got in your tent pretty quick,” he said.
One of the most useful tricks he learned on the road was fixing a punctured road tire using nothing but milk. Certain bicycle tires have a silk casing around the tube, making for a light and fast, yet tough, tire.
The problem is that on the road, it’s next to impossible to undo the stitching and get the tube out of the tire and repair it. That’s when Foltz discovered that Grade A homogenized milk will work in a pinch.
“You blow a little bit of milk in the valve — not very much, but enough so that it gets around that outside of that tire, and the fat in there will close the hole. It keeps you from getting stranded,” he said. “You can finish the ride during the day and then take that apart when you have more time.”
Foltz first got into tandem biking a few years later. A fellow cyclist that he knew wanted to sell his, and Foltz took it off his hands.
He stripped it down, improved a lot of the gears and hardware over the years. Oftentimes, he and Martha Foltz would take it out on the weekends for 100-mile rides together.
“It didn’t even feel like it was a century. It just breezed by,” he said.
The Foltzes moved to the Franklin United Methodist Community in 2005, after living on the east side of Indianapolis for much of their lives.
Martha Fultz died in 2007, and though it wasn’t the same without her, Dick Foltz would still take the tandem bike out on occasion. When the Methodist community conducted its annual Fourth of July parade, he offered to ride it with an American flag attached to the back.
“It was too much starting and stopping. You get started on a tandem, you don’t want to stop all the time,” he said. “If you have a good stoker in the back, you’re in business. (Martha) was my stoker. You couldn’t even tell she was on there, except when she didn’t want someone to pass us. Then she’d turn it on.”