OTHO - When Tom Krough, of Otho, purchased a rusty old bicycle at a garage sale a few years ago, he really didn't know what sort of hidden treasure was under all the old gunk.
He found out when he rode it - rust and all - in the annual Otho 4th of July parade.
"A gentleman stopped me and said it was a motorized bike," he said.
Tom Krough, of Otho, puts a little extra polish on the gas tank of the 1930s vintage Hiawatha motorized bike he restored from a rusty hulk. The quart-sized tank is supposed to power the bike for more than 150 miles.
That led to some research and the discovery that yes, indeed, it should have a motor on it.
Krough said that motorized bikes began to hit the market around the time of World War II - they were popular with delivery drivers and couriers.
His is a Hiawatha brand.
"They were sold by the Gambles Hardware stores," he said. "Back then, even Lehigh had a Gambles."
He estimated that his bike was made sometime in the mid- to late 1930s.
He worked on the restoration project over the course of the winter. He needed to do some rust removal, find some missing parts, paint the frame and most importantly, find an engine.
"I got a reproduction," he said. "It fits the frame just perfectly."
How perfect is perfect? There's just about enough room for another coat of paint and maybe a thin credit card between the pedals and the motor.
He gets to drive by a lot of gas stations.
"The tank holds about a quart of gas," he said. "You're supposed to be able to go 155 miles on that - at least that's what they say."
Krough has added some modern features to the bike - they include a digital odometer, an LED headlight and a tail light with no less that seven different blinking functions.
It only has one gear though, which is probably enough - you pedal the bike to start the engine.
"It goes about 35," he said. "Twenty-five is what I consider comfortable - otherwise it's like holding a weed-whacker, your hands go numb."
Stopping the bike is very much old-school.
"It's got coaster brakes," he said.
For those unfamiliar with older bikes, that doesn't mean coast to a stop, it means that moving the pedal backwards activates a brake in the rear wheel.
Krough said he did the restoration work for the fun of it and that riding it around the Otho and Coalville area is about the same thing.
"It's a fun little critter," he said. "I've been having a blast with it."
So how does the machine deal with the famously steep Quail Avenue Hill?
"It does fine," he said. "In fact, it picks up speed."
He isn't sure how many horsepower the 80-cc engine has.
"It's got enough for me - on a bicycle," he said.
So far, it's proven fairly reliable, with only one incident.
"The spark plug vibrated out," he said.
He carries a small tool kit for those emergencies. It has a couple of wrenches stamped Kawasaki and Yamaha - two motorcycle makers.
"Since it's a bike," he said, "they couldn't be regular wrenches."
Krough plans on looking for more unusual bikes to his collection and when he isn't working on them, he's busy working on his 1942 Ford.
"It's really close to running," he said.