Owner is one treasure at bicycle museum

Collection in Freehold is visited by guests from around the world

BY CLARE MARIE CELANO
Staff Writer

 David Metz has welcomed visitors from around the world to his bicycle museum in Freehold Borough. His prized possession is an 1896 Zimmy built by bicycle racing champion Arthur Zimmerman. The Borough Council recently honored Metz on his 95th birthday. David Metz has welcomed visitors from around the world to his bicycle museum in Freehold Borough. His prized possession is an 1896 Zimmy built by bicycle racing champion Arthur Zimmerman. The Borough Council recently honored Metz on his 95th birthday. David Metz loves to collect things, especially things that have moving parts.

Metz, who was recently honored by Freehold Borough officials with a resolution commemorating his 95th birthday, began collecting stamps and coins when he was in his 30s.

Eventually, he said, stamps just weren’t doing the trick for him.

“When I looked at what I had collected over the years, I realized I just had piles of stamps and coins,” he said. “There wasn’t enough action for me in those collections. I wanted to collect something with moving parts. I used all the stamps [for postage] and gave the coins to my kids.”

And this is where the story of Metz, with his passion for collecting antiques, his love of machinery and moving parts, and his love of bicycles all come together.

 PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff PHOTOS BY ERIC SUCAR staff His collection of antique and rare bicycles, along with hundreds of other rare finds such as antique bottle openers, mousetraps and kitchen gadgets, have found a home in the Metz Bicycle Museum on McLean Street, Freehold.

This little treasure has been a source of attraction for bicyclists and antiques dealers from around the world, but it has maintained a bit of a mystery in its own town.

Metz, who was born in 1915, grew up on a vegetable farm in Cranbury, Middlesex County, and moved to Freehold in 1927. He moved to a house on Broadway in the borough in 1949. The house had a large barn offering plenty of room to store his collections.

Metz and his wife, Sadie, who passed away five years ago, and their children, Larry, of Colts Neck, Martin, of Monroe Township, and Lorraine Roffman, of Little Silver, made their home in that house on Broadway for 58 years.

 Visitors to the Metz Bicycle Museum in Freehold Borough will find a collection of rare bicycles and mechanical items that David Metz has amassed.  ERIC SUCAR staff Visitors to the Metz Bicycle Museum in Freehold Borough will find a collection of rare bicycles and mechanical items that David Metz has amassed. ERIC SUCAR staff His fascination with bicycles started when he was quite young.

“I bought my first bicycle when I was in the third grade,” Metz said. “I worked until I saved $6 to buy it. I used to ride that thing every which way.”

He recalled that in order to stop the bicycle, he had to put his foot on the tire.

“There were no brakes,” he said. “I wore out my socks so much that I was the only kid in school who could put his socks on from either end.”

His experience with farm machinery at a young age made it rather natural for him to take a liking to bicycles, to their moving parts and to riding them and restoring them as well.

According to the borough’s resolution honoring him, Metz worked in real estate and opened businesses in Freehold, such as Builders Block and Supply Co. on Throckmorton Street, in 1948. He sold the business to Clayton Block in 1993. He also started Central Jersey Pools and Supply on Throckmorton Street in 1960. The pool business moved to Route 9 in Freehold Township in the late 1960s.

Metz also found the time to build his impressive collection of treasures and opened the Metz Bicycle Museum in 1998. There are 125 rare bicycles and more than 100 rare antique children’s riding toys in the museum, in addition to more than 300 fascinating kitchen gadgets and 300 antique mousetraps.

“The mousetraps were hard to find,” Metz said. “Most people threw them out, so when they are found, they are very valuable. It’s really interesting to actually see how many ways there were to catch a mouse.”

Metz has crafted three innovative mousetraps of his own that are also on display at the museum.

Metz, who now resides at Applewood Estates in Freehold Township, is a consummate storyteller, offering snippets of the history of each and every one of his rare pieces.

Whether he is relaying his experiences bicycling around the world with the New Jersey Wheelman, or demonstrating an antique toaster, salad chopper or lemon squeezer, or showing visitors his rare bicycles, kitchen utensils and lanterns, his words are memorable and significant. The truth is that although the Metz museum is home to some precious treasures, the most sparkling jewel in this treasure chest is Metz himself, whose voice resonates with the passion he feels for his treasures and for the time he spends caring for them.

He knows every detail from how the bicycles were crafted to why they were crafted in a particular way. He knows what type of rider used the bicycles and why. And he can also tell you about the mechanical workings of all of the bicycles. From wooden bases and wheels, to iron wheels and frames, to the rubber tires now used, Metz knows how it all came about, and his enthusiasm when he talks about the process is contagious.

Metz has ridden many of his bicycles in parades, including the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, the Mummers Parade in Philadelphia, the Main Street Parade at Walt Disney World in Florida, and many Freehold parades as well.

On a visit to Freehold while she was New Jersey’s top elected official, Gov. Christie Whitman and her son were given a ride around the Monmouth County Court House on Metz’s 1884 Rudge Rotary Tandem Tricycle. TheMetz Bicycle Museum is also home to a rare 1896 Zimmy bicycle crafted by Arthur Zimmerman, the world’s first bicycling champion and one of Freehold Borough’s noted citizens, according to Metz.

When Zimmerman retired from racing, he returned to Freehold Borough and opened a bicycle factory where he manufactured several models of the Zimmy.

Pride of ownership is important to Metz, but it seems that his love and passion for what he is doing and how the museum fits into his life is the real story here.

And, if you ask him, Metz will even admit that his devotion to the museum and its treasures may be an important factor in his longevity.

Visitors to the Metz Bicycle Museum may go through its doors expecting to see some unique and rare pieces, but it is likely that they will leave with so much more, through the efforts, enthusiasm and knowledge of this quintessential collector of rare finds.

For more information, call 732-462- 7363, visit www.metzbicyclemuseum.com or email dmetz@metzbicyclemuseum.com.