The Wright Brothers started out small. In 1893 they opened a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio, and we all know that they moved on to bigger and better things. I have to say the same about Ron Adler of Rye, Arizona. Back in 1970 he opened his own tiny bike shop in Tacoma, Washington. He called it The Bike Doctor, and as the Wright Brothers did, he has now moved on to bigger and better things.
In 1988 Adler loaded his entire collection, which included motorcycles as well as bicycles, into eight semi-trailers and said good-bye to Tacoma. He pointed his compass south to the scrub-covered mountains about 60 miles northeast of Phoenix. There he established what has grown into the most extensive and intriguing collection of two-wheeled artifacts in the entire Southwest, perhaps even in the entire country. All-Bikes Antiques Museum on Highway 87 is a chrome oasis on the edge of the desert, daring unsuspecting travelers to stop and indulge their curiosity.
Enthusiasts of all things two-wheeled are never disappointed when they leave the highway to explore this supermarket of motorcycles and parts. I am always happy to pay Adler a visit and to lose myself among the aisles of stacked bicycles, motorcycles and spare parts, all neatly arranged by manufacturer. I am reminded of how much I’ve always loved junkyards, but it would be unfair to label this playground as such.
I roam among the rows of Kawasakis, Yamahas, Hondas and Suzukis. I pass a mountain of wheels and tires, stacks of fenders, handlebars, engines and exhaust systems. Like a kid given the after-hours key to a toy store, I wander wide-eyed. I find plenty of the well-known American and European machines: Harleys, Indians, BMWs and Triumphs. But the real fun here lies in the mystery of the lesser-known makes and models: the Rickmans and the Jawas, the Monarchs and the Whizzers.
Adler shows me the nameplate specials like the Sears Allstate, the Western Union Simplex Service Cycle, and the Montgomery Ward Riverside (made by Benelli). Then there are the genuine oddities like the Indian mopeds made in Taiwan, Herman Munster’s trike from the 1950s TV show, and the Honda Motocompo, a mini motorcycle from the 1970s that can be folded into a suitcase. “I’ve run into Honda dealers who never knew the suitcase cycle existed,” Adler says. You name it, he’s got it: if not the whole motorcycle, then all the parts you need to build your own.
I got to thinking about my first motorcycle, so I quizzed him. “You know, when I was a kid I had a Honda MR-50, and I was just wondering….”
“Just got six of them in off a carnival ride,” he responded before I could finish. He motioned for me to follow him, and sure enough, there they were with the same orange and black gas tanks, the same tiny one-cylinder engines. There was just one problem: these seemed a lot smaller than the one I shared with my brother in the early 1970s. Used to be I could barely straddle that monster of a motorcycle. I guess things really do shrink with age. I thought it was he who made my day, but it turns out that I might have done him a greater favor.
Indeed, there is nothing Adler enjoys more than to light up the face of a visitor by showing them their first bike. “A lot of dads will come in and they’ll want a bike for junior that they had when they were a kid,” he reflects. “Maybe the son is 14, dad had one when he was 14. That happens a lot. I think it’s more dad than the kids. This place is like memory lane, reminding them of their first sense of freedom.”
All-Bikes has got to be memory lane for Adler as well. His first motorcycle was a Schwinn bicycle on which he installed a Clinton lawnmower engine when he was 14, and to this day he continues to build and restore, both for himself and for his clients. One of his most recent projects was the restoration of a 1946 Indian Chief, but his favorite bike is his namesake cycle, a 1954 Adler. This rare classic was built the same year that he was born. Perhaps that is why it is the motorcycle on which Adler can most often be found cruising through the canyons, forests and deserts of Arizona.
Ron Adler has many local customers but he does business with people from all over the world. They hear about All-Bikes by nothing more than word-of-mouth, and they come or call in search of whatever it is that they can’t find in their own backyard.
To get to All-Bikes from Phoenix take Loop 202 east to Highway 87, then go north to Rye. From wherever you begin your journey, a visit to see Adler will be well worth the trip—actually both trips: the one through the stunning Arizona countryside, and the one down your own memory lane.
* This article All-Bikes: The Motorcycle Museum of the Southwest was published in the May 2002 issue of Rider magazine.
* UPDATE: All Bikes burned down in a fire in June 2013. To read the story, CLICK HERE.