Posted on 09 January 2021

Wilbur and Orville Wright opened their first bicycle sales and repair shop called the Wright Cycle Exchange at 1005 West Third Street in Dayton, OH, in December 1892. They carried many well-known brands of the day: Coventry Cross, Halladay-Temple, Warwick, Reading, Smalley, Envoy and Fleetwing. Prices ranged from $40 to $100. The Wrights added repair facilities, rented bicycles and sold parts and accessories.

The brothers constantly improved their product to be at the cutting edge of evolving cycling technology. For example, in 1898 the Wrights designed their own version of the coaster brake that would work with their proprietary wheel hubs. They contracted with Charley Taylor, a local machinist, to make the coaster brake parts. The brothers would hire Charley in 1901, and in 1903 he would help them to build their first successful aircraft engine. In 1900, the Wrights announced a “bicycle pedal that can't come unscrewed” by manufacturing right-hand threads on one crank arm and left-hand threads on the other. 

They were active in the bicycle manufacturing and repair business from 1892 to early 1907. The bicycle business was good to the Wright brothers, initially. In their best year, 1897, they made $3000 (or $1500 apiece) in a time when the average American worker was doing well to make $500 per year. They also managed to save $5000, which went a long way in financing their aviation experiments, including the power flights of 1903, 1904 and 1905.

The Wright brothers manufactured very few bicycles after 1902—they were much too busy developing their airplanes and trying to find a market for them. When they finally began to sell aircraft in 1909, their fifth and famous bicycle shop at 1127 West Third Street was converted to a machine shop where employees of the Wright Company—the first U.S. airplane manufacturing business—turned out parts for the airplane engines and drive trains.

Visit the fourth and only Wright Cycle Company on its original foundation in Dayton, OH. Home to the Wright brothers’ bicycle business from 1895 to 1897. Here the Wright brothers began to manufacture their own brand of bicycles which gave the brothers the mechanical experience and financial resources necessary to begin their experiments into powered human flight.

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