‘American Pickers’: Check Out This Throwback Snap of a Young Mike Wolfe at His First Bike Shop

by John Jamison

Ever wonder where Mike Wolfe found his passion for bikes? The American Pickers star seems to prize the two-wheeled vehicles, motorized or not. It turns out they’ve played a significant role in his life at nearly every age. The Antique Archaeology Instagram account shared a throwback photo of Wolfe doing what he does best—working with bikes.

Before his American Pickers fame, the Iowa native collected rare bikes, competed in professional cycling races, and owned multiple bike shops. Pictured below is a 29-year old Mike Wolfe outside his first shop in Eldridge, Iowa.

“On top of being a small business owner, he also made time to teach bicycle safety to the local kids mixing in a little history lesson to keep their attention,” part of the caption reads.

American Pickers fans who have followed Outsider’s coverage may remember what motivated Mike Wolfe to start picking in the first place. Wolfe dreamed of owning a bike as a kid, but his mom couldn’t afford one. One day, he spotted a rusty bike someone had thrown away, and he claimed it as his own.

Wolfe never looked back. Bikes gave him a sense of freedom he otherwise wouldn’t have had through his youth. And finding a whole pile of them in the trash convinced him he’d start a bike shop one day. That Eldridge bike shop, in turn, began his love affair with collecting bikes, which turned into a passion for picking in general.

In the end, the success Mike Wolfe has found through American Pickers all comes back to his humble beginnings as a kid who loved bikes.

Oh, the ‘American Pickers’ Star Built Bikes Too

We skipped over the whole period of Mike Wolfe’s life between when he started collecting bikes and when he owned his own shop. So what was he up to? Building them, of course. It was the first official job he ever held down in the bike industry.

“I just told the owner that I loved bicycles—that they’re my whole life—and he gave me a job building bicycles in his warehouse. This was 1987, and I built bicycles all day long. I was building 13 bicycles a day, a lot of Bridgestones. I’d tape all the handlebars. I can tape a pair of handles bars like that [snap!]. You should see me,” Wolfe told Bicycling.com in 2011.

And it wasn’t long before his bike knowledge earned him a promotion.

“He saw I was a hard worker and put me on the sales floor. I was selling bikes left and right, but all my paychecks went to my bikes. They were like freaking crack to me,” the American Pickers star added.