‘American Pickers’: How Mike Wolfe’s Passion for Bicycles Led Him to Race One

by John Jamison
‘American Pickers’: How Mike Wolfe’s Passion for Bicycles Led Him to Race One

“American Pickers” likely wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Mike Wolfe’s passion for bikes. Stumbling upon one in the neighbor’s trash is what sparked his love for picking. But it also marked the beginning of his love affair with the two-wheeled mode of transportation.

It’s hard to overstate how significant bikes have been throughout Mike Wolfe’s life. As a child, Wolfe’s family couldn’t afford the luxury of buying one. When he found one in the garbage, he could hardly believe his luck. Ever since then, he’s been fascinated with bikes. He looks at them as the first thing that gave him some freedom as a kid.

“On a mountain bike, you can blaze your own trail, you can go anywhere you want to, unlike a road bike which limits you to a strip of asphalt,” Mike is quoted as saying on the Antique Archaeology website. “Mountain bikes have the ability to steer you off well-worn routes allowing you to call the shots for where you ride next.”

As he grew up, he took every bike-related opportunity he could. According to an interview Wolfe did with Bicycling in 2011, in his young adulthood, he worked as a bike messenger in Chicago before moving back to Iowa. There, he took a job at a bike shop in Davenport. The “American Pickers” star started by assembling Bridgestone bikes.

Wolfe was quickly promoted to selling them and did well. But most of his money was going toward buying his own bikes. From there, he took his show on the road. In the Bicycling interview, Wolfe talked about how he started collecting bikes from all over. Eventually, he had enough to buy his own shop. All the while, Wolfe continued riding. As it turns out, he got really good at it.

The ‘American Pickers’ Star Won A Professional Race

Mike Wolfe had consistently been riding bikes since the early 1980s. He completed the RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa) on five separate occasions. But it went beyond a hobby.

In the late 1990s, Wolfe won the Iowa State Time Trial Championships. This also happened to coincide with big developments in the other areas of his life. He would retire from competitive racing shortly thereafter.

What Mike Wolfe Sees as the Heart of His Hit History Channel Show

For Mike Wolfe, picking isn’t all about money. It’s about the value he gets out of his connection to the antique or the person selling it.

“Every object has a story. And that story is reflective of a family, or of a place, or of a time, or of a moment. So it’s a show about all of us. It’s reflective of all of us,” Wolfe told The Des Moines Register in 2019.