Man of Steel
~ On December 29, 2018, Canadian cycling legend Mike Barry passed away. This story is republished now in his memory and was featured in dandyhorse issue 2. Because of Mr. Barry's relationship with artist Greg Curnoe we were able to use his artwork - a painting of one of the Mariposa bicycles Barry built for Curnoe - on the cover of issue 2. Thank you Mike Barry and may you RIP. ~
Story by Adam Hammond. Photos by Molly Crealock
Looking out their windows in the early months of 1970, the residents of Davisville Avenue would have seen something strange. Half visible in the falling snow, two grown men were taking turns riding an unpainted, rusty, brakeless bicycle along the icy roadway.
Looking as delicate and out of place as a butterfly in the winter scene, the bike was designed not for the Canadian January in which it found itself, but for the smooth and immaculate banked surfaces of an indoor velodrome. The men who rode the bike, seeming just as out of place and speaking with foreign accents, had built it in a nearby basement. They were Mike Barry and John Palmer. It was the first Mariposa bicycle.
Mike Barry arrived from England in 1964—along with the Beatles, Kinks, and Rolling Stones—to a Toronto very much in need of British invasion. “After leaving London and the pubs of London,” he remembers, “We were very amused by the Toronto pubs. There were ‘Men’s Beverage Rooms’ which were bleak featureless rooms filled with guys drinking beer at Formica tables. A waiter would circulate the room with a tray of glasses of beer. As soon as he saw someone finish a glass he would slap another down in front of him. There was no choice of beer—you got whatever they were serving that day. There was no food available. The impression you got was ‘drink or get out.’” There were other attractions. Jazz clubs at Yonge and Dundas where, as Barry recalls, “one could see the best jazzmen in the world for the price of a beer.”
And, with some effort, there was cycling.