Late Saturday night, Mike Barry Sr. passed away. I was very sad when his family confirmed the news with me. When I went to the Mariposa Bicycles shop in mid-November to meet with him and talk about vintage bike parts, I only ended up seeing him for a short moment. He didn’t look good and had to cancel our meeting. He was apologetic, but I could totally understand.

Mike was 80. The custom bicycle company he started with John Palmer is on the verge of turning 50. In 1969, the two English expats made a track bike in the basement of a Toronto home. The frame was composed of tubing they’d acquired from the Canada Cycle & Motor (CCM) racing division, which, by that time, had shuttered. Mike had also told me that before they got to that cache of tubes, tragically, a good bit of that metal was used as rebar in someone’s concrete construction. In 1972, Mike opened Bicyclesport, a downtown shop where the bikes were made.

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His influence, however, went far beyond frames. He and Mike Brown formed the Toronto Randonneurs so the two of them could organize and ride bevets and rack up enough kilometres to gain entrance into Paris-Brest-Paris, the world’s premier randonneuring event. They were, in a way, too successful. “The problem was that we engendered so much enthusiasm in our staff at Bicyclesport that they all went to P-B-P and Mike and I had to stay at home to look after the store,” Mike said in an interview. He probably also organized the first cyclocross race in North America.

I feel that in Ontario, any cycling enthusiast is no more than two degrees of separation from Mike. If you haven’t chatted with him in his shop, you’ve seen him at an event, whether it was a downtown crit or a cyclocross race his grandson was competing in. If you haven’t been on a ride with him, someone you know has. You know someone who got into cycling because of Mike.

As the editor of Canadian Cycling Magazine, I have a few favourite duties for each issue. One is the Vintage Velo section, mostly because every few months I’d get in touch with Mike and arrange a visit to the shop, which his son, Michael, and daughter-in-law, Dede, run. Mike would find some cool old bits from his extensive collection – Lucchini derailleur, Vittoria Margherita shifter, Lucas King of the Road acetylene lamp – and we’d chat about them. Some of my favourite pieces were Mike’s Palladini hubs. They were from a bike shop that Mike knew from his youth. The place was bombed during the Blitz in November 1940. The shop didn’t make it, but the hubs did. They eventually made it into Mike’s collection in 2006 and were later a part of his Torpado project. I’d not only learn about the parts themselves, but Canadian cycling history, from the old track in Delhi, Ont., to the artwork of Greg Curnoe. Mike was always so generous with time and vast cycling knowledge.

I’m going to miss Mike and those chats. Many of us will miss the man who is the father of modern cycling in Canada.

Mike Barry Sr.
Mike Barry Sr. Image: Mariposa Bicycles/Bicycle Specialties

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19 Comments

  • Martin Penner says:

    RIP Mike. A true cycling gentleman. He built my first tandem back in 1985. Oddly enough, I sold it back to him after I lost my stoker. Great memories. Thanks

  • Bruce Zinger says:

    A very sad day, indeed.

  • Thomas Byrnes says:

    Very sad news. I had the good fortune to meet Mike and his wife Claire at a Finger Lakes Ramble hosted by Dr. Douglas Brooks about 12 (?) years ago in Bristol, NY. Mike and Claire rode a beautiful Mariposa tandem with our group. Mike brought and educated our group on several vintage derailleurs. About ten years ago, Mike and his partner did a wonderful job refurbishing a Rene Herse bike I purchased. Mike was a very kind and humble person who contributed so much for cycling. RIP Mike Barry

  • Tom Wade West says:

    Very sad to hear this. He was kind – and knowledgeable – a gentleman who took a moment to chat about ‘the classics’. Proud to have made his acquaintance. Rest In Peace, Mike Barry.

  • Mike Rosen says:

    Mike was my longest friend in Canada. We met in Bicyclesport just before we moved here in ’73. So many great rides with him and Mick Brown in the old Britannia CC. My younger son, Noah worked with Mike before he started Velocolour… goodbye “old friend”… there won’t be another like you.

  • Marilyn Freeman says:

    Bicycle Sport was the 1st place my 6 day old daughter was taken to back in 1985. Mike was THAT important! He got me into randonneuring. Into the zoo ride. Into the culture of cycling. And I won’t ever forget the Hallowe’en costume parties with him and his business partner, Mike Brown. So many good memories.

  • Laura Robinson says:

    Mike and Claire Barry created a base for many cyclists in Ontario. I have lovely memories of them in the 1970’s riding out to watch races and time trials. Eventually a little Michael Barry started appearing at the start line. What a legacy they have given us all….one that Michael and Dede continue.
    Much sympathy and a heartfelt thank you to Mike’s family and friends for all he has done and they will still do.

  • Tim Porter says:

    Thanks Mike for getting me started and sustaining me all these years, aye, Tim Porter

  • Dave Phillips, Maleny, Queensland says:

    Very saddened to hear of the passing of Mike Barry, and I offer my sympathy to Claire, Michael and Dede as well as Michael’s many friends the world over. A quiet an unassuming man, yet filled with a knowlege and passion which inspired many. The wheels roll on… Vale Michael Barry

  • Howard Rogers says:

    Feeling a lot of sadness and remembering some neat (and exhausting) moments with Mike. Cycling has lost a true champion of the sport and he’ll be missed, but always in the hearts of those whose lives he touched. Thanks Mike and my love and condolences to Claire and the family.

  • Bob Rogen says:

    Sad news. I have a Mariposa, ordered from him in 2003, but never got to meet him. He is a mentor of sorts for me, by his example, spirit, and efforts. I will think of him on every future ride on my Mariposa, as I have on every past ride. Hugs to Michael, Dede, and their family. – Bob in California

  • Jesse S says:

    Twenty years ago, Mike Barry built our organization one of a kind adapted two-wheel bikes that we have used to teach hundreds of special needs youth how to ride two wheelers on. His great work has helped so many special needs children discover the joy of cycling.

  • gordon shannon says:

    So sad to hear. But i have many memories of Mike (and Mike) at Bicyclesport and Brittannia CC. That was my real education in cycling. My thoughts are with Mike and Claire and Michael and Dede.

  • Antonio Mazza says:

    Rest In Peace, friend.

  • Leslie says:

    I am very sorry to read this. I met Mike Barry and his wife at Cirque du Cyclisme in Greensboro, NC, in June 2007 and we had an enjoyable conversation. When I mentioned I was riding my Marinoni that weekend, he was very complimentary about his Quebec colleague’s work. And when the evening event at the Cirque featured handbuilt bicycles commissioned from five leading framebuilders, someone at my dinner table commented that Mike Barry should have had a bike featured as one of the best around. Mariposa–the only bicycle to be on a piece of artwork in the National Gallery of Canada, and rightfully so.

  • John Palmer says:

    Mike, so sad. I had raced against you in 1955 over the hills of Ashdown Forest in Sussex UK. We met up again in 1968 when I came to Canada where we rode with the Britannia C.C. Then we started building Mariposa frames in Alan Bentley’s basement. We had great times, the Montréal Six Day race, riding down to Buffalo with Ian Brown in the early season and struggling home the next day, the Erotica trip, Many bike shows ………so much more, the parties we had with the rest of the Toronto bike riders, the parties we had in recent years. I can only borrow the words of Raymond Poulidor after Jacques Anquetil passed. Well Mike you have beaten me to the finishing line once again. RIP Good Friend.

    • Dave Phillips says:

      John Palmer of the skunk works CCM; yes, its a sad day indeed, but we have our memories to comfort us till we meet again for spring training… Dave

  • Nice article, great history

  • David Ellis says:

    He was very influential, even to those of us in northern Ontario. My very good friend, and also now deceased, HansMetzen and I had him repaint the first tandem frame we ever built. As fledgling frame builders, Mike provided advice and encouragement.

    When my son was very young, Mike also provided the inspiration to build him a tiny road machine, as he had for for his son some years before.

    In reference to the “two degrees of separation”, Velocolour just repainted a frame for me and we had discussed Mike whilst visiting their studio. The cycling world is small and we all value our friends within.

    Rest in peace Mike.

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