May 20th, 2022

Merrill Denny: All for the Love of Bikes

Two greyhound dogs are leashed to a bike rack with a bike-shaped design.
A place to park your pooch.

Merrill Denny stands in his rural workshop southeast of McMinnville. Old bikes, some dating back more than 60 years, are heaped in corners. In the middle of the workspace is a curved creation perhaps eight feet long, shaped from steel and welded to represent Merrill’s passion. 


Merrill’s art is familiar to many though it may be difficult to find his signature on each installation. Pieces are found throughout downtown McMinnville and Salem. They are displayed in Davis, Calif., and Philadelphia. “They’re all over the country now,” he says. “I’ve got one down in Key West and as far north as Maine and Connecticut.” 

Merrill Denney, a metal fabricator, owns Creative Metalworks. He designs and creates custom bike racks. His work is driven by a passion for bicycles. He talks of his 1966 Schwinn Stingray with its trademark banana seat – his “green stinger” – as other cyclists may talk about a sleek, Italian racing bike. To some, his collection may look like escapees from the island of misfit toys. To him, they are simply awaiting tender loving care. 

Merrill’s bike racks are an extension of his passion. Walk along McMinnville’s Third Street and spot his work. There’s a standard production rack in front of Union Block Coffee. A steel circle is attached to an anchored post. A bicycle likeness is centered in the circle. Stretch a bike lock through the design and your machine is secure. 

Walk a block to Serendipity Ice Cream and spot one of his customized racks, a penny-farthing design that alludes to the ambiance of an old-style ice cream shop. What’s a penny-farthing? It’s a bicycle popular 140 years ago with an exceptionally large front wheel and a ridiculously small back wheel. 

A metal bike rack shaped as a penny farthing bike with Serendipity Ice Cream shop in the background.

If Merrill were to own a penny-farthing, it likely would not surprise friends to see him riding down the street. He’s been known to take his cycling to extremes. Step into Third Street Pizza and spot an old blue bicycle hanging on the wall. Below the bike is a photo of a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt taken as he rode that bike 200 miles over two days from Seattle to Portland. Yes, that’s Merrill. 

“I was doing the (annual) STP (Seattle to Portland cycling event) in 1999 with a couple buddies and all of a sudden, we hear this group of cyclists. I looked over and see this guy. He had a really nice bike. Really nice, but everything was wrong,” Merrill recalls with a sprinkle of chuckles. “It looked like he had just jumped on it and had not adjusted the bike for his size. These guys had nice gear, but they didn’t know what they were doing with it. 

“I looked down at his bike shoes and he had a pair on that at the time cost about $150. I decided that next year my bike, all my gear, everything is going to cost less than his shoes.” 

On a mission, Merrill finds a $75 bike at a “flea market junk store.”  

“I took it home, tore it all apart, lubed it, adjusted all the bearings, everything. I put a new set of tires on it – I think they were 10 bucks each – but I didn’t change the saddle, didn’t change anything else. I put my water bottle in the basket on the front.” 

With money to spare, he bought a pair of secondhand shorts and the Hawaiian shirt. “And that was my riding outfit. I came in under budget.” 

More than two decades later, Merrill Denney’s misfit bike remains a fixture on a pizza parlor wall. It’s elevated in status, at it should be. 

Dan Shryock

Dan Shryock regularly writes about McMinnville, travel, and cycle tourism.  See his work at