The balloon bicycle was first produced in the 1930s. The term balloon refers to the tires that were on the bikes. The tires replaced the smaller, thinner single tubed tires which were harder to maintain. The balloon bicycle tire was much wider and had a tube that was easier to maintain. These tires also required less air pressure than the older version, giving a more cushioned ride to the bike.
The balloon bicycle was introduced by Schwinn in 1933. In two years this style became the industry standard. All bikes were manufactured with this type of tire for many years, with the war having slowed down bicycle production during the 40's to assist with the war effort. A 1932 Montgomery Ward's advertisement shows pictures of a 1932 Montgomery Ward Hawthorne ACE with balloon tires as well. While it appears on first glance to be a standard 28" tire, it is actually a 26" tire. This ad predates Schwinn's claim of the first balloon tire bike in American in 1933.
The Balloon Bicycle was made sometime in the 1930s until the mid 1950s; however, it is believed that the very first one was most likely presented in the year of 1934. It is alleged that it was named for the huge, fat wide tires with a smooth tread that are commonly referred to as balloon tires. This type of tire runs on a higher pressure than many other bicycle tires.
Balloon bicycles generally had a light on the front fender and a decorative tank that looked like a motorcycle gas tank. The seats were often called saddles because they were made out of leather and resembled a horse saddle. The handlebars on this traditional bike had a number of twists in them. Many bicycle enthusiasts consider the balloon bicycle a classic that is unsurpassable.