The bicycle is the pinnacle of simple but effective human design. It has evolved from nineteenth-century push-along hobby horses through patently ridiculous penny farthing ‘ordinaries’ to the ubiquitous epitome of functionality it is today. So how do you improve on perfection? And why would you want to? This new exhibition at the Design Museum doesn’t answer those questions, but gives us plenty to think about.
It’s not just a display of cool bikes, although obsessives can get within touching distance of some of the most iconic machines of the last 100 years. There’s Eddy Merckx’s steel lightweight that he used to smash the 1972 Hour Record, looking now like something you’d see locked up outside a pub. Compare this to the priceless modified Pinarello that Bradley Wiggins rode for the Paris-Roubaix race this year, with Flanders mud still on the chainstays, or perhaps the most unrecognisably high-tech bike ever, Chris Boardman’s 1992 Lotus Type 108.
But it’s not all so competitive. There’s an appearance from the Spacehopper of the bike world, the Raleigh Chopper. The exhibition is arranged around four ‘tribes’: as well as the High Performers above, there are the mountain bikes and BMXs of Thrill Seekers, Cargo Bikers, who transport goods (or kids) on their workhorse cycles, and plain old Urban Riders, which is probably most of us. London is well represented, with a courier’s battered runabout, a Brompton (made in Kew) and a heavy-but-handy Boris Bike. It’s all presented in context, with video interviews with famous (and not-so-famous) two-wheel enthusiasts.
The future is here too: wooden bikes, electric bikes, a tall bike, upright bikes. London probably ranks somewhere below Raqqa in the ‘least fun cities to cycle’ list, but with this much enthusiasm and hope, things might slowly change. Keep pedalling!
See our Time Out Offer for the chance to attend a late opening of Cycle Revolution