On your Bike for the Cycle Revolution
The first wall of the Design Museum’s exhibition on the art of the bicycle is something of a waking dream for fans of all things shiny and two-wheeled: there hangs the machine on which Eddy Merckx took the world hour record in 1972, just down from Chris Boardman’s 1992 Olympics Lotus bike, alongside Chris Froome’s Tour de France-winning Pinarello.
But the organisers of what is the final attraction at the London museum’s Thames-side base before it moves to bigger premises in west London, stress that the exhibition, called Cycle Revolution, is about the bicycle in all its forms.
Round the corner from the gleaming road and mountain bikes ridden by elite athletes are everyday ones: folding bikes, clunky commuter models, a battered courier workhorse and cargo bikes.
Deyan Sudjic, the museum’s director, said bikes were perfect for the final exhibition at the venue’s current home – it has been there since it opened in 1989 but is moving to Kensington next year. “They’re a bit like chairs and corkscrews,” Sudjic said. “They are almost perfect, but designers still want to have a go at tweaking them.”
The headline grabbers undoubtedly come in the opening section, with one of the more comprehensive collections of famous race bikes ever put together. As well as Boardman’s futuristic machine from the Barcelona Games, there are bikes from the London 2012 Olympics, including the track bike ridden to victory by Chris Hoy, and machines ridden by his Team GB colleague Joanna Rowsell.
Next to each other are the conventional, steel-frame orange bike on which Merckx broke the world hour record in 1972; and the futuristic, curved creation on which Italy’s Francesco Moser beat the mark 12 years later. A few metres on is the bike on which Bradley Wiggins broke that record this year.
But the exhibition takes a broader view, splitting into four sections – high performers, thrill-seekers, urban riders and cargo bikes – each with its own “advocate” featured in a video.
While Hoy and three-times BMX world champion Shanaze Reade represent the first two, the symbol for urban riders is Lucy Granville, a south Londoner whose riding mainly involves taking her child to nursery and herself around the city. Granville’s own slightly battered town bike is on show (the museum explains that she has been lent another).
One room shows 10 cities’ attempts at redesigning their streets with cyclists in mind. As well as more obvious candidates like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, they also include Seville, Montreal and the Colombian capital Bogotá, as well as London.
Another section is devoted to bespoke bike builders from various backgrounds, among them Caren Hartley, who switched from studying sculpture and jewellery at the Royal College of Art to making steel bikes.
Donna Loveday, the curator, said of the exhibition: “There are so many aspects to bike design. It goes from high-performance bikes tested in a wind tunnel to our bike builders, who are literally one man or one woman in a workshop.
“We wanted to reflect cycling in many different areas. You’ve got cyclists who commute, those who are more competitive, and many others.”
One of the paradoxes was that for all the futuristic bikes on show, most looked fundamentally similar to the 1888 Rover safety bicycle, also on show. Loveday said: “As you walk through the exhibition you realise that the basic form of the bike hasn’t really changed. What has changed is the materials and technology, to make them more comfortable or more suited to the terrain.”
Cycle Revolution runs from 18 November 2015 to 30 June 2016.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010