The bicycle: a nearly perfect contraption whose basic design has remained unchanged for more than a century. Sleek lines, precise geometry and fine-tuned machinery afford the rider a sense of joy not easily duplicated.
A device that cannot stay upright while stationary, yet seemingly takes flight while in motion.
A thing to behold.
A work of art.
The University of Minnesota College of Design shares in my enthusiasm for the bicycle in its ongoing exhibit: Design Cycles: A Bike Show.
Inside Gallery 241 at McNeal Hall (on the St. Paul campus) one can take in an archive of Minnesota cycling history via bicycles and other various artifacts of the industry. From the penny-farthing to some high-quality handmade frames, which cost a pretty penny, the small exhibit is worth a visit.
One of my favorite pieces in the exhibit is the “Rainmaker” bicycle, which was marketed at the turn of the 20th century. A local racing cyclist and adventure enthusiast, A. A. Hansen, was well-known for extreme feats, including attempting to set the world record by riding 1,000 miles on a bicycle in less than 93 hours. It was said that it rained anytime he raced, so an attempt was made to capitalize on his popularity with the Rainmaker Bicycle. Few are known to exist today.
Of course there are a handful of Surly bicycles, a popular contemporary brand which has become synonymous with Minnesota bike culture. The exhibit boasts incredible handmade rigs from local craftsmen, including Curt Goodrich with his functionally beautiful simplicity, and the eccentric Erik Noren, of Peacock Groove bicycles, with the audacious Voltron bicycle.
Design students also created unique bicycle-themed posters promoting the show, and those are on exhibit in the hallway outside of the gallery.
The exhibit is free of charge and the show runs through May 10. More information can be found here.
With the start of spring, the exhibit is a great destination for an urban ride. There are even bike racks on Buford Circle right outside of McNeal Hall.