WOnce you can do it, you never forget it. Those who couldn’t or weren’t allowed to as children, like those refugee women who now want to catch up on the art of cycling in this country, quickly realize that balancing and steering at the same time is not that easy. But the reward for the effort is perhaps the most ingenious form of locomotion invented by man. And with the significant participation of a German: Well known, but always a pleasure to tell – an exhibition about bicycles cannot begin without the handcar, and neither does the show in the basement of the Pinakothek der Moderne.
Seventy bicycles can be seen, they come from the inventory of the New Collection, from private collectors and the well-stocked German Bicycle Museum in Bad Brückenau. Richard Sappers and Francis Ferrain’s collapsible Zoombike (1998/2000) make a start on the ground floor, probably to agree that this is primarily about designers. A promise that cannot be fully kept.
The age of the diamond frame
It’s strange that forest officials of all people made two of the most important inventions of the nineteenth century: Karl Drais, born in 1785, invented the impeller, and the Austrian Josef Ressel, who was eight years his junior, invented the ship’s propeller. From the draisine, the path leads with a few branches into the age of the diamond frame, in which we are currently still living. Not only the penny-farthing proved to be a dead end on the way there. But the cross frame keeps popping up, organic forms that ignore the concept of lugged or welded tubing anyway.
The mix of types includes folding and collapsible bikes, track and racing bikes, touring bikes and children’s bikes. Of course, the bonanza wheel should not be missing, because it triggers memory boosts. The feel and sound of training wheels has been in the minds of several generations. Long before the first car – for younger readers: a twentieth-century concept – socialization as a cyclist, possibly linked to a love of certain brands, provided a common bond. It would be nice if Schau helped to eliminate an old-fashioned word from the vocabulary – the “bicycle”.
Because bicycle history is always also material history. Wood, steel, aluminium, magnesium, titanium, carbon and plastic were and are used. It was only in 1936 that aluminum tubes could be welded for the first time, one of many revolutions in bicycle construction. At its core, bicycle design cannot be separated from the history of technology, which is what makes the task curator Josef Straßer has set himself so difficult. Design often works in secret, in the components, in the details: In this respect, the catalog does an excellent job by dedicating close-ups to shapes that are all too easily overlooked on a tour. And of course some bikes look like concept studies. Can you drive and possibly brake with it?