Cycle Revolution

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Cycle Revolution intrigued us when we first heard about it, to say the least. Cycling is a pursuit that has surged in popularity over the last decade, and has been changing the way we design and use, not only bikes, but the objects that accompany them too. In building MEAME, we delve into the needs of commuter cyclists fairly regularly, but what of the rest of the cycling world? How do you showcase the vibrancy of a community like cycling within a design exhibition?

Well, the Design Museum’s Cycle Revolution exhibition tackles that question. By categorising cycling in four groups – High Performers, Thrill Seekers, Urban Riders & Cargo Bikers – they take us, the viewer, through a synoptic view of the contemporary bike world. Laid out around the exhibition space, we saw a mixture of physical objects, images and videos.

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Undeniably, bicycles are a clever piece of design and engineering – and the key element Cycle Revolution is celebrating. In the exhibition, you go from learning that DIY customisations gave birth to mountain biking, to total immersion in the world of bespoke bike makers. Or reading about high octane performance cyclists, who transition their passion into designing for more everyday riding. It’s these contrasts that are interesting about the exhibition, as it helps showcase the range and diversity in cycling.

One bike that drew our attention was Tom Donhou’s. A spectacular and unusually large crank stood proud on a custom-made steel frame bike – but why on earth was there such a large crank? Well that’s the intriguing bit; Tom just wanted to experiment. He loved watching speed trials, and decided to experiment with speed himself by creating the fastest single speed bike. You can see a video below of the concept and test ride:

It is wonderful to see the curiosity of Tom’s passion evolve into an 80mph speed! We think it’s this spirit that is one of the most romantic thing about his story. Since it’s January, we are thinking about our goals for the year ahead, and we think Tom is one to aspire to when starting your goals – be curious, experiment and have fun. The results can be incredibly rewarding.

Interspersed between the bikes are the other pieces of design that capture the cycling experience and history. One story we loved was the history of classic design icon, Brooks saddles. Starting out in Birmingham in 1866, John B. Brooks originally made horse harness and general leather goods. After the rather unfortunate death of his own horse, he was unable to afford another one and borrowed a bicycle. As fate would have it, Brooks found the seat of his new travel method so uncomfortable that he was inspired to start making saddles. We liked the unconventional beginnings of the company we know today, as it reminds us that great design is often interwoven with daily life.

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Another interesting design was the Kranium bike helmet. Designed by Anirudha Surabhi as his graduate project at the Royal College of Art, the Kranium helmet took inspiration from the very unlikely woodpecker. By observing how a woodpecker head has adapted to repeated shock, Surabhi designed a honeycomb cardboard structure to provide increased head protection, whilst remaining lightweight. In testing, the helmet reportedly absorbs four times the amount of impact energy compared to regular helmets on the market, and lasts for more than one impact. Personally, we felt the ingenuity of this design is how it looks to nature to design a more effective and ultimately, safer solution.

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All in all, if you’re interested in bikes (of course you are) Cycle Revolution is definitely a trip worth making. It shows us key pieces of design, and it allows us to understand more about how these impact our experience with the bike. There is a lot of information admittedly, but through this, the Design Museum is able to show us the rippled effects that cycling has in our society. And just what a revolution that is.

Cycle Revolution is at The Design Museum until 30th June 2016.