50 Bicycles That Changed The World is part of a series of lightweight pocket books talking around the topic of design. If you like the 50 bicycles book you can go check out 50 Typefaces That Changed The World, become a font geek, enter you own font on dafont.com, invent a new style of dingbats and go on to rule the world. Or not.
|(Super hero dingbats.)|
I’m going to say that 50 bikes can have a greater impact on the world than 50 fonts. Bicycles revolutionized transport and changed the way we lived and how we built our cities. They’re such a central part of our culture now it’s hard to imagine someone had to invent them. Of course, they were not only invented but constantly re-invented.
Fonts, on the other hand, are merely a means for exchange information about bikes (because we’re too lazy to make videos).
What’s interesting about so many of the bike in 50 Bicycles That Changed The World is how many were single speed or fixed. Technically speaking the first bike, the velocopede, wasn’t even a bike. It was a type of running machine. After that they started designing fixies. Perhaps the most hardcore was the colloquially termed penny farthing.
If you think you’re core because you have no brakes then you should try sitting astride a wheel so massive your legs dangle a metre from the ground. And without pneumatic tyres. Worse yet, this was before tattoos, so once off the bike there were no visual cues to remind people of what a hero you’d been. Might have to go fight in the Boer War and earn some real medals hey chaps.
The Flying Pigeon get’s a mention in the book, even though half of us have never heard of them. I’ve seen one or two in my travels in Asia but apparently there are millions of the suckers out there. There are so many that they’re not just the world’s most popular bicycles, they’re the world’s most popular vehicle.
A few track bikes make it into the book. Eddy Merckx’ hour record bike, Franky Moser’s hour record bike, Graeme OBree’s hour record bike. If you set an hour record your bike made it into the book. What’s interesting about Graeme OBree’s bike though is how little changed the bike changed the world. Graeme designed and built the bike himself (along with his training schedule and training diet: marmalade sandwiches). Building your own bikes isn’t very sexy, not in the face of triple-layup unobtainium with dual-compound marketing drivel competing against it. I don’t recall anyone ever copying Graeme Obree’s methods except perhaps Graeme Obree, who tried to set a record in one of those wacky recumbent bikes.
The Bianci Pista makes it into the book, as representative of the whole single-speed/fixie thing.
I’d argue that as a force for cycling, fixies have put more bums on seats than anything else I’ve seen in my time, and has sporned and gently mutated into renewed interest in urban cycling and now the growth of cyclocross. No doubt that impact pales when compared with that of the Yike Bike (also in the book), an idea so dubious only the nascent popularity of the Segway could compare to it.
Just near the end, perhaps in a bid to prove that fifty bikes was about five bikes too many for a book, they throw in the EADS Airbike. This bike was definitely a victory for 3D printing geeks worldwide but apart from the fact that it was barely rideable and looks like it might snap in half, was a perfectly good example of what non-cyclists think a bike should be.
Speaking of non-cyclists. They’re more important to cycling than cyclists. According to some. There are, you see, heaps of them, and only a small handful of us cyclists. That’s why bikes like the Mando Footloose could be so important. Except for the fact it’s not a bicycle.