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Exhibitions > On the Fascination with Bicycles / Michael Embacher

"When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought of anything but the ride you are taking." Arthur Conan Doyle, Scientific American Magazine, 1896

A bicycle is a sensual, personal object associated with numerous memories. You probably still remember your first bike, the moment when the stabilizers were removed, and your worst fall. For many children, riding a bike offers the first opportunity to expand their play area, to get away from their parents, and to pursue adventures in a wider world.

Above all else, a bike is a means for having fun, regardless of one's age. It is liberating to feel the wind in your hair as you ride, to experience your physical efforts generating a forward motion, to escape the city's traffic jams, or to fly across a frozen lake on an ice bike.

Capo Elite Eis | Cyclopedia | Free Wheel
Capo Elite Eis, 1966

The humble bicycle has the power to create immense anticipation and to fill entire nations with pride. Think of famous races such as the Tour de France or the Giro d'Italia, in which thousands of fans go on pilgrimage to the race courses, while millions more watch in awe on roadsides and in front of television screens. Bicycles appeal equally to riders, spectators, collectors, connoisseurs of craftsmanship, and do-it-yourself types. When the chairman of Ferrari, Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, was asked in a 2007 interview for the German magazine supplement Zeit what vehicle he preferred driving in his spare time, his answer was: "I like to cycle."

Bicycles may also be appreciated for their environmentally-friendly attributes. Powered exclusively by human energy, the bicycle is indisputably the most efficient means of transportation. An exemplary ecological product, it requires no parking space, produces no exhaust fumes, and causes no traffic jams. The average bicycle is small and easy to manoeuvre, making it the best option for moving through congested urban centers. At the same time, it suits our health-conscious age and contributes to any fitness regime, whether on the streets or in the gym. With such a positive effect on society and such a contribution to daily life, it is my personal wish to see bicycles becoming the dominant mode of urban transportation.

Ellettromontaggi, Zoombike | Cyclopedia | Free Wheel
Ellettromontaggi, Zoombike, 1994

My fascination with the bicycle stems above all from the simplicity of the underlying idea - that of efficiently converting human energy into maximum mobility - and from its translation into the language of design. Although the concept of the two-wheeled, human-powered vehicle has existed for more than a century, the bicycle continues to be an incredibly relevant product that is constantly being redesigned, while its basic principles have clearly withstood the test of time.

The bicycle is one of the most uncompromising constructions I know of, both aesthetically and structurally. It requires a lightweight structure (given that the rider must propel forward both his own weight and that of the bicycle), a stable frame (in order to make it efficient), and extremely precise engineering (in order to minimize any loss of friction), and is further enhanced by a graceful and elegant aesthetic appearance.

Bicycle designers around the world are passionate about their work, and spend countless hours in their quest for perfection. The selection presented in this exhibition does not attempt to categorize bicycles in an overly prescriptive manner, or to chart their chronological evolution. Rather, it presents a broad range of bicycles, alongside the stories surrounding each model. The playful, experimental, and innovate characteristics of a bicycle are just as important as who rode it and what historical role it might have played.

The bicycles featured in the exhibition include racing bikes characterized by exquisite details, folding bicycles equipped with clever mechanisms, and touring bicycles designed with particular care and attention for longer journeys. Also included are bicycles that may look extraordinary although their performance is average, track bikes with no brakes that serve as speed machines, and other bicycles
that defy categorization. All these bicycles are roadworthy: I have tested each personally on short indoor rides or on the longer outdoor rides that are part of my daily routine. Being able to enjoy the light-hearted side of bicycles while experiencing the differences between them has been, for me, an enormous luxury.

Long John, Smith & Co | Cyclopedia | Free Wheel
Long John, Smith & Co, 1983

"Cyclopedia" invites you to share my endless enthusiasm for the bicycle and to inspire you to share in a very personal passion. If any of the featured machines spark a greater interest in bicycles or greater admiration for them among exhibition visitors, reveal something of the tremendous attention lavished on every detail by countless constructors and designers, or communicate some of the enjoyment experienced by casual cyclists and road-racing heroes alike, this exhibition will have succeeded.

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