Austin was very fortunate to host the 2011 North American Handmade Bicycle Show (NAHBS) this past weekend. While certainly an event for the true geeks at heart, I was more struck with the opportunity to use bikes as mediums for art as I was the technical expertise involved.
Sure there’s the chance to admire perfection in the smoothness of a weld line or the using of different components or materials like bamboo, but for me that’s like looking at a marble sculpture and being big on the chiseling technique as opposed to the art or the message, but to each his own.
I prefer to stand back a couple of feet and try and feel what the creator is trying to convey. While this may seem a bit esoteric for a damn bike, I think you can actually feel what it is made for, whether that’s practicality, speed, or just motion in action. I was really impressed with Shin-Ichi Konno’s Cherubim bike, simply one of the best examples of art meeting cycling I’ve ever seen.
The other thing that really struck me was that color is back. We’re seeing a resurgence not only in the handmade side of things, but top retail bikes are getting makeovers as well. I know that some folks have gone in exactly the opposite direction and are going with truly raw materials, but I have to say I like that these artists are finding ways to express the intent and even emotion that their rides innately have.
At the end of the day the bike continues to be one of the most utilitarian machines man has ever invented. But to see what true craftsmen can do to celebrate the many facets bikes have contributed to our society is really impressive. “Bike porn,” some have called it. I’ll take it and look forward to seeing what 2012 and beyond has to bring. Ciao for now – Cb…