'Cyclepedia': A New Book Looks at the Beauty of Bicycle Design

It's no secret I'm a longtime lover of the two-wheel life. Now, a new book brings two of my great passions -- bikes and design -- together with such poise and passion that it's hard not to swoon. Cyclepedia: A Century of Iconic Bicycle Design is part heartfelt homage to the beauty of the bicycle, part museum of notable bike innovations, channeled by Vienna-based designer, bike aficionado, and collector Michael Embacher through 100 remarkable bicycles that range from peculiar niche velocipedes to cutting-edge racing models to high-end design masterpieces.

Delicious technical details and historical bits enrich each images, and a foreword by renowned designer and avid cyclist Paul Smith bridges the geekery of veloculture with the bike's place in pop culture.

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Bianchi C-4 Project model

The C-4 frames of this sleek, futuristic bike made their debut in cycling competitions in 1987.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC.

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Inconnu (Unknown)

Nicknamed the Inconnu (Unknown) and produced by a designer who remains anonymous, this folding bike takes around one hour to fold and, once folded, the trailer it forms needs to be tolled since it's flatter and broader than the bike itself.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

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Vialle Velastic

Dating back to 1925, the Vialle Velastic aimed to make cycling as comfortable as possible and was advertised with a promise to make cycling feel like sitting in an armchair.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

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Bike Friday

Designed for the world tourist, this bike comes in a case for transporting it on aeroplanes that doubles as a trailer while cycling. The designers, Alan and Hanz Scholz, were inspired by the idea of people cycling away from the airport after landing.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

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Bob Jackson Tricycle

This unusual tricycle was made in the U.K. in 1995, customized and hand-crafted to the rider's requirements.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

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Solling Pedersen

More than 100 years old yet still in production today, this unorthodox design comes from Danish blacksmith Mikael Pedersen, who set out to create a frame that could fit a rider of any height. As the rider added his or her weight, the bike gained stability thanks to a flexible saddle suspended on a cord.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

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Tur Meccanica Bi Bici

A curious compact Italian tandem from 1980.

Image courtesy of Michael Embacher via the BBC

Equal parts illuminating and aesthetically transfixing, Cyclepedia: A Century of Iconic Bicycle Design is bound to tickle your curiosity, quench your design eye, and make your hands itch for the handlebars.

HT @kboelte / Sierra Club. Images: BBC.

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This post also appears on Brain Pickings.

Presented by

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings. She writes for Wired UK and GOOD, and is an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

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