Inspiration. The Road Racing Bicycle

The following passage was taken from my final year dissertation which I wrote whilst studying furniture design at Bucks University. Unfortunately cycling has had a lot of bad press recently due to the likes of Lance Armstrong. They have damaged the reputation of the sport, making people quite rightly question performances; I believe it deserves a chance to rise again, to show its true beauty.

In parts of Europe Racing cycling is a way of life and its traditions run deep. Professional cyclists have mythical status, such riders as Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain are considered like gods or warriors. They gain this respect and admiration through the sacrifice, commitment and pain they endure; competing in what has to be one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.

Monumental performances require and merit an impressive piece of equipment, designed to the highest standard, excelling in all areas; weight, stiffness, aerodynamics and responsiveness. The road racing bicycle has fundamentally not changed its basic appearance since its introduction. The design has weathered well over the years into a pleasing form much like a pebble being washed up the beach.

A transparent piece of machinery, nothing is hidden, it has a reassuring honesty. It is a minimalist design, every component is pared down; each has its own function. The function has clearly dictated the form. There is an elementary roundness about all the components; the wheels and the tyres, the tubing on the frame and handlebars, the sprockets and chain wheels, the axles and bolts… We all depend on the wheel, the circle – the most basic, moving dynamic design. Once in flight everything revolves forward; the pedals, cranks, gears, wheels and rider’s legs.

Within the wheels the pattern of the spokes creates an eye pleasing symmetry, individually thin and fragile looking but yet together they ooze strength and peace of mind. The strong structural lines of the spokes are reflected in the frame. Everywhere there are repeat or echo forms; the triangles formed within the diamond frame can be seen in the wheels, saddle and the sprocket teeth.

Everything about a racing bike says movement; the front end is lower than the rear giving an aerodynamic forward thrust look. It has a slippery, silky finish which cuts through the air like a razor.

Often the bike is custom built; tailor made to the size, shape and weight of the rider, thus linking the rider to the art and design of his machine. The rider shares the same streamlined and bare boned strength characteristics as his bike. There is, too, an essential honesty about his appearance; the bones, veins and muscles are all clear to see, as is the expression on his face when under immense physical strain. It’s a combined package which marries well together, balanced, man and machine in visual harmony.

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