Sit On This

there is no technological artifact like the bicycle. | no product so adeptly balances the stringent demands for universal aesthetic excellence with the equally stringent demands of evocative funtional interaction, advances in design and manufacture have shifted the paradign of the rigid, double-triangle metal-tube frame to something more organic, unusual and open to visual critique. in the last 10 years, parts and ideas that were considered "classic" and immutable to change have been swept under by a tidal wave of innovation. | with these changes - electronic shifting, clipless pedals, aero-compoentry, shock absorbers, monocque construction, titanium, beryllium and composites - bicycles have left mere mechanical harmony behind as a goal. they now have become religious objects in their own right, capable of inspiring awe and devotion. with this integration of a self-expressive,psycholoically-oriented profile, bicycles have moved along a pathtoward higher-level specialization. the bicycle, once a multi-purpose tool, has evolved into a dedicated-function lifestyle machine. | bicycles have an ineffable magic to them that resists one-word descriptions. all types of bicycles have gotten lighter, stronger and smarter by replacing mass with information and materials with intelligence. call the quality that bicycles have " gizmotic quintessence," "self-propelled hot-rod-ability" or "radical techno-shamanism." | these are the same combinations of behaviours, emotions and ideas that are characteristic of capital-a art. the formula of "money = slavish devotion to form = inspiring creations" explains manifestaions as diverse as versailles and easter island, and it also explains wind tunnelderived helmets, nascar-like hyper-emplazoned jerseys, and computer numerically-controlled frame sets. | bicycles now offer a technological proficiency far in advance of alomost any rider's abilities, further raising the stakes for what bicycles reresent. the practical result of this spiritual obsession is that the 1990s are a golden era for bicycle design - just as the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s were, respectively, for appliances, automobiles, discos and sneakers. | seminal moment: february, 1992 when bicycling included three concept bikes in the annual review. for the first time, cycling had something worthy of detroit: show-stopping, crowd-forming, futuristic designs from a company named specialized that offered a vision of wehere bicycling was going, and that had the power to mobilize aficionado and layperson alike. | riders of this new generation of bicycles still think in terms of this old paradign's underlying metaphors: "conquer the hill," "hammer the turn," "pound the pavement" etc. a language of domination dominates bicycle discourse, this same puerile quest for control over that which cannot be controlled is evidenced in the entertainemnt-driven economy that encourages us to see nature as a theme park for consumption. the underside of this fun-park mentality - even for the casual rider - is the feeling of being watched, examined and voted to be inadequate. | on the other side, bicycles hold out the possibility for the integration of mind and nature, body and mind. the bicycle's man-machine interface is tighter and more intimately coupled than any other product we own. ivan illich once remarked that an equitable world would conform to the scale of the bicycle, a view that sees bicycles as powerful awareness machines. think, then, of this new breed of bicycles as part sculpture in motion, part tricked-out machine and part imminent blessing that we can sit on - the best symbol yet of a whirring, non-polluting and technologically beneficent age. |

by Frogdesign

From Graphis magazine 296, March/April 1995, page 29


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