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Visual Culture of Cycling


This book aims to analyze the cycling aesthetic and it’s effect on culture and environment. Over time, cycling has become increasingly ingrained in everyday life for its practical uses, fashionable allure, and environmental sustainability.


Brandon Sax Anthony Marra Josh Pindjak University of the Arts Communications Studio Spring 2013

Visual Culture of Cycling FRAME GEOMETRY

Early prototypes were made of wood and crude iron, while featherweight carbon fiber models extract every ounce of efficiency for the rider. As time progresses, the usage of the bicycle moves from mainly children to adults of all ages. People use bicycles to commute, time trial racing, downhill mountain racing, and just for the thrill of the ride.


Clothing has adapted for every aspect of cycling. Before the bicycle, women wore restrictive clothing, and it was very difficult for them to ride a bicycle. As biking becomes more popular specific types of clothing develop for the activity, such as lycra jersey and the helmet.


Unknown to most, cyclists were the first to petition for paved roads. However, our roadways have become dominated by cars. Cities are beginning to design congested areas to be more bike friendly, and in turn more sustainable for the long run.




French Count of Surac created the first “hobby horse”, two wheels joined by a wooden frame, resembling the body of a horse. This was influenced by a 17th century stained glass window.

The “dandy horse” or “fast feet” was simultaneously developed by two German and French men. Baron Karl von Drais added a fork to the front wheel, allowing the bicycle to be steered by handlebars.

Asphalt first appears in Paris, France.

Pierre Lallement designed the “boneshaker” with a wooden frame, iron tires, and pedals attached to the front wheel.





The “safety bicycle” is developed. A lowered center of gravity and the modern drivetrain made the bicycle more accessible for the public.

First bicycle race held at the Parc de Saint-Cloud in Paris, France.

The pennyfarthing was designed by an English firm, Reynolds and May. It was very difficult to ride due to it’s large size and high center of gravity.

The most prominent bicycle club, League of American Wheelmen formed in Newport, Rhode Island. Their major goals were to improve roadway throughout America.

Bloomers become popular which enabled women to ride a regular bicycle instead of the adult tricycle, which was riden for decency reasons. The bicycle craze killed the corset, creating a “common-sense dress” approach for women, greatly increasing their mobility.





WWI takes place. Shown below is the Model MB which was built as the standard bicycle for the military. Features include a double top tube and seamless welding throughout for added durability.


The Bike Boom

Cycling companies shift their focus to kids bikes. Infrastructure was being built around cars, so bikes became seen as a children’s toy. Kids’ bikes featured elements from cars or motorcycles to appeal to kids.

WWII takes place. During this time, gasoline is rationed and bicycling becomes a viable alternative to the automobile.

A scientist at DuPont invented spandex and soon thereafter trademarked its version of the fabric as Lycra, the famous material used in bike shorts and jerseys.

The leather helmet is the only helmet style available. It offers protections from roadrash and scrapes only.





10-speed racing bicycles became widely available. The arrival of many post-World War II baby boomers at adulthood caused demand for inexpensive transportation. People began to be more environmentally aware.


The name mountain bike appears in print for the first time. This starts a new sub-culture in biking.

First BMX bike, the Schwinn Stingray Deluxe was developed.

At this time, there was no standard biking attire for cyclists. Many early mountain bikes were converted road bikes with thicker tires and reinforced parts of the frame.

Earth Day is recognized for the first time, showing an increased awareness of the environment, spuring an interest in biking.

A network of bike friendly lanes began appearing in Portland. This shows the community is accepting bikers, and the community is large enough to enact change.

This is the first time in America that more bicycles were sold than cars. This continues for the next 4 years.






First Philadelphia Bike Race

The Oil Crisis This occured when OAPEC proclaimed an Oil Embargo. The price of oil skyrocketed and prolonged the Bike Boom, causing some road ways to be used my bikes.

BMX became “official� in 1974 when George E. Esser founded the NBL, which officially sanctioned BMX races. This also coincides with the first BMX publication.

Oregon Bicycle Racing Association was founded (OBRA) OBRA sanctions events for six cycling disciplines. They are road, track, criterium, time trial, cyclo-cross, and the mountain bike disciplines of cross-country, downhill and super-d.




For a short while no-shell helmets are used, which causes the head to be pulled and tugged while on the ground, but was still safer than the leather helmet.


The Philadelphia International Championship takes place each year in early June. The 124 mile race draws riders from all over the world. People start to wear specific cycling apparel.


Survey of 2,400 North American cyclists: 95% ride for health & fitness 82% ride for the environment 52% ride to avoid traffic congestion 46% ride to save gasoline 34% ride to avoid parking

On a typical day in 2001, Philadelphia had an estimated 11,000 bicycle commute-to-work trips.

By this time, the contemporary helmet with a hard outer shell is produced. This is the safest model to date.

3.2% of Center City, Philadelphia workers commuted via bicycle.

Lance Armstrong won his 3rd Tour De France, putting biking in the American spotlight.

A patent is filled for magnetic pedals that attach to the riders shoe.

Bike Boxes begin popping up in Portland, Oregon as cycling increases in popularity.






National Complete Streets Coalition is formed. In 2005, a study shows that 6% of Philadelphia’s Center City is bikeable.

In 2009, 1% of all U.S. trips were made by bicycle, an increase of 25% from 2001. The number of bike commuters in America rose by 64% since 1990. The growing number of commuters, combine their bikes with their everyday wardrobe, making it a part of their style.

Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor activity in America by frequency of participation. In 2010, Americans ages 6 and older went on 2.44 billion bicycling outings, averaging 58 outings per bicyclist.



Portland Oregon has highest share of commuters by bike (5.8%). Biking use has gone up 39% from 2001 to 2011. In the seventy largest US cities, commuter bike use is up 63% in the same period.

As of today, 60% of trips are bikeable in Amsterdam.

Portland, Oregon starts the first bike share.

The large number of cyclists calls for parking garages just for biking.



S-works teams with McLaren to produce this carbon fiber bicycle for $18,000.

Cycling is becoming a huge facet of mainstream culture. A cardboard bicycle concept is introduced, which can be made for as little as $15. Experimental frame geometry is also explored, giving new form to a dated model.


A helmet is styled like a hat, helping people look stylish while cycling. Many people dress for the destination rather than the commute. A proposed drawing for New York City shows a bike lane segregated by a patch of shrubbery or a small park. This is safer for the cyclist and offers a more pleasurable urban experience.

The invisble helmet is conceptualized. It functions as a hood around the back part of the neck and deploys when the body falls from the bicycle.

Cycling timeline may 1 optimized  
Cycling timeline may 1 optimized