Monday, November 16, 2009

“Bike Rides: The Exhibition” Carbon, titanium, bamboo – oh my!

As David Byrne famously sang, “what a day it was.” David Byrne has been on my mind lately, you see, since he was the driving force behind the “Bike Rides” exhibit at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT. Bryne, a major bike advocate and life-long urban commuter, recently published Bicycle Diaries which should be high on your holiday list as it is on mine. After reading about the show at a small art museum 60 miles from my home, I realized it was a perfect destination for late season Sunday ride. So after a few emails, I arranged to team up with my pals Andrey (local) and Don (in CT) for a ride, lunch and museum stroll. For this trip I tried the Bike Route Toaster mapping program and, boy, was it a pleasure! Forget "MapMyRide" (!), this web interface is clear, quick and easy to use and the instant cue sheet function is outstanding; all turns were clear and accurate.

I awoke on Sunday morning early and after large cup of fresh coffee, hit the road shortly after dawn to meet Andrey at the new Walkway over the Hudson and covered a nice assortment of secondary roads over the hills of eastern New York on our journey to the Connecticut border where we met Don for lunch. The three of us sat outside a local deli and enjoyed a fresh sandwich in the warm late morning sunshine. On the final mile to the museum, Andrey stopped into a CVS to get supplies to tend to a nasty patch of road rash he incurred on a stretch of wet pavement we encountered on the way over.

The exhibit at the small, lovely Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum begins before you enter tall glass doors that front the building. A modern red bike rack welcomes riders to the museum. While it was not entirely clear to us how to best use the rack, it did feel good to be a “part” of the exhibit in some way. My wife would later berate me for not locking my $4000 bike before entering. The first thing you see as you enter the museum is a tricked-out Piragua cart favored by urban “icey” vendors. The bright orange hue wagon contrasted nicely with the multicolored syrups in glass jars above. Video screens and stereo speakers completed the effect. This was one bad-ass rig. Further inside we were treated to a collection of fully customized single-speed wonders on loan from the Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican Schwinn Club. In addition to these customized bikes, visitors can view a collection of high-end concept bikes from Cannondale, Parlee, Seven and Richard Sachs up close. Hung together from translucent wires, these bikes were beautiful to admire.

A major disappointment for me was the utter lack of classic or contemporary handmade light touring or brevet bicycles. While a copy of Jan Hein’s Golden Age of Handbuilt Bicycles was prominently displayed in the museum’s gift shop, there were sadly no historical or contemporary examples of this fine craft. One only has to think of the wonders at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show (Feb. 26-28, 2010 in Richmond, VA) to realize all of the missed opportunities. The closest thing to a drool-worthy rando training bike was the fixed-gear Viridian bike crafted by Seven Cycles president Rob Vandermark with its custom titanium frame, wooden fenders and cork bar grips. Did I mention the two bikes that Lance loaned the show? They were cool, too.

After a short, yet satisfying, visit to the museum we were back on the road in an effort to make it home by nightfall. Sadly, we missed the discussion scheduled for 4:00 p.m. with Bob Parlee and Rob Vandermark, but it was a great afternoon for a ride and the fact that we rode 120 miles to see this show sits a lot better than driving down just in order to chat with the builders. So grab your bike, and hit the road. The show is up until January 17, 2010.

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