The College of Design’s newest exhibit at the Goldstein Museum on the St. Paul campus takes visitors for a ride through the world of bicycle design.
The museum opens its “Design Cycles: A Bike Show” exhibit on Friday. The exhibit showcases bikes and gear from local bike shop owners, as well as items that cover the biking industry’s history in Minnesota and current infrastructure.
“[The exhibit] brings awareness to a wider audience and offers an entry into the world of custom bike building and thinking about what it means to design a bike,” curator Jean McElvain said. “I think it’s important with all design objects to kind of demystify their construction so that we can develop a real appreciation for how these things work.”
In February, Shinola president Jacques Panis and head of bicycle design Sky Yaeger will speak about their philosophy on bike design. And in March, the exhibit will hold a panel discussion concerning bike infrastructure issues, such as merging motor and bike traffic.
Graphic design professor James Boyd-Brent, who has been involved since the early stages of the exhibit’s planning, said he hopes it emphasizes the importance of bicycles.
The brains behind the bikes
Many of the exhibit’s bikes and products came from Minnesota bike shop owners and designers, including Erik Noren, Curt Goodrich and Ryan Carlson.
“That was a goal of ours, to show the contribution that all those innovators have with the bike success of Minnesota,” McElvain said.
Erik Noren contributed a bike that exemplifies the broad range of creative opportunities in bicycle design.
The flashy red cycle features a rear disk wheel that serves as a canvas for an airbrushed Voltron, an anime character, bursting out of a galaxy behind him. The seat, which features a drawing of a shield, sits higher than the curved handlebars.
“I tried to encompass what a space track bike would look like,” Noren said.
Noren’s body of work also includes an Evil Dead bike, featuring splattered red paint on the frame and an airbrushed skull on its front wheel. He’s currently making Star Wars bikes for a different bike show.
Some people applaud Noren’s work, while others don’t appreciate the effort. He attributes the mixed reactions to the public’s lack of exposure to custom bike building.
“I think the craft needs to grow and be more accepted and understood in the mainstream. Just like how Americans perceive anime as just cartoons, people see bikes and go, ‘That’s just a bike,’” Noren said. “ … People are going to begin to understand that it’s not just a bike, just like how anime’s not just a cartoon.”
Noren’s friend and fellow custom bike builder, Curt Goodrich, contributed a bike he originally built for a customer who agreed to donate it for the five-month exhibit.
While Goodrich doesn’t build his cycles with spectacular features like Noren, his detailed bike was designed with a specific person in mind.
“The guy rides on a lot of gravel roads, so the tires are kind of wide and create a cushy ride,” he said. “He wanted fenders, and he wanted to be able to carry it, so I designed and painted it accordingly. And it’s pink.”
The St. Paul exhibit expands on many facets of the biking industry, including accessories.
For instance, it features bike apparel from Twin Six, a company co-founded by Ryan Carlson, a University of Minnesota alumnus.
Carlson sent four jerseys along with arm warmers. The jerseys show Carlson’s eye for intricacies and reveal the ways designers can allow people to individualize their biking experience.
One of the displayed jerseys features an Eye of Providence symbol on the front.
“That one is very loud; it’s like banana yellow with lightning bolts all over it,” Carlson said.
When asked how the show benefits bike shop owners, the exhibit’s contributors expressed similar sentiments.
“The people attending it aren’t necessarily my target market, but not everything needs to be about the bottom line of the business,” Goodrich said. “To me, I just think it should be fun, and if it exposes a few people to other opportunities for bicycles, then that’s cool.”
What: Design Cycles: A Bike Show
Where: Goldstein Museum of Design, Gallery 241 McNeal Hall, 1985 Buford Ave., St. Paul
When: Jan. 24–May 10