Friday, 1 April 2011

Nothing ages like the future

Nothing ages quite the same way as things were were originally designed to look futuristic, and bicycles are no exception. From adverts that equate cycling to space travel, to bikes designed to tap into the 1980s arcade game craze, we take a look at a few examples of retro-future design.

Space first appears in bicycle adverts, in a sort of neoclassical setting. A cynical observer might conclude that the themes were adopted mostly in order to show pictures of scantily clad ladies:

 But there were also adverts that equated a particular brand of bicycle with effortless travel, using space (and bizarre little goblin-men) to drive home the message

By the 1930s, the designers of the actual bicycles were beginning to incorporate space and jet age influences in a very noticeable way.

The Elgin Bluebird was available from the Sears catalogue, and its steel monocoque tubing  included a built-in headlamp and speedometer.

The Schwinn Jaguar featured styling that was equal parts chopper and Shopper.

Another Sears product, this time from 1960, the Spaceliner boasted amazing styling - check out that rocket chainguard! These are meant to be hard to find with the original fittings as they used fragile plastic parts.

The most spacey of all space-age bikes - the Bowden Spacelander - was actually designed in Great Britain in 1946, but wasn't produced until 1960. With its fibreglass body it was pretty unwieldy to ride, and only 522 examples were originally produced.

It was however immortalised on a stamp in Vietnam.

By the 1980s, just like pop musicians and stockbrokers, bicycle designers had completely lost the plot. The result was the Raleigh Vektar - a BMX with lots of angular plastic crap bolted to it. Even a built-in radio and an advertorial on Blue Peter couldn't save it from being a commercial failure.

A more respectable modern effort is Tequila Sunrise, by designer Jason Battersby. While the bike geek in me ponders the effective head angle and wonders "Does it even go round corners?", another, louder voice is saying "Who cares?"

If what you've been reading has got you running out to the garage to wrap your bike in tinfoil, you might like to know that there'll be a special prize for the most retro-futuristic conveyance at the Vintage Velo, courtesy of our sponsors HubJub.

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