According to the new book Velo—2nd Gear: Bicycle Culture and Style, by Gestalten, the first bicycle was created in 1817 by Baron Karl Drais von Sauerbronn of Germany, for the purpose of collecting taxes from his many tenants. Built out of wood, brass and and iron, von Sauerbronn was able to cover long distances on what was then called a Laufmaschine (running machine).
As bike technology advanced, new iterations of the two-wheeled device were introduced, with another benchmark coming in 1890 with the "safety bicycle." Just like the name suggests, this bike was more refined and less dangerous and could be ridden by both sexes. Suffragist Susan B. Anthony called it the 'freedom machine,' saying that the bicycle had 'done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world,'" Velo explains. Women traded in their corsets for skirts and bloomers and had a field day with this new technology.
Over 100 years later, bike design and style has come a long way, with everyone from seasoned bike pros, architects, mechanics and tinkerers trying their hand at perfecting the craft. That means that today, there are more beautifully built bikes than ever before. Here's a selection of the 15 best designed, from Velo—2nd Gear. Which one is your favorite?
This Cicli Berlinetta, specialists in Italian pedigree bicycles and equipment, was photographed by Berlin-based photographer Tino Pohlmann, whose recent series My Life in Cycles is all about, yep, you guessed it.
Vanguard Bicycles, based in Singapore, customizes and restores classic bikes as well as builds beautiful one-offs, like this one here.
Created by Marcelo Ertorteguy and Sara Valente, the Cyclo-phone is a bicycle-powered music machine; rhythms change when pedaling speed is adjusted.
Candy Cranks is an online forum for “chicks that spin around the globe.” They also sell bespoke cycling products, and customizable frames like this one, by Tarn Mott, of Primate Cycles.
With the Swedish line Bike By Me you can customize your bike online, and have it shipped as soon as two to five days.
The Mixie Bike enables you to ride in urban environments, but with smaller 20" wheels that make storage and transportation easy.
With their sleek, colorful designs, Tokyobike's ethos is all about the idea of Tokyo Slow: enjoying the ride as much as the destination.
La Malle Bicyclette was developed as a collaboration between Moynat, a French luxury line and the Italian bicycle company Abici.
The Universal Bike by New York designer Manuel Saez includes a unique frame made from two parallel, continuous loops.
Peugeot built its first bicycle in 1882, and today, Peugeot Design Lab, expands on the brand's long legacy with these two models.
Biascagne Cicli describes itself as “two guys and a garage." If this is what can happen in a garage—I'm in.
Los-Angeles based sculptural artist Robert Wechsler made the "Circular Bike" from nine salvaged bikes, tube steel, and yellow paint.
Dutch designer Jan Gunneweg crafts bespoke bikes from the likes of walnut, ash, French oak, and cherry wood.
Images courtesy of designers from the book Velo—2nd Gear, Copyright Gestalten 2013
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