What bike conveys your nation’s spirit?

To say the Japanese like collecting Colnagos, or that the British love Bromptons, is like saying the Dutch go for bikes without a few wheel nuts. There are no points for stating obvious facts. What I would like to do is stereotype a few countries that have been going under the radar, or actively hiding the existence of a typical bike— one that betrays the national spirit.

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For example I’ll tell you that the quintessential American bike is handmade from the most incongruous materials (so long as they’re locally sourced), then built up with thousand-dollar components from Chris King, Phil Wood, Joe Blogs and any other legendary name in alo-o-ominum buffing. It will carry a guarantee that no part was airflow, shipped, or  even trucked, but was gathered by the frame maker himself, wearing hillbilly get-up, on his regular rounds visiting family owned components manufacturers throughout Tennessee, Colorado and Stratford-upon-Avon, riding a long-john.

NAHBS-2012-Metrofiets-bakfiets-cargo-bike01Meanwhile, in Singapore, the snow bike fashion of 2013 has given way to the sled bike fashion of 2014. To an outsider looking at a tropical island this may seem perplexing, but to the Singaporean who has not stepped out of a shopping arcade to check the weather since the late nineteen-nineties, owning a sled bike is no stranger than any of the thousands of ways one might demonstrate that they are not trapped on an island, by buying things from off of that island.

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Australians, meanwhile, make no choices of their own when it comes to buying a bike. They let their mate Dave introduce them to a third mate called John, who owns a bike shop and who will look after them if they mention Dave’s name. John has taken good care of all of his good Aussie mates’ mates, fixing them up with full carbon Specialized road bikes with Zipp wheels and SRAM red components. That’s the minimum requirement to do Amy’s Ride. What’s Amy Ride? Think of it as the Australian cycling community’s annual expression of helplessness. Whether trusting shop keepers to not rip us off, trusting drivers to go around us, not through us, or trusting British military commanders not to sacrifice our lives in Gallipoli, misplaced investments of trust are all just a part of the ANZAC tradition.

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About Steven

I'm on a mission to put cycling on the agendas of architects, urban designers and fellow academics, who see the potential for bicycles to change cities and buildings. My PhD is in architectural history and my interdisciplinary research spans art theory, philosophy and cultural studies. I teach architectural history and theory and design studio at The University of Tasmania, Australia, and formerly worked as an architect designing large public housing projects in Singapore.
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3 Responses to What bike conveys your nation’s spirit?

  1. James says:

    I reviewed various custom frame builders around Melbourne until I settled on one who would produce me a beautiful frame, TIG welded and made from the lightest and stiffest steel tubes known to man, Columbus Spirit , for a reasonable price.

    Who is this frame builder? Ewen Gellie is his name. Why? Because I want to be able to fit 28mm tyres to ride rough roads, and race on the same bike. I don’t want to hit my toe on the front tyre while doing a track stand at the lights. I want it to fit me properly, not make concessions to meld a production frame to fit me unsatisfactorily.

    I already had the groupset chosen. Of course it is Campagnolo Chorus. It and every other part came from overseas, and were carefully selected, weighing up durability, lightness, comfort, usability and cost. The wheels I assembled from parts I collected from Miche, DT Swiss and Kinlin.

    Recently I made an addition. I bought a SP PV-8 dynamo hub and built a new front wheel to power a B&M IQ-TEC Premium headlight. Absolutely brilliant. I could win A grade races with this headlight on. I reused a Mavic OpenPro Ceramic rim with 32 Revolution spokes. With the ceramic coating, the braking surface is as good as the day it was new, though it has already carried me over 100,000km. Did I mention durability?

    But I’m different. You knew that.

  2. Jared says:

    Steven! That post is hilarious! I didn’t know that folks from Singapore were into fat bikes(not snow bikes)! I thought it was just Midwest,United States, thing. You rode a fat bike yet?

    I’m proud of the American cycling stereotype you have given us. Thanks.

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