50 bikes that changed the world

The Guardian recently ran a promotion for a series of Design Museum books celebrating 50 designs that changed the world; cars, chairs, bags, hats, dresses and shoes.

Things that change the world can often be quite utilitarian: the paper clip, the Colt revolver, the Model T Ford. Sometimes it’s not a thing but a process or an approach that changes the world such as smelting metals or splitting the atom. But could 50 hats really change the world? Perhaps a NASA spacesuit helmet, a Roman centurion’s helmet or Jesus’s crown of thorns might qualify.

50 things that changed the world

But let’s be fair, these books are about fashion and design. We’re in coffee table territory here; it’s not an essay on the correlation between hats and global power.

In surveys of human inventions that have changed the world, human memory is relatively short term. The internet, the personal computer, jet travel, the mobile phone are often cited. Really though the most accessible, the most influential driver of change has been the bicycle.

So did the Design Museum miss a trick by not doing 50 bikes that changed the world? Well it’s tough to think of 50 bikes that changed the world. We’re talking 50 actual bikes, not 50 manufacturers or 50 types of bike. And if we get into defining the criteria for “changing the world” we could be here for some time. To be honest there’s probably only one significant bike: the Rover Safety Bike from which everything since has been derived.

But anyway here’s my list of landmarks on the evolution of the bicycle.

  • Old bikes [1] The Dandy horse, [2] The Penny Farthing [3] The Rover Safety Bike
  • Small wheeled bikes [4] Moulton F-frame [5] Moulton space frame, [6] The Bikerton, [7] The Brompton, [8] the Jopo

Alex Moulton on the F frame from architakes.com

The Jopo from urbanbikestore.com

The Jopo from urbanbikestore.com

  • City/hire bikes [9] the London Barclays Hire bike a.k.a. “The Borris bike”, [10] the Parisian Velib [11] the Barcelona Bicing, [12] the Copenhagen city bike
  • Innovative frame designs [13] the Pedersen, [14] the Burrows Lotus, [15] the Trek Y-Frame, [16] Paris Galibier this is really a curio, and I could equally have chosen with the “Curley Hetchins”, the “Bates Flying Gate” etc., [17] Obree’s Hour Record breaking Old Faithful
The Burrows Lotus

The Burrows Lotus

The Paris Galibier from Spinwell.co.uk

The Paris Galibier from Spinwell.co.uk

The Trek Y-frame from roadbikeaction.com

The Trek Y-frame from roadbikeaction.com

  • Racing innovations [18] Alan’s glued and screwed carbon frames [19] Bottecchia Time Trial bike ridden by Lemond to win the ’89 TdeF – even then it’s arguable that it was the tri bars that were the revolutionary bit. [20] This one’s a bit tenuous Gios Super Record (tough to find a single road bike that was a game changer. The Colnago Master or the 753 Team Raleigh bikes of the late ‘70’s early ‘80s
Lemond on the tri bars in the 1989 Tour de France

Lemond on the tri bars in the 1989 Tour de France

Gios Super Record from campyoldy.com

Gios Super Record from campyoldy.com

  • Recreational cycling [21]Specialized Stumpjumper, [22] the Raleigh Chopper and [23] the Kuwahara BMX (the one that was used in the famous scene in ET).
The Kuwahara BMX "ET bike" from dreamgate.ne.jp

The Kuwahara BMX “ET bike” from dreamgate.ne.jp

I didn’t get anywhere close to fifty! I’m sure there are omissions and additions; I’d love to hear suggestions

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