Riding high

A new exhibition at the Bloomfield Science Museum celebrates the bicycle.

The 2 x 200 Bicycle Exhibition (photo credit: TAL BAR-LEV)
The 2 x 200 Bicycle Exhibition
(photo credit: TAL BAR-LEV)
The global cycling scene has taken off in leaps and bounds over the last couple of decades, with all sorts of wild, wacky and energy-efficient, not to mention compact and image-friendly, models coming out on the market, from all corners of the globe.
A new exhibit at Jerusalem’s Bloomfield Science Museum celebrates bicycles in all their glory, from their invention 200 years ago to the present day.
The 2 x 200 Bicycle Exhibition, which opened July 1, also marks 25 years since the opening of the museum.
Curators Prof. Ido Bruno, a cycling enthusiast and industrial design instructor at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and Dr. Amir Ben Shalom, Bloomfield’s chief exhibit developer, hail 2 x 200 as the largest international bicycle exhibition ever seen in Israel.
While that may be hard to prove, the layout is not short on quantity, quality, variety or fun. Indeed, Bruno and Ben Shalom appear to have all their cycling bases covered.
Spread over some 1,500 sq.m. both inside the museum and outside it, the exhibit features dozens of two-wheelers (and even the odd tricycle), from both Israel and abroad, including unique and rare bicycle wheel models, and historic collections from Canada, the US, Israel and the Netherlands. One of the notable contributions from the latter country is none other than the sit-upand- beg bicycle which was used by former Queen Beatrix to get to school and back every day.
Another bicycle model at the museum with a story to tell belonged to Gino Bartali, a three-time winner of the prestigious Giro D’Italia, and two-time winner of the greatest race of them all, the Tour de France.
During World War II, the then twenty-something Italian rode all over the country in service of the Italian Resistance. Bartali ferried counterfeit documents and photographs, hidden inside the frame and handlebars of his bike, which were used to save the lives of hundreds of Italian Jews. He was posthumously recognized as a Righteous Among the Nations.
Also on display are some gigantic early wheels, including models with wooden frames, all of which look decidedly uncomfortable. The two-wheeler as a means of transport was first launched in Mannheim, Germany, in the summer of 1817. It was invented by Baron Karl von Drais and is considered the forerunner of the modern bike. It was a real “bone shaker” as were all bicycles subsequently manufactured, for years to come.
Naturally, the “penny-farthing,” a.k.a. high wheel, has pride of place in the exhibition. How people managed to get on and off those lofty vehicles without breaking their necks remains a mystery.
Innovation and invention are themes throughout the exhibition, and there is a wealth of fascinating facts and figures to enjoy along the way. How many of us knew, for example, that the legendary Wright brothers, the American siblings credited with inventing the airplane, were bicycle builders and repairmen who used bicycles for their experiments? Then there is the invention of the car, by German engine designer Karl Benz in 1885, who started out by connecting an engine to a tricycle.
Where would we all be today without the bicycle? Pedal-less bikes are also in the museum mix. The exhibition takes us right through the last couple of centuries, to the latest state-of-the-art models. The latter include the Chinese-made Mobike, which incorporates an application that affords definitively user-friendly bicycle pickup and drop-off, and the most popular bicycle model in the world – in fact, the most popular vehicle of any kind – the Chinese Flying Pigeon, with a cool 500 million produced over some 60 years.
“The Chinese authorities realized that the move away from bikes to cars was only exacerbating the already serious pollution problem in China, and that people didn’t want to ride the old-fashioned Flying Pigeon anymore,” Bruno explains. “So they introduced the Mobike, which has gotten the Chinese back on bikes.”
There are plenty of interactive stations along the exhibition trail, including hands-on workshops for kids and a bike-powered movie. And if you’ve ever wondered why Tour de France competitors lean so low on their handlebars as they careen down hills at ridiculous speeds, you can try out the wind tunnel, which allows you to experience the advantages of adopting a less wind-resistant posture.
There is also an area devoted to keeping small children on board the cycling theme – literally. Three- to six-year-olds can cycle through giant tubes, jump over bumpers and try to keep their balance.
Older visitors can try out a tandem, a hand-powered bicycle for people with disabilities and bicycles with reverse steering.
The exhibition also affords visitors a look at bike locking mechanisms over the years, as well as insight into the global social impact of the bike, including how it has helped people in developing countries.
There are also some impressive local inventions on show, including the prototype of Izhar Gafni’s two-wheeler, made entirely from recycled and recyclable cardboard, and priced at around $9 to the consumer. If that takes off, bike theft would become a thing of the past.
Also on show are assorted, fascinating bicycle paraphernalia, including an early 19th-century so-called “hygienic saddle” for lady cyclists, lights from across the ages and various gadgets.
There are also audience-participation demonstrations of riding techniques, a flat tire repair workshop and instruction on how to dismantle and assemble a bicycle chain.
The exhibition is the result of a collaboration with the Universum Science Center in Bremen, the Città Della Scienza (City of Science) in Naples and the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, each of which will also host the exhibition over the next four years, after it closes in Jerusalem in May 2018.
For more information: (02) 654-4888 or www.event.mada.org.il