Saturday, May 12, 2012

In the classic sci-fi movie, "Mad Max", gangs of people fight in a
post-nuclear wasteland over dwindling supplies. Above food, water, and
shelter, only one resource had higher value. Gasoline, a now truely
non-renewable resource, represented power to run the vehicles for one
more battle.

In its time, it was heralded as a masterpiece with multiple
environmental messages, even though one aspect was never really
addressed. What about alternative forms of transportation? Once all
the gasoline is gone, the junkyard gangs' war machines will grind to a
halt, never to awaken again. What would the dark heroes of the
wasteland rely on to help defend their pockets of civilization?

In the wasteland, dead ground as far as the eye can see, flattened by
a doom long enough past to be misremembered by the survivors, the
obvious answer was on the tongue of all the viewers of the film, even
though the characters never considered the possibility.

Bicycles. With a suite of tools a fraction of the size of a
functioning autobody shop, every bike can live again, in some form.
Every modern bike follows the same basic design, and uses parts with
industry standard sizes. Every bicycle chain is compatable with every
bicycle gear, and the same wrench will attach any pedal to any

When I first saw the Freak Bike workshop in Riga, Latvia, my mind
drifted back to that classic film. Each bike I saw was like a refugee
of a time that has never happened. In a world where the last modern
factory is collapsed and lost under radioactive sands and gasoline is
only a distant legend, the only readily available transportation will
be the bicycle. But no bicycle you have ever ridden.

They will be created out of the corpses of dead bicycles, refitted
into three meter tall mobile crow's nests, or welded to a partner
alongside to offer a platform to transport anything that the situation
requires. And being human, the decorative touches will be added by the
crafters to show pride in their work, creating something new and
functional out of the old and dead.

The entire concept of the freak bike speaks to a part of me which is
rarely stirred, sharing a hint of an unpleasant world where they are
not art, but a way of life, and the easiest way to help avoid such a
future is identical to what the people in the freak bike parade did:
Ride a bike.

Sam Piip

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