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Davis, California

Monday, April 15, 2024

Bicycle culture to be celebrated Tuesday by antique exhibition

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding a bike by bouncing up and down on a seat, you’re in for a treat Tuesday.

A group of UC Davis art students will present an exhibition titled “From Spoke to Sprocket: A Look at Bike Culture” all day Tuesday on the south Memorial patio. The event will feature local bicycle aficionado Peter Wagner’s “WhymCycles” and a display of antique bikes from the Pierce-Miller collection.

Erin McDonald, one of the curators of the student-run exhibit, said the aim of the project is to heighten awareness of Davis’ long bike legacy.

“We’ve designed an art exhibition to revitalize and take notice of the bike culture here at Davis,” said McDonald, a senior art history major.

Joyce Tang, also an exhibit curator, said she hopes to connect “students visually with the bike tradition” in Davis.

The exhibition will also incorporate a timeline to detail the history of cycling in Davis and the world, Tang said.

“We’re hoping to highlight the innovation in bicycles because bicycle riding is on the decline,” said Tang, a senior art history major. “We hope we can encourage people to get back on their bikes and start riding again.”

To do just that, the students of Art History 401 convinced Transportation and Parking Services to lend them an array of bikes from the Pierce-Miller Collection, which will soon reside in the California Bicycle Museum. The museum has yet to be permanently located.

The bikes in the Pierce-Miller collection date as far back as the 1820s, demonstrating that bicycles aren’t “just this modern thing,” Tang said.

In addition to the antique bikes, the exhibition will showcase “WhymCycles,” which are “fanciful, imaginative and eccentric” variations of bikes, said inventor Peter Wagner.

One of Wagner’s inventions, the “bouncer,” will be available for students to test ride at the exhibition. Bouncers are bikes with an off-centered rear axel that allows the wheel to spin easily and smoothly, Wagner said.

“The whole machine acts like a pedal, basically,” Wagner said. “When you turn the pedal on the bicycle, the axel is pivoted and goes around and drives the wheel around as well. You push down with both feet at the same time, and then you push away with both hands.”

The technique isn’t hard to learn with practice, Wagner said. In fact, riders have to watch their speeds going downhill, he said.

“On the big [bouncers], they almost propel you up the hill, they go so fast,” Wagner said.

Still, WhymCycles are safe, as they have been ridden by thousands of students, said Wagner, who is a K-8 substitute teacher in Davis and Sacramento schools. Prior to being a substitute, he worked for an investment company and sheet fabrication company.

Though Wagner has found a market for his WhymCycles by word of mouth, he said his principle motivation is to “get his creative juices flowing.”

“I’m a person who likes to have some sort of a project going,” he said.

“From Spoke to Sprocket: A Look at Bike Culture” will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on the south patio of the Memorial Union on Tuesday only. For more information about the future California Bicycle Museum, go to groups.dcn.org/cbm.


PATRICK McCARTNEY can be reached at campus@californiaaggie.com.


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