I could carry on cherry picking the juiciest quotes from this press release but it really ought to be read in its glorious entirity, so here, in unedited form, it is:
184 years of the bicycle: from the dandy horse to high-tech sports machine
The bicycle reflects the times
Clear parallels to the Internet
IFMA Cologne from 13th to 16th September
as a performance and trend show for the present day bicycle
From 13th to 16th September this year at IFMA – bike world unlimited – the bicycle will once again be the focal point of interest for the industry, trade and end-consumers. It is exceptional that a 184-year-old machine still fascinates us spoilt contemporaries and is one of the indispensable lifestyle accessories; at a time when we assess the half-life period of computers and the corresponding software more in terms of months than in years. How can it be that the bike with its current total of 27 gears, its rear and front disc brakes and comfortable suspension is also regarded as the favourite toy of the rapidly growing Internet generation?
Looking at its history, the bicycle is a fairly old invention. As early as 1817, the forest commissioner from Baden, Karl Freiherr von Drais, pushed himself along using his feet for the first time, while he was sat astride a frame with two wheels: the running machine he invented was known as the “Jaköble”. In general, this “dandy horse” or “Draisienne”, without pedal drive and steering column, is regarded as the precursor to the bicycle, in other words, also to those high-tech machines of our day and age on which Lance Armstrong wins the Tour de France.
Secret of success: versatility
The bicycle’s secret of success is its versatility. One person appreciates it as an everyday vehicle which can be used at any time, in the city often faster than the car, which is much easier to park and incomparable in terms of its very low running costs. Another sees it as their own very personal leisure and fitness mobile, on which he (or she) can go on the most wonderful tours. The third type of user wants to really improve their sports performance and on their bike is looking for the challenge, which lies in overcoming their own performance barriers. A fourth type lets themselves be captivated by the perfect technology of their bike: given all the technical refinements, its operation still remains transparent for them and thus under control.
The bike is, in other words, a fitness, leisure, sports machine, for many also a vehicle for experiencing the last adventures in this world. The image of a present day bicycle is elegant and trendy, which is underlined alone by its frequent presentation in advertising spots for such diverse products as insurance, margarine or fashion. In contrast to 40 years ago, when at the time of the German economic miracle, the motorist alone enjoyed social recognition, in the new millennium, it is the cyclists who are regarded as fit, youthful and as examples of dynamic, attractive individuals.
But that is not all. Just as the Internet is opening up to us the easiest, universally accessible path to worldwide information which no one can police, a bike represents the simplest prerequisite for being mobile to an extent which exceeds one’s own physical possibilities many times over. Both of these vehicles are comparably easy to operate. The bicycle requires some degree of physical fitness, in order to be fun, the Internet requires some basic knowledge. On the one hand, you can virtually surf to the most wonderful places which mankind can conceive, on the other, on a completely real level, with all the senses.
It is this “reduced to the max” effect, which fascinates and enthuses. Just as is the case with the Dot-Com-Medium, the whole world is waiting to provide information at the click of a mouse, the world thus unfolds itself free of charge under the narrow tires of a bicycle. In both cases, the power is supplied by the user. They alone decide where the journey is going, how long it will take and which personal objective they are pursuing while surfing.
Bicycle production as a global chain
Of course, the simplicity mentioned is only a supposed one, namely in both cases. The Internet only functions with a combined, networked computer power; without a worldwide chain of geo-stationary satellites it would not be a ”world wide web“ either. The scenario is similar for the bicycle: the frame designed in Germany is, to name one example, built in the Far East; its components originate, in some cases, from various countries in South-East Asia, handlebars and saddles, however from Italy, and the tires from Germany. After an extensive logistics procedure has ensured that all the components arrive in the right place “just in time”, assembly is effected in Central Europe.
The actual availability of the Internet also represents the attained peak of a worldwide technical trend such as the bicycle in its current form. As long ago as the 1920s‘ – incredibly – people regarded it as fully developed. Even the experts at that time could not imagine what other revolutionary advances the two-wheeler could still make after the invention of the rubber tires and the first Sachs three-speed hub gear.
Almost 70 years later, in 1988, the American computer specialist Steven K. Roberts set off on a 16,000 km trip right across the continent and enriched the American way of life by adding the variation “high-tech nomad”. He rode what at that time was a revolutionary reclining bicycle fitted with solar cells, providing his laptop computer with power. Via CompuServe Net he was connected with the rest of the world online. He thus produced his travel reports as well as a remarkable book entitled “Computing across America” in the most unusual locations. His motive aimed at making the bicycle and computer the focal point of his life was simply “Freedom”, the realization of the greatest possible degree of personal independence. While numerous companies are today beginning to have their employees work at home and online, Roberts was already one “step” ahead: he was working on his travels, comfortably reclining on his bike, with his laptop on his lap.
The forest commissioner from Baden, Karl Freiherr von Drais, did not, of course, have computer technology at his disposal in the 19th century. But in addition to many other things, he was at that time already concerning himself with the development of a binary calculation system which did not, as was customary, function on a decimal basis, but only with two calculation quantities. Here too, was an early “reduced to the max“ concept , in other words, similar in principle to the one almost 200 years later, which forms the basis of modern information technology.
Fascination bicycle unabated
Fascination means intensively concerning oneself with one’s subject of interest, it also means emotional commitment, and is inconceivable without a “love for the thing concerned”. For many, the bicycle almost has the status of an extra part of the body, which makes performance and experience possible, which would be unthinkable without it. We are thus generally happy with a new bike, we enjoy the technical advances – but you do not dispose of your old one for that reason! Too many memories are associated with it, it has become part of your own life.