Explore the history and future of bikes ahead of UCI 2015 at new Science Museum of Virginia exhibit

by | Jun 10, 2015 | POLITICS

The Science Museum of Virginia is hopping on the bicycle bandwagon with its new exhibition, “
The Science Museum of Virginia is hopping on the bicycle bandwagon with its new exhibition, “Bikes: Science on Two Wheels.” The collection explores the physical and aerodynamic nature behind the age-old, yet increasingly popular form of transportation.

“We wanted to do something that was relevant to the community,” said Chrissy Caldwell, Manager of Communications and Curiosity at the Science Museum of Virginia on the timeliness on the exhibition.

The exhibit is featured as part of a number of city events leading up to the 2015 Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) Road World Championships, which will be hosted in Richmond in September of this year. UCI chooses an international city as a host for the competition in a competitive bidding process similar to that of the Olympic Games, according to the organization’s website. A U.S. city hasn’t been chosen in over 15 years, until Richmond was selected for 2015.

An interactive experience, the collection hopes to get Richmonders geared up for the big race, taking viewers through the history to the present of Richmond’s favorite form of two-wheeled transport.

The museum showcases the most iconic styles of bicycles of different time periods ranging from bikes with giant front wheels (Penny Farthings, pictured below) that were typical to the 1800s, to unicycles, to the aerodynamic racing machines of today’s competitors.

“My favorite of the collection is the social tandem,” said Caldwell attributing her pick to the peculiarity of the machine, which allows riders to pedal beside each other, differing from the traditional tandem bike where riders pedal one behind the other.

The wind-ranging collection gives everyone the opportunity to pick his or her favorite customization and delve into the nature of its creation. Caldwell and the museum seemed to be keenly aware of the temptation behind the standard “no touching,” signs that frequently accompany museum displays; but as science and bike lovers alike stroll through this exhibit, there are many hands-on activities to further a viewer’s knowledge on the subject, including an obstacle course set for two to race using the plastic tricycles so many remember as their first bike.

However, the museum puts the brakes on the science behind bicycles during its showcase for a bit and pedals full-speed into the art world.

Before attendees enter the exhibit, they are taken through a astutely lit hallway featuring “finish line sketches by local artist Greig Leach, the official finish line sketch artist of Richmond 2015,” according to Caldwell.

Similarly, a custom bike sculpture (pictured below) made of recycled and repurposed bike parts by artist Tom Chenoweth can’t be missed looming in the window before the entrance of the exhibit. Below “Bikes: Science on Two Wheels,” is a 120 year photographic exhibit of Richmond bicyclists that the museum is doing in partnership with The Valentine, a private museum dedicated to the history of the city of Richmond.

Coinciding with Chenoweth’s environmental stance, the Science Museum of Virginia loves the eco-friendly, said Caldwell. The museum promotes bike riding as a form of transportation with its upcoming events and provides available bike parking.

Special biking editions of the museum’s familiar presentation “Science after Dark,” will take place every 3rd Friday of the month according to the museum’s website.

Friday, June 19: Get a free bike helmet and fitting, learn about bike safety and journey through the cosmos before enjoying a special presentation of Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in The Dome.

Friday, July 17: Pedal toward an evening of science – and enjoy valet bike parking! Take a live Cosmic Expedition through the stars and gear up for a showing of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom in The Dome.

Friday, August 21: Explore the night sky and learn about bike safety. Pedal through the galaxy with and grab onto your handlebars as we take you to see The Wizard of Oz in The Dome.

“Bikes: Science on Two Wheels,” began May 30 and will end September 27, 2015 — the last day of the UCI World Championships. Caldwell thinks the exhibit will be interesting for competitive cyclists, but mainly for the general public with any sort of interest in the subject. She encourages all to “check out the races, and come check out the exhibit,” as it now stands as part of Richmond’s history as two-wheeled machines continue to shape our culture and society in the future.

Brad Kutner

Brad Kutner

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