Know about ear worms, tunes you can’t get out of your head? I am plagued by a bike worm. Bicycles can imbed themselves in my head and, short of owning them, I am helpless to escape. Sound familiar?
Can I escape this worm if I share? Welcome to the coolest bicycle I have seen lately. No wonder it’s stuck in my head.
In 2013 I first saw brief mention of Mikulas Novotney and his unique design. Not enough pictures, not enough background, I had questions (and compliments) but no answers! Asked one of Wheel Fanatyk’s customers in CZ to try and reach him. Sure enough, we exchanged info and after familiar delays, I eventually got answers to my questions.
Coincidently, I recently noticed that Mikulas has been included in a lavish book about frame builders, The Bicycle Artisans, published last year.
His bike is genius: a full sized wheel machine that folds in half and can be rolled around like luggage.
While accomplishing this ambitious function, Mikulas also insists on structural simplicity that even without a folding element, is beautiful. Nothing enhances bicycle aesthetics like simplicity. This one should be in the permanent MOMA collection.
To achieve this master work, Mikulas needed to be free of preconceptions from the bicycle world. He succeeds in part because he is not from the bicycle industry. Despite a devotion to fixed gear urban riding, he is architecturally trained. Another reminder that, while bike veterans may know some things “best,” we are also trapped by the past. Cycling carries 150 years of sales and engineering baggage. Designs to meet our challenging future must be free to go where we haven’t been. Bikes speak for themselves and solo creatives like Mikulas deserve our attention.
To my mind, he is a precocious master. Here is a transcript of our exchange: enlightening for me and I hope motivation to creatives that are not certified bike designers to dream, sketch, and build.
WF: You are a designer, architect, engineer? What is your direction?
MN: I started my studies on Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague as a product designer. But soon, after finishing my bike project I decided for an internship in the architecture atelier. After one year experience, and summer job in RaumlaborBerlin studio I became a student of architecture. Architecture and bicycles are the matter of the heart for me.
WF: Are you a bike fanatic or a Duchamp [fine art] type of interest?
MN: I’m definitely a bike fanatic. I prefer riding. Building is nice, but I do it mostly for this reason.
WF: Did you design the bike for a project, for fun, for friends?
MN: This is a result of a two semester project at the academy, focused on movement by self power in the city. I’ve chosen a bike, which you can put easily into the car trunk on your way to work/school, and after parking on suburb, you can continue on the bike. You can take it also to the tram, bus or train when weather changes, or the part of the city is too hilly. I wanted bike with optimal riding properties, which would looks simple at the same time. Important was also that you don’t have to carry the bike, but just lead side by side.
WF: How many prototypes? Did you ride it much? How is the ride?
MN: I didn’t have money or time to make tests before building the final prototype. I had to design precisely and think out everything… measure all the components which have been used (and some of them also modified) in stores with a caliper and prepare perfect technical drawings. When I persuaded a bike manufacturer that my design can work, he let me build it by myself in his workshop. I had a lathe, mill, and a guy who can weld what I prepared. It was nice experience.
Since I know that it works in terms of riding and folding I ride it less and less, because I’m more afraid about the only prototype.
Ride is good. You have to get used to fork on one side and top tube in angle to the direction of travel, even if you’re convinced that it’s psychological.
WF: What are its specifications (material, size, weight, cost…)?
MN: It’s made of Reynolds Cr-MO tubes, but heavier than it would be in production because a lot of parts are now assembled of several welded pieces. But it weighs about 25 pounds at the moment.
WF: Did you build only one? What are your goals for this idea?
MN: I’d really like to put it into production. I want a small series. Necessary to keep it simple, but well crafted and well equipped. It’s also possible to add gears integrated in BB and mudguards of course. At the moment I’m speaking with a company that seems able to produce it.
WF: Does this bike embody your design philosophy? How? I see beauty and multi-function. You?
MN: Thank you. I hope this design meets its purpose in a smart way, and that is very important. But it should be still proved by usage.
WF: Any info about you, your path, the scene where you live, what is next?
MN: There is my blog, where you can find some other projects and brief info.
I’m finishing my studies on Academy this year . I’m part of the fixedgear/singlespeed scene, but generally I don’t care about bicycle types.
Put me on the list for the first. If it doesn’t happen, I’m going to make one (and escape from the worm). The breathtaking asymmetric front end is enough to want this ride!
Thanks, Mikulas, and good luck with this and other creations.