Photo Credit: RICHARD TSONG-TAATARII – DML - STAR TRIBUNE
Bike-themed design is on a roll.
From repurposed old bike wheels as mirrored wall accents to worn saddles subbed for horned animal mounts above the mantel, bicycle-inspired decor is racing into trend territory. Type “bike decor” into a Pinterest search, and you’ll be overrun with hundreds of creative ways to transform a two-wheeler into a planter, candleholders or a clock.
Tom LaPitz of north Minneapolis “upcycled” three bicycles to make a pot rack for his girlfriend, Rachel Gall. She has been hit three times by cars while riding, rendering her bicycles inoperable. One of those bikes belonged to her mother and another to her late father.
“The bikes were pretty sentimental to her, so she wanted to use them somehow,” LaPitz said.
A pot rack seemed like a feasible project. LaPitz, who honed his handyman skills building shelves, cabinets and even his own bed, needed only an evening to complete it. “I tinkered for a while until I figured out how to bolt [the bike pieces] together,” he said.
The pot rack has become a showpiece of the couple’s kitchen. “My girlfriend loves to throw parties,” he said. “The pot rack got quite a positive response. We posted it on Facebook, and our bike friends all love it. Our artsy friends like it, too.”
Tom LaPitz posed with artwork, made using bike wheels as stencils, created by his girlfriend Rachel Gall.
For cycle lovers who aren’t as handy as LaPitz, artisans are a good source for innovative bike decor. From “cycleopes” (bike seats mounted animal head-style) at Arcane Inventory’s Etsy store to Bikes and Pieces, a bike shop and art gallery on Chicago Avenue in south Minneapolis, options abound.
Scott Backer of Minneapolis creates sculpture out of recycled steel. Two years ago, he began incorporating bicycle parts into his art. His flower-shaped yard stakes and garden markers have been popular at yard sales, craft fairs and at the Gumball Collective in northeast Minneapolis, where he has developed a cult following.
Backer would like to expand to kinetic art, so the flowers can spin when the wind blows. “Part of my aesthetic is I want things to rust and get a good patina,” he said. “Yard art can be more raw and not as clean.” He also uses bike parts to make more refined tabletop sculptures — those sell well around the holidays, when customers are looking for unique centerpieces for their festive gatherings.
“Bicycle-related art has definitely increased in popularity across the country, but quite noticeably in the Twin Cities,” said artist Adam Turman, one of the major spokes of the local cycling community. He credits Minneapolis’ consistently high rankings as a “bike-friendly city” on Bicycling magazine’s annual list with raising awareness and inspiring cycling-related products, including art.
Bike love also has been fueled by events such as Artcrank, a poster party featuring local artists’ interpretations of cycling life. Turman created his first bike-related artprint, “Cycle Minneapolis,” in 2007 for the inaugural Artcrank. His poster sold out at the opening reception, and since then, his cycling art has seen a rise in sales and demand. Cycling art is displayed in more cyclists’ homes, while bike equipment, such as bike racks, is moving toward a furniture aesthetic.
Nate Ryan, a lifelong cyclist from Pennsylvania who moved to Minnesota in 2010, has a steadily growing collection of Artcrank finds. “I bought one poster every year for the last four years or so,” he said. “I’m running out of wall space.” The windowsill of his St. Paul apartment also displays postcards from cycling companies, while framed photographs of bike-shop employees adorn the walls above his desk. They were part of his Studio Art senior thesis project at Carleton College; the photos were shot at the West Bank location of Freewheel Bikes, as well as Mike’s Bicycle Shop in Northfield.
Ryan and his girlfriend, Meghan Mason, don’t like leaving their bikes in their building’s basement, so they purchased an off-the-shelf bike rack. “I liked that it was less industrial and felt like a piece of furniture,” he said of the oak frame. Helmets and shoes are staged by the door for a quick getaway.
“It’s so much a part of who we are as cyclists that it made sense,” he said of the bike-centric decoration in the apartment.
Dan Iverson can relate. His cycling knickknacks, once confined to the workshop of his Hamline-Midway rental in St. Paul, now dominate the space. “Cool” leftover bike parts — a saddle, hubs, chains — are scattered across the mantel. “It was definitely a natural extension” of himself, he said of the collection.
Iverson, a lifelong rider, began commuting by bike after high school and now works at Freewheel Bike. He collects bike-themed posters from swap meets, including old photographic prints and a vintage Columbia bicycle ad. His bookshelf is packed with cycling tomes.
Iverson, who has “way too many bikes,” stores two at a time on a bike rack, chosen more for practicality than for style, in his living room. The vertical stack design frees up more space in his apartment. His bike-filled space echoes his cycle-focused lifestyle. “It pretty much took over my life,” he said.