In From Dawn to Decadence Jacques Barzun writes: "To the modern lover of books, the product of the press is an object that arouses deep feelings, and looking at Dürer's charcoal drawing of hands holding a book, one likes to think the artist felt the same attachment. The book, like the bicycle, is a perfect form." (61).
The repetition of triangles, the balance of the two wheels, the formal echo achieved by the circles in the chainwheels, the cassette, and the dropbars is all, just as Barzun says, perfection. Like the shark. They are, after all, pure, Greek forms - the circle, the triangle. They give rise to a simplicity of design, something that differentiates the traditional bicycle from those monocauque carbon fiber beasts. Esthetically speaking, they are highly developed indeed.
The cycle shown above is a Marinoni. It was posted as being for sale on Minneapolis' craigslist last fall, and I've been drooling over it ever since (It'd be the last word in class at the velodrome). For those who have seen the excellent Québécois flick Deux Secondes, I think the old Italian mechanic character is based on the actual Marinoni, who lives in the best city in North America, Montréal. Two summers ago I got a Marinoni, a proper road bike without any vulgar plastic on it, just metal. It had recently been repainted by Chris Kvale, a nice orange with yellow lug-fills. The fork is chrome, with orange and yellow fills in the M on the crown. What a bike! All metal, all handsome, all functional, and all smart. Blue cloth handlebar tape completed the composition. But here, just look at these maple leaves! Tabarnacle!
As seemingly extreme as it is, I cannot help feeling that the act of driving a car, especially so if done alone, is an act of self-debasement, self-absorption to be sure. You're nothing but a slave in a car. And to be pitied. The owning of a car is nothing to feel proud of or to center one's self-image around, though many rubes in this country do. Contrariwise, one can feel good about one's cycle, in so far as it inables you to excel as far as your endurance, skill, experience, and energy will take you. A most meritocratic invention if I ever saw one.
What's more, the landscape is beautified when people cycle. Dizgusting exhaust and noise are replaced by the charming, muted click-click of the drivetrain. The repellent outline of the automobile is traded for the bicycle-gestalt. What a wonderful thing indeed.