“In 1815 an Indonesian volcano erupted, changing the climate and affecting crops as far afield as Northern Europe. The resulting famine was severe, with Europeans forced to eat horses – a main source of transportation – for sustenance. To tackle the resulting transport problems, Baron von Drais created a ‘dandy horse’ on which the rider could propel himself while in a sitting position… His first reported ride, in 1817, was in Mannheim…”.
A fascinating fact from Cyclepedia: Iconic Bicycle Designs, an iPad app created by Thames & Hudson and Heuristic Media which brings to the computer screen, in great beauty, the bicycle collection of Michael Embacher. Embacher, an Austrian architect, clearly has a passion for design and his collection of over 200 bicycles is the source material for the application. His machines don’t date back quite as far as Baron von Drais’ ‘dandy horse’, but the collection is undeniably extensive and beautiful, representing the cream of bicycle design from the 1920 Spéciale Course to the 2010 Pino Tour. The easy-to-navigate layout allows readers (or probably more often than not, browsers) to see, through 360 degree rotating images and high-definition zoomable pictures the bikes in all their glorious intricate detail. Each bike has an accompanying description of its origins, history and relative success and the user can move effortlessly from one bike to another either chronologically, by type of bike, by manufacturer, country of origin, material or indeed weight. It is, dare I say, pornography for the bicycle enthusiast.
That said, you don’t need to be an expert to enjoy Cyclepedia. The section devoted to the history of the bike sets the background scene perfectly – from the volcanic events of 1815 through to the carbon frames of today – and should you not know your crank from your cantilever (I’m not sure that I do), a glossary of terms, designed with all the elegance of the main section devoted to the bikes themselves is on hand although it was missing a more exhaustive section about handlebars, my own area of interest, and the flat ‘butterfly’ bar doesn’t get a look in unfortunetly.
That, however, is a minor personal grumble. I am the kind of person who rarely spends money on any apps for the iPad (I go for the free ones instead), but my £6.99 investment in this particular masterpiece makes me wonder what I am missing elsewhere in the iTunes store that could give me even more hours of mouth-watering delight. Highly recommended! Here is the iTunes link and I’ll leave you with some screen shots of some of my favourite bits of the app, including, at the bottom, poor Pauline who in the 1950s was filmed on some of her 75-year-old father’s minature bikes. She doesn’t look at all happy… See if you can find her dad’s video hidden in the app!