Hell on Wheels
June 5, 2012 6:27 AM   Subscribe

In Praise of Mutant Bikes (Life magazine photos from 1948, via Urban Velo. Bonus link: Early Tallbikes)
posted by box (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I need an Uno-Wheel!!
posted by (Arsenio) Hall and (Warren) Oates at 6:29 AM on June 5, 2012

Heh. Bike shop weirdos with welders ain't changed.
posted by scose at 6:34 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hey Grandpa! Tell me again what Burning Man was like back in the good old days!
posted by chillmost at 6:40 AM on June 5, 2012 [4 favorites]

Cars cut me off twice on my bike ride to work today, so it's probably best I wasn't riding this thing.
posted by exogenous at 7:04 AM on June 5, 2012

#3: the first lowrider bike?
posted by scratch at 7:22 AM on June 5, 2012

Hey, Chicagoans, where were the bikes being ridden? There seem to be three locations- a field, with several photos showing the same wide building with a square hip roof tower. The photographer seems to have mostly stayed in the one position, so the pictures form a kind of panorama.

Another location has paths, with a distinctive domed building nearby.

The third is in a stadium, which I think is Soldier Field.
posted by zamboni at 10:00 AM on June 5, 2012

The domed building is the Adler Planetarium.
posted by hydrophonic at 10:06 AM on June 5, 2012

Gangbusters Bike mounts 13 shotguns, two revolvers, six bayonets, flare gun.

posted by gurple at 10:14 AM on June 5, 2012

Sadly, there's no sign of Art's Cycle & Hobby Shop at 846 E 75th St.
posted by zamboni at 10:22 AM on June 5, 2012

The white building with the tower (octagonal, not square!) is the Shedd Aquarium.
posted by burden at 10:24 AM on June 5, 2012

OK, so they were probably in a park in front of the Adler Planetarium, with the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the pre-renovation Soldier Field in the background. If the photos were taken in 1948, Meigs Field Airport was probably being built right next to them.
posted by zamboni at 11:04 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Apparently Art's moved to 1652 E 53rd St, but has since closed down.

As the Time article states, most of the bikes were made by the Steinlauf family - you can read more about the Steinlaufs in this 1947 Popular Mechanics article, including pictures of the other half of the bedstead bike, the entire family riding a single five seater trike, a bike with an onboard sewing machine, and a bike that incorporates a lifesize dummy.
Now when he pedals the bike, the dummy walks behind as though it were shoving Charley. With a system of controls, Charley can make the dummy turn its head, wave and smoke a cigarette.
posted by zamboni at 11:24 AM on June 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Looks like most of those photos were taken on or around Chicago's Northerly Island, a man-made peninsula on Chicago's lake front. Photo #14 is definitely from inside Soldier Field, which is just east, across Burnham Harbor. Northerly Island was the central location of the 1933 "Century of Progress" World's Fair. (Poster showing view South, down Burnham Harbor, with Soldier Field just peeking in the right side of frame, and the Island on the left.) For many decades after the Fair, Meigs Field was a single strip airport operated on the Island. In fact, they opened for business in 1948, which might account for why these bikes are on such an expansive, smooth surface. Perhaps they were on the tarmac. On March 31, 2003, the tarmac was unilaterally torn up by then Mayor Daley.
posted by metacurious at 11:44 AM on June 5, 2012

In 1945, Chicago unsuccessfully offered Northerly Island as a site for the UN Headquarters. The area behind the bikers, across Burnham Harbor in front of the Field Museum/Soldier Field, is the focus point of Eames' Powers of Ten.
posted by zamboni at 12:15 PM on June 5, 2012

Very funny bikes but I wish it was a video :)
posted by Viacondima at 1:14 PM on June 5, 2012

After living in Minneapolis in the 1980s and 1990s, it is jarring to see tall, mutant bikes being ridden by fresh-faced, non-anarchist types clad in pre-apocalypse fashions.
posted by umbú at 1:26 PM on June 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

Four-man bicycle ...

Mm hmm.

... is powered by five chains ...

Well, I suppose it would have to be.

... and has brakes on both its wheels.

What!? Cough, splutter. ( Monocle falls into tea. )
posted by RobotHero at 1:47 PM on June 5, 2012

After the imminent Apocalypse, gasoline and bullets will be rare. Those who already ride bicycles and shoot bb guns and slingshots today will easily dominate the huddled masses tomorrow.
(The Chunks are still with us -- don't be fooled by the faux storefront page; I just preferred the old version with the quote above.)
posted by Zed at 3:42 PM on June 5, 2012

I think this illustrates the nature of The Hipster Problem in the United States: tall bikery back as far as '48!

That said, I will most certainly be outfitting my garage bike with shotguns and rifles.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 1:15 PM on June 6, 2012

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