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'Cyclepedia' Exhibit Opens At Portland Art Museum

Cyclepedia: Iconic Bicycle Design

Many people are familiar with what it feels like to have their bikes stolen. First there is the confusion, then the anger, then the process of getting “back in the saddle” after purchasing a potentially costly replacement.

More than 10 years ago, Austrian designer Michael Embacher had his bike stolen. When it came time to replace his bike, he had to come to terms with the possibility of its being stolen again. And it was.

Michael Embacher at the Portland Art Museum

Michael Embacher at the Portland Art Museum

Ifanyi Bell/OPB

Then it was stolen again. And then again and again.

“After the fifth bike was stolen and losing a lot of money, I decided to only buy used ones and that really was the beginning of the collection,” Embacher explains.

What began as an attempt to hold down costs every time his bike got boosted evolved into Embacher’s passion for learning about, buying and riding rare, unique and unusual bikes.

“It was by chance and by curiosity that I started the collection and now I have 210. Too many,” he chuckles.

So many, in fact, that Embacher has run out of places to store the bikes in the attic of his home in Austria.

Today, 40 of Embacher’s collection are currently on display at the Cyclepedia: Iconic Bicycle Design exhibition at the Portland Art Museum. The exhibition includes racing, mountain, single speed, touring, tandem, urban, folding, cargo, curiosities and children’s bicycles. Each bike represents a pivotal moment in the evolution of bicycle design.

Prior to the Cyclepedia exhibit, Embacher teamed up with fellow designer and bike enthusiast Paul Smith and photographer Bernhard Angerer to publish the book Cyclepedia which features the first 100 of Embacher’s bicycles. The related iPad app presents the collection through a series of interactive timelines, animation and videos. The Portland Art Museum exhibit has installed several iPads in the exhibition space for museumgoers to explore. 

Though he is happy that so many people have become interested in his bicycles, sharing his personal collection with a worldwide audience isn’t something that Embacher was ever intending to do.

“This is my luxury,” he says. “Other people have a Ferrari, or I don’t know what. It’s my luxury to use, each day, another bicycle and I love that. I love riding bicycles. I love to use them.”

Embacher went on to explain that despite the reputation of European cities as bike friendly, he believes Portland is miles ahead when it come to laws and bike use.

“I’m very happy that the show is here in Portland … I have appreciated the way Portland uses bicycles,” he says. 

“It’s really a perfect place and I would love to see Vienna be as far as Portland.”

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Cyclepedia at the Portland Art Museum