A couple of weeks back a friend gave me a copy of Monocle, the latest Tyler Brûlé concept to hit the magazine stands. It's a quirky-cool bit of business, and reads a little like National Geographic has been taken over by the über-hip staffers at Wallpaper*. I rather like it, particularly the May issue (still on stands in most North American book stores) which takes a quick look at "global bicycle culture and commerce."
Apropos to the magazine's intention of being beautiful, topical and timely, Monocle has already branded a bicycle, as built by Sweden's Skeppshult Bicycles. It looks like this:
For reasons that elude me, the Monocle writers seem especially smitten by single-gear bicycles. A quickie article surveys four bicycle manufacturers from Norway, Japan, Denmark and Finland, all of whom build models my late grandfather could relate to. Well ... except for Norway's Alta, which looks like this:
I suppose there is utilitarian appeal to a single-gear bicycle (near-zero maintenance). Personally, ever since I received a 5-speed bicycle for my 12th birthday I've seen no reason for looking back. These single-gear bicycles are a novelty that bring to mind a summer moment from the mid-80s. I was sitting in the car with my mother, waiting for my father to finish some banking. There was a bicycle shop next to the bank, and a woman pedaled up to it on a brown bicycle with a milk-basket on the front. Her outfit — cable-knit sweater, long corduroy skirt with woolen knee-high socks — was brown as well. She was smiling primly, and when she lowered the bicycle's kick-stand and entered the store, my mother quietly remarked, "She thinks she looks European."
Yes, well: if I thought I looked European, I wouldn't waste money on any of these continental fiddlers. Instead, I'd go straight to the authority — Batuvus — and purchase their no-nonsense Personal Bike Delivery. And I wouldn't mount it unless I was smoking hand-rolled Drum tobacco.
Now that's a bicycle!
In the interests of reportorial fairness, I should mention the Monocle bicycle is a 5-speed. Still, it adheres to the antique fetish aesthetic of the other bikes. In other words, it thinks it looks European.