Interestingly, the majority of the bicycle section in the Whole Earth Catalog documented variations and technological advances of the bicycle, few of which have made it into the mainstream. The bikes they depict (mostly folders and recumbents) certainly still exist and are still produced with commercial success, but their popularity is still minimal. It really goes to show that the basic fundamentals of the bicycle are already so well established that there will be no toppling of the traditional bike form as transportation anytime soon.
However, those same simple principals and fundamentals of the bicycle and the fact that the bicycle is one of mankind’s most profound and simple machines for increasing the efficiency of human power, lay the foundation for expansion and development of the bike as a more specific tool. Instead of just transportation of the rider, the bike becomes a tool for more developed transport and larger working capacities of our human power. Most notably, in developing countries we see the bike as the blank canvas for work, in which simple mechanical additions and transformations make the bike and its pedal power into a different tool necessary for that locale that would otherwise be unaffordable.
Even though the folding bikes we’ve looked at from the Whole Earth Catalog are based around streamlining the bicycle into its role with our daily lives by being able to hide it more efficiently, by looking at the trends of global bicycle use and transportation we see the path that the bike has taken is much more utilitarian. Instead of designing the bike to be hidden or transported more easily, we’ve begun to integrate the bicycle much more into daily use. Although the two photos above demonstrate the bicycle as a tool of necessity and in these cases poverty, we see these trends happening all throughout the social and economic levels, as the bicycle’s potential benefits for everyone are beginning to shine through the cracks of the ever disintegrating trend of the combustion engine. It seems to me that the next Whole Earth Catalog will be encouraging the utility of the bicycle, as the trend begins to grow. It’s certainly an exciting time for your feet.