Whimcycle Art in Fort Collins
Yep. It’s a bike town all right.
And not just because Fort Collins has trails aplenty or over 280 miles of bike lanes. Not because Tour de Fat got its wheels here (totally cool-worthy all on its own) and not because thousands of people dump their cars for Bike To Work Day — even in February. Or because finding a place to lock your bike in Old Town can be almost as difficult as finding a parking space.
One of the reasons is because so many handmade bikes are crafted here. Companies like Yipsan, owned by Renold Yip, makes each personally made-to-measure bike for customers by hand. Panda Bikes, the brain child of Jacob Castillo, John McKinney and Mark Schlink, crafts steel-lugged bamboo bikes. These high-end bikes are for the serious cycler.
Then there are the bikes that fall into a whole other category. That is, if you can find a category for them to fall into. On the surface, they’re a little bit crazy and a whole lot fun. But they are just as serious as any Titanium bike on the road. At least for the artists who make them.
These are the Art Bikes. They elevate any altered bike you’ve ever seen in any Tour de Fat parade anywhere. An exhibit devoted entirely to these functional art pieces and more traditional cycle-inspired art was recently at Art Lab on Linden Street in Old Town.
It’s the bikes — they draw you in and send you straight back to being a kid wanting the coolest bike on the block. These fantastical and whimsical bicycles widen the eyes as well as the grins and get hearts pumping faster – like standing on the pedals going up a big hill.
It’s because these bikes are the stuff dreams are made of.
Take a look at Leonard Pettus’ Jet Bike X1. It’s got a 1950‘s Space Ranger feel and shoots a two-foot flame out of the exhaust pipe. This is the bike every guy wishes he had when he was twelve. Or Pettus’ Fish Bike. It’s a fish. And a bike. The scales glisten with iridescent color. The picture: doesn’t even come close to doing this art piece justice. This is one you have to see up close and personal.
Then there’s Todd Kundla. He entered New Belgium Brewing Company’s What’s Your Folly? contest with some of his art bikes and now has over 25 ridable bikes in his collection. And a job at New Belgium designing and fabricating bikes that travel all over the country to every Tour de Fat parade — and he can’t imagine a better job. Says Kundla, “People get to experience art by riding it. That’s cool.”
Kundla started making art bikes after graduating from Bates College, which he believes “…was the best thing I could do to start learning things.” Kundla picked up a welder on a farm in Italy, where he was working. “I had been doing carpentry for a few years, but metal opened up a whole new world. It was my own personal Iron Age.” Then in 2000, when he was living in Jackson Hole, Kundla started “chopping up up old bikes from the junkyard” and made some simple chopper-style stretch bikes and high bikes. Fueled by boredom, imagination and visions of crazy bikes riding around in his head, Kundla’s art bikes came to life (so to speak) under his welding torch. He does do some commission work, but most of his creations are for New Belgium. “That way thousands of people can ride the bikes, not just the person who commissioned it.”
His favorite? “Carousel. It’s just a fun bike. It’s…yeah, it’s a fun bike.”