The Platonic ideal of a bicycle

I recently was reminded of this drawing of a mamachari bicycle from a now defunct Japanese guide to bicycles. The text says “Mamachari bikes are usually what you think of when you think ‘bicycle’.”

Mamachari "Mama's Chariot" bicycle

The mamachari style of bikes are the wonderfully utilitarian and ubiquitious form of transportation for Japanese housewives. I wondered what type of bicycles come to mind for people around the world when people talk about bikes. What do you think when somebody says “bicycle”?

The northern Europeans, perhaps they think of the classic omafiets or “granny bike,” like this Dutch Batavus omafiets.

Mana and her Batavus Oma Fiets

In parts of Africa, people ride double toptube roadster style bikes with passengers and cargo on a sturdy rear rack.

The view of bicycling in China is changing, where affluent citizens ride higher end bikes (and various knockoffs) as a leisure activity to differentiate themselves from the historically pedestrian role of the humble Flying Pigeon and Shanghai Phoenix.

What do most Americans visualize when they think “bicycle”? Do they think this?


Or perhaps they think this.

How many Americans think of bikes as playthings for daredevils that just get in the way of “legitimate” traffic?

What’s the picture in your mind when somebody says “bicycle”?

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