John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
In a world that deems it fit to stuff and preserve dead pets, this isn't that bizarre.
When a bike finally breaks down after years of good service, what are you going to do with it? Scrap it for parts, toss it into the shed to quietly decompose into rust?
Sure, you could do those things. Or, like a big ol' weirdo, you could chop off its handlebars and mount them on the wall like antlers from a 12-point buck. That's what the U.K.'s Regan Appleton has done with his family's old bicycles, transforming them into works of "taxidermy" that will look down upon generations of pedal-pumping Appletons to come.
Appleton got the idea for preserving decrepit bikes while studying at London's Royal College of Art, where he found himself pining for the chilly outdoor air of the Scottish Highlands. To give his nostalgia a material form, he took his father's mountain and road cycles and lopped off their heads, so to speak, and fixed them to attractive wooden plaques. Below each "kill" he put an engraved epitaph. "The Yorkshire moors shall she forever roam," reads the wistful inscription below a Hetchins Vade Mecum, born 1972, died 1984. For a Specialised G39, which lasted from 1994 to 2012, Appleton wrote: "The highland beast, put out to pasture on London fields."
On his website – motto: "The loving and lasting solution for your mechanical bereavement" – Appleton offers his taxidermy service to the public, selling bleached or burnt wooden plaques with mounts installed and waiting for a fresh two-wheeled trophy. Fitting a consumer culture that values the ultra-local details, the artist says that his stainless-steel epitaph plates are etched by someone in Argyll, Scotland, and the wood is sourced from European oak gathered by a London joiner named "Mick."
Examples of Appleton's memento chrome-mori:
Images courtesy of Regan Appleton at Bicycle Taxidermy.