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Friday, October 15, 2010

San Francycle: Where Are All the Art Bikes?

Posted By on Fri, Oct 15, 2010 at 2:22 PM

Behold the Tigerbike: with a fully functioning tail. - DAN SENERES
  • Dan Seneres
  • Behold the Tigerbike: with a fully functioning tail.

​We took a chance two weeks ago at Tour de Fat.

As we were leaving the event, we spotted a bike chained to a rack that was pretty much the coolest thing in the world: a bike all decked out in fuzzy tiger fur, with a keen attention to detail that included a sweet tail and patches of fur adorning the hubs. The owner was nowhere in sight, so we scribbled a quick note to the effect of "awesome bike, can we interview you?" And the bike's creator, Dan Seneres, graciously sent us an e-mail a few days later.

Behold the Tigerbike: with a fully functioning tail. - DAN SENERES
  • Dan Seneres
  • Behold the Tigerbike: with a fully functioning tail.
"It came from some inner thing, like, 'I just want to do this,'" he explained when we caught up with him by phone. He got the idea one day, inspired by the art car movement. There's just too much homogenity in the bike scene, Dan said, eschewing cliques like mountain bikers, fixie guys, and "road bike people with their spandex." 

"You don't see a lot of art bikes," he said, so he set out to create his own. That was five years ago, and it's been going strong ever since.

And it's a pretty amazing creation. The tail isn't just a static accessory: It can wag like it has a mind of its own, courtesy of a hidden lever and some cables running under the fur. Built into the body are a speaker and an amp, so Dan can plug in an iPod as he's riding around town making everyone feel jealous.

Someday soon, Dan's planning on building Tiger Bike Version 2.0. The next version will be built on a better frame, he said, since the current one is a beat-up fleamarket find. He's also thinking about turning the cables around the handlebars into whiskers, and using a more readily available fur, since he can no longer find the material that he used to build the original.

Dan's got a bit of a leg up when it comes to committing acts of wanton craftiness. He's an artist and model-builder, with credits on films like Thirteen Ghosts and Love in the Age of Fishsticks, which we haven't seen but assume is a reboot of the Splash franchise.

His artsy background got us wondering -- why are there so few art bikes here in San Francisco? There's certainly no shortage of artsy-craftsy types, so why are our bikes so plain? This is The City That Knows How, after all!

But apparently San Franciscans wait until they're at summer camp before pulling out the show-stoppers. "There's tons at Burning Man," Dan observed. "At Burning Man you're not special anymore. I ride that thing around, and I'm invisible ... until I do the tail."

So for now, the tiger bike is an endangered species, a rarity on the wild streets of San Francisco. Hopefully, as more people start getting on bikes, that'll change.

"I'm trying to inspire people to do their own art bike," Dan said. "I would like to see some kind of movement, like suddenly there's art bikes everywhere and we have a parade or something."

Might he help bike owners along by marketing tiger bike kits? Probably not.

"People say all the time, 'oh you can be a millionaire, you could market this,'" Dan said. "And I go, 'make your own. Go to the fabric store, man!'"

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Matt Baume


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