01 Apr 2019 to 15 Sep 2019

Expo: From Michaux to Merckx

A historic look at 100 years of competitive cycling

The bicycle as we know it was developed in the 1860s, in the form of the ‘Michaux’. While still a rather primitive design, and despite having its pedals on the front wheel, it nevertheless resembled a contemporary bike. The Michaux model was soon followed by the penny-farthing, with its enormous front wheel and tiny back one. But though that may still be a familiar sight today, bicycle design evolved very rapidly and it was only briefly popular. The 1890s brought the ‘safety bike’, featuring two wheels of the same size and a chain drive on the back wheel – the prototype of the modern bicycle.

Competitive bicycle racing was popular from the very beginning, and bicycles and racing have progressed together ever since. Manufacturers have worked continuously to improve their bikes, testing their new developments during competitions. Naturally, each one hopes to score the biggest wins, and all have done their utmost to win the loyalty of the greatest racing stars.

The bicycles in this exhibition come from the noteworthy collection of Jan Op de Beeck. A first acquisition years ago sparked an enthusiasm to find more, and since then he has sought out unusual models to add to his collection. His finds now serve as a wonderful overview of the technical evolution of the trusty two-wheeler, including those made by top names and others ridden by major cycling champions. Posters, jerseys and other items are from the Sportimonium’s own collection.

This exhibition closes with a look at the final period in the career of Eddy Merckx – which was the start of a new era of cycling with the emergence of composite materials for frames and high-tech parts.