Meet the F-30 Pedal Cloud, an 11-person bicycle that’s been drawing stares at local festivals and parades all summer. And next month it’s heading to the Republican National Convention to be part of the Freedom Parade protest.
The bike’s name — both the number and the weather reference — comes from Forecast, the St. Paul public art organization that commissioned the bike as a way to celebrate its 30th anniversary. While the bike had made appearances at events from the May Day Parade to Pride, its inspiration is less… summery: Last winter, out on the ice of Medicine Lake, Forecast director Jack Becker encountered its ancestor. As part of the Soap Factory’s Art Shanty Projects, in which artists reinvent the traditional icefishing house, a group of artists had built an art shanty on wheels. Over five weeks, the six-person, pedal-powered ice shack had racked up some 200 miles. And Becker knew he’d found his project.
He contacted artists Hans Early-Nelson, Matt Carlyle, Julia Kouneski and Juliana Peterson to see if they could build a similar thing for dry land. According to Early-Nelson, a metal worker, the kinetic sculpture they came up with weighs in at around 950 pounds and can reach a top speed of around 25 miles an hour. It’s a bit of a Frankenstein’s monster of art: Its key components were scavenged from bike shops, trash heaps and junkyards, including the chassis of a ’74 VW Super Beetle, 15 bike frames and the front suspension of a 1979 Volkswagen bus.
Early-Nelson says that, despite the bikes’ appearance at the RNC, he hasn’t thought much about its political message. But, as a bike enthusiast for many years, he hopes people make the connection between gas that’s pushing $4 a gallon and this human-powered alternative. The novelty of the 11-person contraption — which draws a crowd wherever it goes — makes it seem like he’s created a fitting vehicle for that message.
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