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BIKES: Science on Two Wheels is Breezy Summer Fun


Reviewed by Fiona Bessey-Bushnell


ExhibitBikeSMVDo you remember biking down to the corner store as a child? Or riding bikes in the neighborhood with your friends? Or perhaps you still love feeling the wind on your face when you bike to work, at the park, or on the trails. Whether you bike or not, Richmond will be temporary home to bikes galore for the 2015 UCI Road World Championships. The new temporary exhibit at Science Museum of Virginia, BIKES: Science on Two Wheels, is timed perfectly to coincide with the visit of bike enthusiasts scoping out Richmond for the big event in the fall.

At this exhibit, you’ll explore displays with many different types of bicycles from high-tech bicycles of today, to bikes from a bygone era and bicycles all sizes, types, and shapes. Unicycle? Check. Tricycle? Check. Clown bike? Check. Tandem bicycle, collapsible bicycle, adaptive bicycle? Check, check, check. Oh, and my personal favorite, the bike with the purple-sparkly-banana-seat-and-high-rise-handle bars – with streamers!

Many of the exhibits are hands-on, where guests can explore their artistic side by making a crayon rubbing of tire treads, learn how gears work together, and feel the weight of bike frames to learn how the materials have become more streamlined. Guests can flex their muscle by powering a lightbulb with pedal power and tiny bicyclists can even take a Hot Wheels for a spin on a special racetrack inside the exhibit.

This chrome low rider looked like “a bike made of real gold!’
This chrome low rider looked like “a bike made of real gold!’

There is something for everyone in this exhibit. A rare chainless bike (powered by a driveshaft) fascinated my 9-year-old. My 7-year-old was impressed with a chrome low rider. The chrome is polished to a gold tone, so as my son said, “It looks like a bike made of real gold!” In addition to her luster, this beauty, reminiscent of an automobile, showcased elaborate high-rise handlebars adorned with several shiny mirrors, a horn, a headlamp, extra chains, bling, and white-wall tires.

By exploring force and motion, energy, aerodynamics, and engineering, guests of all ages learn the science behind this 2-wheeled (or more) balancing act. The evolution of bicycles is also highlighted throughout the exhibit. My sons enjoyed learning about old-fashioned designs, although their sense of old-fahioned is a little off. One of my boys asked, “Mommy, did you ride a penny-farthing bike?” Nice. But give me a banana-seat bike any day and I am ready to ride.

The good news for families is guests of all ages will appreciate BIKES: Science on Two Wheels. Younger children can enjoy most portions of the exhibit with guidance. You will want to set aside at least forty-five minutes to explore all this enriching exhibit has to offer. As an added bonus, historic photographs of Richmond cyclists, as well as cycling finish line sketches by Greig Leach are displayed in adjacent areas of the museum.

The exhibit is open now through September 27. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9:30 to 5:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:30 to 5:00 p.m. Tickets for adults (exhibits only) are $11.00. Adults ages 60 and older and children between the ages of 4 to 12 receive a $1 discount off general admission prices. Children 3 and under are admitted free with a paid adult. Active military receive free admission to exhibits.



Fiona Bessey-Bushnell is an occupational therapist and writer who lives in the West End. She enjoys exploring all the exciting places Richmond has to offer with her husband and two sons.

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