A thinking look at bikes and bike culture

If someone were to offer me the opportunity to meet any Internet personality, I think I would choose to meet Maria Popova. New York-based polymath Maria is the brains and content muscle behind, a website devoted to…well, a myriad of intelligent and mentally stimulating subjects. Brainpickings, despite the slightly scary title, is an absolute smorgasbord of ideas, observations, best of everything lists and great links to the smartest of the web. I like Maria because she likes, understands and knows bucket loads of stuff about the things that really interest and thrill me. My interest in her site started with posts about maps, then it was graphic design, then typography, then thinking, then data visualization, then trains, then infatuation, then writing…the list went on and on (including, even, beards!). Seriously, if my browser went bent and I could only use one URL, brainpickings would probably be it.

To quote her “about” page:

Brain Pickings is your LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces across art, design, science, technology, philosophy, history, politics, psychology, sociology, ecology, anthropology, you-name-itology. Pieces that enrich your mental pool of resources and empower you to combine them into original concepts that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful—a modest, curiosity-driven exercise in vision- and mind-expansion.

See! She even loves LEGO! And to call her brilliant site a modest exercise is like calling a brevet a quick afternoon tour.

On top of all this, it turns out Ms Popova is also a hard-core velophile. She really gets bikes. As she puts it, she looks at bikes from “its design and engineering history to its beauty to its role in the emancipation of women (only after telling them not to cultivate ‘bicycle face’)”.

Her latest bike-related posting, which came about when she was “digging through the archive of the State Library of New South Wales” (she digs around libraries on the other side of the planet sort of like you or I would dig around behind the furnace looking for some potting soil), she came across this amazing collection of historic Australian bike related photographs.

Historic Australian bike photographs at

Running from the end of the 1800s to the middle of the last century, the sampling of photos on the brainpickings site is a delightful cross-section of images that capture the many ways Australian society thought about and used bikes . From racers to lovers to record breakers to women in their best bike outfits, the images show a kind of relaxed infatuation with bikes. The contrast between the women riding in their best outfits and the women racers is very interesting.

I wonder what people will make of our bike pictures in 2112?

Oh, and do your brain a favour, bookmark now, or follow her, or friend her…

If you want to be her, start with this regimen (then sigh in your mediocrity).