Imagine a bicycle acrobat performing an array of graceful, yet highly dangerous tricks, all while in motion upon two specialized wheels. This type of athlete performs the discipline known as ‘artistic cycling’.
The athletic art form involves dare devilish antics that are extremely high-risk, but also extraordinary feats of strength, beauty, and physical control.
And unlike other types of cycling for transportation or racing, this is usually set to music just like a dance or gymnastic number.
What exactly is Artistic Cycling?
Artistic cycling is often likened to dance and gymnastics, as its movements are alternately fluid and heart-stopping. And just as in other creative movement disciplines, the skills demand many years to master and even more to maintain.
Artistic cycling is generally an indoor competitive sport, but artists sometimes take their skills out onto the streets to attract captivated crowds and amaze passersby.
Artistic cycling is performed by one, two, and up to six riders, and their main stage event is in competitions held in large gymnasiums.
During these prestigious events, the acrobats present five-minute routines to a discerning panel of judges, earning points for up to 30 tricks per time slot.
Judges award points to the competitors based on factors such as the number of maneuvers performed successfully along with their difficulty rating, as well as the general sequence aesthetic and artistry.
The first men’s artistic cycling championship was held in 1956, with a women’s event following later in 1970. Although the women of artistic cycling were given a late start in the game, female competitors are now among the industry’s most renowned.
As a unique kind of bike dance, artistic or freestyle cycling varies from other stunt cycle sports such as BMX, unicycling, racing, the Wheel of Death, and others. The distinctive discipline has its roots in the circus, evolving for over 130 years.
Selected Stunts and Maneuvers
The skills and style of artistic cycle dancing may vary from rider to rider, but there are some moves that come standard:
- Sideways coast : This is achieved while standing sideways with one foot perched on the handlebars and the other on the seat, similar to a surfboard ride.
- Traveling handstand (video): Imagine mastering the handstand, a skill requiring perfect balance, strength, and control. Now put that trick on top of a moving bicycle.
- The Maute jump (video): This move involves a small but impressive leap between the bicycle seat and the handlebars. The trick is to land safely while the bike is still at a steady pace.
- Forward planche: In this classic acrobatic position, the rider takes it to the bike, balancing horizontally on the handlebars.
Famous Artistic Cyclists
Although the pros make it look very easy, acrobatic cyclists are true masters of control. The discipline is an exacting sport with an exclusive following. But what they may lack in worldwide numbers they make up in enthusiastic dedication to the sport.
Here are a few practitioners who are currently in full command of their craft:
- Nicole Frýbortová (Website) is a Slovakian cyclist who placed third in the 2019 World Champion Competition. Like many dedicated athletes, she trains up to six times per week and up to three hours per session. Her hard work has paid off: she’s considered one of the best artistic cyclers in the entire world.
- Lea Schaepe (Instagram) is another contender in the sport. Lea is a German cyclist who brings her art form to urban city streets, to the delight of pedestrians who stop to watch her freestyle. Hailed as the “bicycle ballerina,” Schaepe has won at least 12 national competitions.
- Viola Brand (Instagram) is yet another top artistic cyclist. She has said that her handstand took 7 years to perfect, making it her favorite move to showcase at every opportunity.
Choosing The Right Bike for Artistic Cycling
You may have already guessed that the bikes used by these unique cycling athletes are not your average 10-speeds. In fact, they’re highly specialized with a number of modifications to allow for smooth gliding and maneuvering.
The bikes are fixed-gear, with a gear ratio typically at 1:1. The tires are sized accordingly, and the bike’s front wheel is capable of spinning in all directions.
The handlebars like a racing bike’s, only they’re mounted upside down to allow for the cyclist to move more freely. Sometimes, artistic cyclists also install a belt in place of a chain.
My #1 Pick for Beginner’s Best Bike
If you are brave enough to consider purchasing a bike for this purpose, you’ll want to be sure to get a sturdy, reliable model that you can use to learn without being too much to handle too soon.
Remember the modifications listed above and to work with your height and weight.
Some bike brands will customize your bike for you, making the modifications needed to get started. Make sure to choose a reputable company for your first investment in the sport. Your bike will be your instrument — and your lifeline.
My recommendation for beginners is this fixie bike on Amazon, you can check their latest pricing here.
Is Artistic Cycling for You?
Despite its awe-inspired following, and unlike other gymnastic forms, artistic cycling is not widely popular all over the world. Its participants are most often based in Europe, with a high concentration of enthusiasts located in Germany.
If you’re asking yourself if bike dancing is your calling, consider your location and whether you would be willing to commute, travel, or even relocate to these places to pursue the dream.
The sport requires intensive training and a harness safety system to practice the more dangerous moves. Ideally, you’d want to have a community, or at least a mentor, to pass along the skills and offer you the support you’ll need along the way.
Artistic cycling poses an additional hazard to newcomers because of the motion and the inability to use a mat below to cushion falls. Instead, professionals generally learn with a harness lift system to prevent a devastating impact.
Artistic cycling is highly entertaining to watch, and practitioners get a healthy dose of adrenaline. Whether you’re a fan or a serious competitor, the world of artistic cycling may be the cycling world’s best-kept secret.