Can a bunch of tubing stuck together and hooked to wheels to provide transportation be considered art? Let's take a look.
Back in the day Merlin Bicycles put out a bike called the "Newsboy" It was a modern mountainbike, but the frame looked like the old cruisers from the fifties-and it was made from Titanium. I fell in love with the look right away. Merlin doesn't make the Newsboy anymore, but there are custom builders out there doing essentially the same thing. Here are a couple of gorgeous examples from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show in Austin Texas.
First up, the Retrotec Classic. This is a steel frame with 650B wheels (in between 26" and 29"). This particular build has an internally geared 11 speed hub. The builder concedes that he has no idea whether or not that hub would hold up to off road abuse, but he wanted to give it a try. It can also be built as a single or 1x9/10
Then we have the Funk Ti Classic Cruiser. It is made out of Titanium and designed to have about an inch of flex in the rear end. They accomplish this by welding the stays to the top tube a couple on inches in front of the seat tube instead of directly to the seat tube. They can pull this off because Titanium can flex without fatiguing. This appears to have the Easton Haven carbon 29" wheelset-Very expensive, very light, and virtually indestructible.
The great thing about custom builders is they take pride in making sure their bikes not only ride great, but look great. Some of the photos I have seen from this years NAHBS are simply stunning. It is worth noting that local Twin Cities builder Dave Anderson won the "President's Choice" award for this stainless steel creation.
One final pic for a little more local love. Peacock Groove.
So are bikes art? In these cases I would have to say definitely yes.
UPDATE: I just watched the MTBR interview with Eric Noren from Peacock Groove. Hilarious.