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No longer just for riding: How bikes are being turned into art

Hilary Nagler calls her art, such as this handle bar fashioned into a coat hook, ‘Bicycle Taxidermy.’

Robert Redfield/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Bikes have become part of hipster culture. There are bicycle-themed dining, drinking and shopping establishments from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn, N.Y., and dozens of bike-friendly burgs in between.

While the rides themselves are often tricked out with coloured tires, swanky seats and vintage baskets, there are also those who see more than the sum of two wheels, a frame and a seat. Designers and artists are creating furnishings and art that give bicycles a whole new way to roll down Cool Street.

Some of the best:

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Canadian cyclist and metal artisan Gilbert VandenHeuvel turns out all sorts of reworked bicycle art and accessories from his studio in Goderich, Ont. "The sexy sprockets, curvy rims, flexible rubber and sturdy frame make for endless design possibilities," he says. Bikes are "almost begging to be reborn, reshaped into something surprising and beautiful." His online shop offers wall hooks crafted from gear sprockets, mirrors made from spoked wheels, clocks crafted from drive trains and chain rings, and sleek chrome "urban antlers," with the bike seat as the "skull" and the handlebars as the antlers. (www.therecycler.ca)

Designer Hilary Nagler of Santa Barbara, Calif., plays with a similar idea, making "bicycle taxidermy" by mounting handlebar "horns" on a basswood plaque. Ebonizing the handlebars gives them a rustic patina and vintage aesthetic. Nagler says the pieces are a "sentimental nod to my beloved childhood Schwinn," while also tipping an artsy hat to Picasso's bull's-head motif. (www.fleamarketrx.com)

In Marquette, Mich., designer and former bike mechanic Andy Gregg has combined his skills to make high-style furniture that's found its way into homes, hotels and restaurants. There's a chair made out of wheels, with soft rubber tires as arm rests and handlebars as the feet. Seats and backs are padded in black or paint-box-bright yellow, red or blue vinyl. A stylized table is comprised of swirls of aluminum and steel rims, with the radiating spokes covered with glass. The collection has a mix of Deco, mid-century and contemporary vibes. (www.bikefurniture.com)

Solo Home Design, a collective in Chicago, has an oversize cotton throw pillow trimmed in inner-tube fringe. Inner tubes form a great outdoor mat, and are also woven into coasters.

"There's an industrial vibe in our designs, and bicycle parts are a perfect fit. Gears, tires, inner tubes, spokes, chain. We try to use it all. They're not always the easiest materials to work with, but the different textures add something extra to each piece, and knowing we're helping the planet is the most rewarding feeling," says Meg Leese, co-owner and designer at Solo. (www.solohomedesign.com)

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