WHEN I FIRST got into bicycle maintenance in the leadup to a three-month tour around Southeast Asia, I remember thinking, I’m probably never going to learn how a car works, but this I can wrap my head around. The mechanics of the bike were simple enough that, after a few weeks of study, I could point out any individual component and explain its role within the system at large.

Maybe this simplicity of design has something to do with how many incredibly innovative custom jobs you see on the road. As long as you stay within the fundamental framework of wheels + drivetrain, you can add, embellish, or subtract whatever you want and the bike is probably still going to ride (and look good too). Or maybe it’s just that people who ride bikes are inherently awesome. Hard to say.

Either way, the collection below showcases some of the most creative bicycle designs out there. Many of the shots were actually captured at New Belgium Tour de Fat events, which typically feature a bike parade, contests and competitions, nonprofit fundraising, and beer. There are a lot of parallels between custom bike design and craft brewing…but that’s another article.


Burrito trike

Some serious artistic vision went into the creation of this burrito-style tricycle in Barcelona. Photo: aleξ


Hinged super chopper

From the photog: "This particular bike is jointed in the middle, just behind the handle-bars. It folds fully in half if you don't pay attention. You steer by using your hips to swivel the central joint, and then using the handlebars to simultaneously steer the front wheel." Photo: doviende


12-footed bike

I feel like I'm watching a cartoon every time I look at shots of this bike, seen here at Tour de Fat Seattle, 2008. Photo: RJL20


How tall can a tall bike get?

This Minneapolis tall bike is definitely living up to its name. Photo: sawdust_media


Wooden frame

Handmade from sheets of 1/2-inch plywood, this cruiser was being shown off at a custom car event in Morro Bay, CA. Photo: Michael "Mike" L. Baird


Bike 360

Shot taken at New Belgium's Tour de Fat event at Gasworks Park, Seattle, in 2010. I searched for a pic showing the crazy wheeled roll bar in action, but no dice. Photo: Bikejuju


Berlin's beer bike

A phenomenon that's spread to cities around the world, the beer bike is a mobile bar powered by the footwork of its patrons. Photo: Bryce Edwards


Yellow tall bike

A great angle to check out the geometry and mechanics of this awesome tall bike, being showcased here in Vancouver. Photo: doviende


Freak of nature

From the metal treads to the mish-mash that is the drivetrain, I've never seen a bicycle like this. Photo: Bikejuju


Venice Beach cruisers

"Custom bicycles are part of hot rod culture in Southern California." Photo: lucas


Parade bike

A cool take on the traditional tall bike form. Costume = bonus. Photo: koocbor


Fatty tires

Off-roader is an understatement here. Photo: dustinj


Critical Mass tall bike

This rider was part of a Critical Mass crew that "shut down Lion's Gate bridge for 30 minutes and the Stanley Park Causeway that leads to it for 60 minutes" in June, 2007. Photo: ItzaFineDay


The 3-kegger

According to the photog, this rig was pedaled from Oakland to Sacramento for a convention in 2012. Genius. Photo: Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious


Mounting the pyramid

This tall bike is going to look sick in action, assuming they can get it out the door. Photo: OldTownFortCollins


Rex Hazard's bike

At Yosemite in 2011, the photographer ran into Rex Hazard, riding his customized tall bike across the US. Photo: daveynin


Half bike

This one would pair well with one of those invisible-dog leashes. Photo: Swift Benjamin



A true franken-bike -- I would love to see someone cruising in this thing. Photo: bilbord99


4-wheel freestyle

A freaky 4-wheeler getting demoed at a Tour de Fat event in Austin, 2007. Photo: Bruce Turner


Tall bike + 1

Shot on a Tour de Fat bike parade in Fort Collins. It looks like the tall bike from pic #15 was deemed fit for the road. Photo: charkesw


Wood laminate bike

This bike with a handmade wood laminate frame, built by Mauro of Masterworks Wood & Design, was at the San Jose Bike Party in August of 2010. Photo: Cyclelicious



Kind of a circus take on the shoe-wheeled bike in pic #3. Spotted in Luxembourg, 2012. Photo: kewl


The tank

Definitely pushing the limits of what we think of when we hear the word "bicycle." Photo: Foxtongue


Tall scorpion

All kinds of style going on with this tall bike in San Luis Obispo. Photo: inhisgrace


Chair bike

The perfect bicycle for the journey to the fridge to get that next beer. Photo: channone


Reverse penny farthing

A play on the classic high-wheeler design that essentially all bicycles shared prior to the 1880s. Photo: easement


West Coast chopper

This bright orange chopper was part of a Critical Mass ride in San Francisco in 2007. Photo: tinou bao


Cargo bike

Seen at a bike show in Bristol, UK. It looks sturdy enough to haul more than a few apples and a newspaper. Photo: Iain Farrell


Milwaukee beer bike

A pared down version of the beer bike, which appeared in a Tour de Fat parade in 2012. Photo: The Bike Fed


Six Wheelie

Shot at the BikExperience Art Show in San Luis Obispo, CA. Photo: bilbord99


Amphibious chopper

The Willamaconda was part of an amphibious event organized by Portland bike club CHUNK 666. Photo: megulon5


Black chopper

A super sleek and minimalist chopper spotted on the streets of Chicago. Photo: swanksalot


The beef

It's got to feel good cruising down a damp sidewalk on those tires. Photo: Hagbard_


Lowrider trike

Polished up for a street art fair in the Bay Area. Photo: nickton


Snake bike

You can't really tell from this shot, but the snake bike, flagship of the Austin Bike Zoo, is 80ft long and seats like 8 people within the head and rib cage. Photo: Bruce Turner


Art bike

A papier-mache monster spotted in the Mission. Photo: P Gonzalez


Longhorn bike

School pride at a Tour de Fat event in Austin, 2008. Photo: Todd Dwyer


Mini-camper bike

For taking the show on the road (in Brooklyn, in this case). Photo: emilydickinsonridesabmx


Horseless carriage

Something spectacular at the Maker Faire Detroit, 2010. Photo: Zeusandhera


Cargo loader

New Belgium logoDoubles as a drunk-hauler on the weekends. Photo: Tim & Selena Middleton