Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Meet Portland artist and bike collector Karl Edwards

Posted by on July 15th, 2011 at 11:21 am

Portland resident, professional artist, and bike collector Karl Edwards.

A few months ago, I followed a link to an amazing bicycle. It had a paint job with finely detailed illustrations that told a children’s story. It was bike and a book and it was unlike anything I’d ever seen.

Edwards calls this The Insecticycle and says the viewer can create their own storyline. “Here’s an example of functional, rideable art,” he writes on his website, “The Insecticycle is a book on a bike. It is a book AND a bike. Just as mobile as a Kindle or an iPad, but perhaps a tad more functional! Can you ride your iPad around town? Bet not.”

Turns out that bike was created by 59 year old Portland resident Karl Edwards. When I realized he lived in Portland, I got in touch with him to learn more about his work. Edwards and his wife Erica moved to Portland from the Bay Area four years ago, “to get out of California and live in the SW near Lewis and Clark College.”

As you might assume given the dedication it took to create that children’s book bike, Edwards isn’t just an artist who did a bike project: He’s an unabashed bike lover with an impressive body of bicycle-related work and a penchant for riding, collecting, and drawing vintage bicycles.

Edwards has done a variety of bike-related projects; but the ones that perfectly combine his passion for drawing and antique bikes are his original posters…

This original poster by Karl Edwards is done in the style of late 19th century European lithographs. “It is a tribute to the staying-power of the Pedersen Bicycle, a bike first introduced in 1893, but still in production today in Europe,” he says. Read about the creative process behind this poster on Edwards’ website.

Edwards made this drawing of an 1889 “Eagle” brand bicycle on antique paper. It was done to emulate Victorian broadsheet advertisements.

Edwards has been a freelance illustrator for 35 years and says he’s been, “collecting, buying, selling and riding bikes for just as long.” In the 1980s and early ’90s he collected, restored and even raced antique bikes in Japan and Europe. He even toured Europe on an 1887 “ordinary” (a.k.a. penny farthing or high-wheeler).

Karl riding on a bike loaned to him by collector Jerry Grulkey.

Edwards has a soft spot for military bikes from the 1890s.

Edwards and one of his bikes in a recreation of an old photograph.

Far from being stuck in the past, Edwards also collects modern bikes. His Oregon-made Co-Motion tandem — that he rides with his wife Erica — is something to behold. It’s made out of titanium and Edwards said it’s one of only six ever made.

In a nod to the artisan craftsmanship of Portland’s local bike builders, Edwards’ personal bike is an Ahearne. “It is exquisite,” Edwards says, “Joseph is an artist.” That’s high praise coming from a professional artist and bike collector.

Edwards looked to North Portland-based Ahearne Cycles for his personal bike.

Edwards has sold most of his antique bikes, but his love of riding and drawing them hasn’t wanted. “I took a class at Alpenrose Velodrome last week and it was scary,” he wrote me via email, “Everyone else was so cool, but I was nervous on that banked track. Maybe they were too, but I’m old enough to admit it.”

I doubt the others in that track class knew that the nervous old guy next to them used to race high-wheelers!

Check out more of Karl’s work (and keep him in mind for your illustration needs) via KarlEdwards.com.

— This is the first of what I hope becomes a regular profile of interesting, bike-centric Portlanders. If you have a suggestion for someone to profile, get in touch.

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  • Schrauf July 15, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Ha. Studies indicate people driving cars will allow more space when passing people on bikes with large firearms mounted on the front. Such an obvious solution. =)

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  • marshmallow July 15, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    They’ve got to get give you ten feet passing if you’re riding a penny farthing. +3 feet, 7 feet height of bike and rider falling sideways.

    That Pederson poster with the dressed up lion shows a bike that’s currently for sale on craigslist.

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  • Bill Stites July 15, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    Wow, is that a lamp hanging off the front axle inside the wheel [in the first photo]? Cool.

    Kudos to J. Ahearne and CoMotion … no wonder he relocated here.

    Even with all of our shortcomings … gotta love Portland.

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  • PdxMark July 18, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Great story! Opening photo caption should maybe be 1880s?

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