Middle class aspirations—of car ownership, of course—notwithstanding, the humble bicycle endures as a touchstone of everyday life in Beijing. Although usage is unlikely to come anywhere near the 2/3-of-trips-by-bicycle mark set in the mid-80's, the 2012 launch of the city's bikeshare program and ever-increasing congestion are key factors in bringing pedal power back into fashion in the capital city... and at somewhere between 16–20% usage as of the current decade, they're easily an order of magnitude beyond, say, NYC. The iconic Flying Pigeon may be a veritable endangered species among the mix of domestically-produced bikes on streets and sidewalks throughout the city, but the bicycle commuter, as a breed, certainly is unlikely to go extinct any time soon.
So too is the curbside repair shop a common sight, at least along the more heavily trafficked bicycle routes in the city center. In the interest of elevating the mundane mechanic, a team of students from CAFA's Visual Communication program saw fit to elevate the ultralocal repair shop in the heart of Dashilar into a "Museum of Bicycle Parts," repurposing bits and pieces of hardware into jewelry and toys.
Although there is nothing particularly precious about the upcycled parts—mostly chainlinks, plus nuts and bolts that remain recognizable as such—many of the native Chinese visitors were delighted by the winsome works, and I personally thought that the trinkets and tchotchkes made for more charming souvenirs than the gift items available at Beijing Design Week's new retail store.
Meanwhile, in an (unrelated) conversation with Shannon Bufton of Serk, a combination café / cycling shop in Beijing, the Australian expat acknowledged that his obsession with classic racing bikes has proven to be an expensive hobby in China, since the vast majority of vintage parts—he was awaiting a set of C-Record hubs to complete a beautiful Lemond Team Z build—must be imported from overseas.
Fair enough—at least we don't have to worry about CAFA students accidentally scrapping rare parts in service of art—but the offhand comment speaks to the legacy of the bicycle in Chinese culture. Where Westerners might imagine a Museum of Bicycle Parts to be something like Dave Perry's beloved Bike Cult or Michael Embacher's Cyclepedia, the assortment of obliquely bike-related doodads in a tiny pop-up exhibition space seems to be something else entirely. But that might just be the point: the handicraft on view in Dashilar is a symbol of both the cultural trait of resourcefulness in a nation of over 1.3 billion people and the power of art and design to elevate what the Chinese might overlook as mundane into something more meaningful.