The making of Sur Place

A short history of Sur Place + the fixed gear bike

Where and when did the fixed gear bike originate? How did it end up at Mediamatic? How did the exhibition come into existence, and what does Sur Place even mean? Find the answers to all these burning questions - and more! - here.


Messenger bike - Arden de Raaij


Roller racing at Sur Place opening - Photo by Igor Freeke Igor Freeke

A short history

The very first recognizable bikes were fixed gear. Circus artists used them in daring tricks, and they were even used to conquer the peaks and valleys of the Tour de France. They have no gears, no freewheel and sometimes no brakes either.

The fixed gear had to make way for a more ergonomic and safe bike, but never completely disappeared. Messengers in American metropolises rediscovered the bicycle in the eighties, and the fixed gear bike slowly started its nonconformist, urban underground rise to fame. It was loved for its speed, its simplicity and its design. And Mediamatic loves it too.


Op de fietsbaan van DUS Architects tijdens de opening van Sur Place - Picture made by EHVFXD


Head badges - An extract from the collection of Otto Beaujon. Head badges are bike brand logos attached to the front tubes of bicycles. At Sur Place, we exhibit a selection from Amsterdam bike manufacturers. A Dutch bike brand teams up with a Dutch graphic design icon. Locomotief produced bikes from 1929 to 1968. From the collection of Otto Beaujon.

Ideas and collaborations

Ideas started to hatch about an exhibition on urban bike culture. Lots of young people see the fixed gear scene as a street culture they can identify with. We investigated the messenger culture in The Netherlands, and the so-called Alleycat races. We have founded collections of bike jerseys, crash portraits, head badges and video footage. Above that, we've founded a collection of special and rare bicycles, going back as far as the 1910s.


Rhiannon Bike Crash Portrait - Photo by [ Rhiannon Smith / Robotsarsosex] found on Flickr: Pain I got into a bicycle accident on Friday night- it hurts- but, I'll live- I must be some kind of masochist because I am sort of fascinated by the way I look right now…


Bike collection at Sur Place opening - Photo made by EHVFXD, and found on their Flickr page

But we couldn't have done this alone. We worked with the Bicycle Film Festival to screen some great bike shorts at Pathe Tuschinski. DUS Architects designed a bike track that runs through the entire exhibition space. The track is multipurpose and easily changes from a catwalk into a cycle track, and when necessary into a stage. Illustrator/tattooist/artist Mike Giant has added a bit of urban-umph to the walls of our exhibition space.


Mike Giant - Mike Giant working on his artwork for the Sur Place exhibition. Arden de Raaij

Met: Mike Giant


Mike Giant artwork - Graffiti and tattoo artist Mike Giant fills the wall inside the Mediamatic Bank with various types of words and letters. The wall painting is part of ‘Sur Place’, Mediamatic’s exhibition about the urban bike culture. Kai-Ting Lin


Sur Place exhibition space - DUS architects designed a multifunctional bike track that runs through the entire exhibition space. You can take your bike and have a try, or borrow one of our race bikes. Kai-Ting Lin


DUS track design for Sur Place -

The future

Workshops have been and will be hosted, and races, competitions and general bike loving will continue well into August. Keep an eye on this website for documentary debuts, salons, film screenings and alleycat scores. Want to stay up to date? Become a fan!

ps. And what Sur Place means? Sur Place is the French translation for track stand, one of the basic tricks on a bicycle. The idea is to stay balanced by dividing one's weight equally over both pedals while moving only minimal distances. Have a go at it in our exhibition space!


Bontekoe track bike ca. 1955 - Track bike used by Gerrit Bontekoe junior. Andreas Conradi, Arden de Raaij

More information

The exhibition runs until August 22nd. On weekdays Mediamatic Bank is open from 13.00 to 19.00 and in the weekend until 18.00. Join us down at the track for a spin around the exhibition space. Bike in the shop? Have a little online peek at what's going on. And for those who'd like to have a go at the fixed gear bike - if you promise to enjoy yourself, we'll lend you one.