Old bikes, new life

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

Durango artist Jacqueline Hess created 40 of these globes made with bicycle spokes that will adorn the tent of the USA Pro Challenge Gala on Saturday at Fort Lewis College.

By Margaret Hedderman
Special to the Herald

More than 400 hundred bicycles have arrived at Fort Lewis College and not a single one is accompanied by a world-class cyclist – or any cyclist for that matter.

No, these bikes are yours, mine and just about everyone else’s in Durango, reclaimed from garages, backyards and even Dumpsters. Under Jacqueline Hess’ care, these bikes and miscellaneous parts have been reconstituted into the featured artwork for the USA Pro Cycling Challenge Gala on Saturday night.

Hess, a recent graduate from Colorado State University in Fort Collins, spent the last month scouring Durango for bike parts – chains, wheels, spokes, anything and everything that could be reused. From this, she has constructed two 20-foot oscillating panels to line the walls of the gala tent, nearly 30 iridescent chandeliers made of a thousand bike spokes and centerpieces for each table.

“Once you compile all (the parts) and give them an opportunity to be something else, it really looks cool,” Hess says.

Like most Durangoans, Hess loves bikes, but had never thought much about how they work until moving to Fort Collins. Almost immediately upon arriving at CSU, her bike was stolen. She bought a new ride, and it was quickly stolen as well. For Hess, there would be no charm; she refused to buy a third bicycle.

“I started doing the bike mechanic thing – finding parts that people throw away and building new bicycles,” Hess said. “I built eight bikes.”

“Through finding all these scrap parts, I started realizing how much people throw away,” she said.

During her search for materials this summer, Hess saw firsthand how the Durango community has come together to organize the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. And whether it was through a desire to clean out the garage or participate in the big event, Hess found an overwhelming number of people willing to donate used parts.

“(I like) bringing all these people together and (using) these thrown-away parts ... which can be aesthetically pleasing to look at, but could have just as easily been put in a trash can.”

Hess studied mechanical engineering with an emphasis on energy. She recently patented a design for a pneumatic harmonic drive for wind turbines.

“Efficiency and renewable energy is what I’m passionate about,” Hess said.

Though riding your bike to work every day can reduce your annual carbon-dioxide emissions by up to 1.9 tons, the manufacturing process of bicycles is typically not environmentally friendly. Many non-renewable fossil fuels are used in their production. So reusing old bicycle parts instead of trashing them can cut back on resources used to create new bikes.

Hess’ bicycle art is symbolic of the power of reusing and recycling. Once the Pro Challenge leaves Durango, Hess’ work will be installed permanently as one of the city’s many outdoor art pieces.

Margaret Hedderman is a freelance writer based in Durango. Reach her at margaretyh@gmail.com.

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