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Switching Gears: Gateway Science Museum’s New Exhibit All About Bikes

A museum space displays several different bicycles with a number of interactive displays against the walls.
Jason Halley / University Photographer

GEAR UP: The Science of Bikes invites visitors to take a ride through the science of bicycling on Thursday, January 20, 2022 in Chico, Calif. (Jason Halley/University Photographer/Chico State)

Bicycles are ubiquitous throughout Chico, as they provide a sustainable method of transportation, an easy form of exercise and a healthy way to spend time with family. So, it makes sense that the Gateway Science Museum’s newest exhibit will explore the history, evolution and science of our beloved bikes.

Gear Up: The Science of Bikes” is currently open and runs through May 7. The bicycle has impacted how people live, work and play since its invention in the late 19th century—from bustling city streets and schoolyards to miles of North State mountain trails, bikes of every shape, size and color are all around us.

Visitors to “Gear Up” will explore how two-wheelers work; look at the history and evolution of bicycles (from the Penny-Farthing and unicycle to an adaptive bicycle and the Big Wheel); learn about the science and technology behind bikes and get a glimpse of their effect on our culture. Adrienne McGraw, executive director of the museum, said that the bicycle is an elegant example of the marriage of basic science principles and material science.

“Like the bicycle itself, ‘Gear Up’ is designed to appeal to people of all ages with diverse interests, and it touches upon themes including safety, healthy lifestyles, accessibility and sustainable transportation,” McGraw said. “The exhibit illustrates how far the bicycle has come in its evolution, and visitors can also learn about the mechanics of bikes—like physics, gears, torque, and friction—through smaller, interactive displays.”

Throughout the exhibit’s duration, Gateway will feature an aspect of our community and how it connects with bicycles. The Butte County Public Health Department’s Office of Traffic Safety and Safe Routes to School program will offer three separate Bike Rodeos, each with its own fun, distinct theme and activity: “Health and Safety” on Friday, February 25; “Physics and Fun” on Saturday, March 19; and, in celebration of National Bike Month, “Recreation” on Friday, May 6.

A student event commemorating Chico State Wildcat Spirit Week will take place on Thursday, April 21, and the exhibit’s theme on Friday, April 22 will be “Sustainability Transportation”—for Earth Day.

“Everyone has a bike story,” McGraw said. “Walking through the exhibit, people are going to want to share those stories with each other and across generations.”

Also continuing at Gateway is its Fossils Lab, where expert paleontologists and fossil scientists-in-training from Chico State’s Department of Geological Science prepare fossils from the field. Visitors can have a first-hand look at the museum’s Scientists in Residence at work Fridays and Saturdays from noon to 3 p.m.

Additionally, the Gateway Gardens provide a glimpse of the diverse and distinct eco-regions of Northern California, and visitors entering the museum will pass by a pair of beautiful murals created by Chico State art students in 2019 and 2021.

The Gateway Science Museum is located at 625 Esplanade and is open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is $7 for adults, $5 for children age 3–17, and free for Chico State students and museum members. Visitors are required to wear masks. To consider giving to Gateway Science Museum, please visit its giving page. Those who require an accommodation at Gateway Science Museum or who have questions about accessibility may contact the Accessibility Resource Center at 530-898-5959.