Splinter Bike set to go on show at Victoria & Albert Museum

CRAFTED after a bet to set a record pace, a fully wooden bike is now destined to join design classics in one of the country’s top museums.

Last week an appeal was launched by Potter Heigham-based creator Michael Thompson to help find his “Splinter Bike” the funding and facilities needed to help it reach 31mph and set a new land speed record.

But alongside a few interested inquiries was one e-mail that the carpenter did not expect in his inbox – an invitation from the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for the metal-free contraption to join a cutting-edge exhibition.

Having spent 800 hours building the project following a bet with friend and triathlete James Tully, who will ride the bike, Michael waited three days before responding.

“At first I thought it was a wind-up,” he said. “I thought it was some prankster and I was waiting for someone to mention it in my circle of friends.

“But I phoned them up and at that point it was clear that it was completely legit. It’s quite something to be asked to be do, and it’s quite a privilege to be involved.”

A special collections team will be sent out from the London-based museum a week ahead of the exhibition, which is named Power of Making and runs from September to January.

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With more than 100 boundary pushing designs, it will include everything from a lion-shaped Ghanaian coffin through to a six-headed guitar and focuses on materials being used in imaginative ways.

Zoe Whitley, curator for the museum and project manager for the free exhibition, was impressed when she heard about the bike, which is based on a gold-winning design from the 1992 Olympics.

She said: “It was exciting when I first saw it because it a really striking object and very innovative as far as design is concerned.

“Personally I think it’s a beautiful object and fit for purpose to break a land speed record – it’s extraordinary.”

There is one small snag, however. The pair will need to set their land speed record before their bike is taken away for culture vultures and lovers of innovative design.

And now the race is on to raise an anticipated �7,500 for everything from the timing specialists and start and finish line laser beams necessary to enter the history books.

They will also need to find a venue if adjudicating Speed Record Club are to allow them to set a record in the newly created category for human-powered vehicles made from only natural materials.

“I’m Google earthing all over Norfolk to try and spot anywhere we can get,” said Michael, who was surprised at how difficult it was to find a useable flat, smooth space locally.

A few years ago Michael designed plinths for the Sainsbury’s Centre of Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia.

“I’ve seen it from the other side, getting exhibitions for pieces of art to be put on show, and it’s a surreal experience thinking my own is being out on a podium,” the 40-year-old said.

To sponsor the pair’s efforts, email Michael Thompson on Thompson_Norwich@hotmail.co.uk