Nature has an influence on the way I work

How big was an undertaking to make a bike out of ice?

What else can you make a bike out except for the sunset? Why is the Podlasie a perfect place to live? These and other questions are answered by Adam Zdanowicz – the founder of Poland’s largest custom bike workshop, a visionary, for whom out of the box thinking is everyday life.

The work of Adam Zdanowicz does not merely concern high-class bikes. Promoting the Podlasie region with the use of folk designs, creating special bikes for short persons and disabled children, breaking the Guinness World Record in the category: the highest riding bicycle – everything is possible for him!

Here is the interview with the artist and visionary, who speaks about the creative process and inspirations drawn from the Podlasie region and nature.

He has created bicycles
that are ridden by, among others:

Slash - the lead guitarist
of Guns N'Roses
Michal Szpak - Polish singer
Aleksander Milwiw-Baron
- Polish multi-instrumentalist

Adam Zdanowicz

Designing and creating extraordinary reality are my favorite activities

You write about yourself "Designing and creating extraordinary reality are my favorite activities" and you certainly make extraordinary, out of the box objects. Where does the desire to create unconventional reality come from?

Well, as a kid I was taught that if you want to have something, make it yourself. At the time, when I was not biking, just skateboarding, there existed no skateparks, which today are built on a massive scale. Then I had to create an obstacle course for myself. At some point, I started making my own skateboards. I assumed that if I wanted something different than everyone else had, something out of my own reality, then I had to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I  took the same approach when it came to bicycles.

When I saw a unique bike and sat on it, I felt that it was something for me, something I had to have. And to have it, I had to make it by myself. In point of fact, others helped me when I made my first bike, but next ones were made all by myself.  So when it comes to designing and creating an extraordinary reality, there is a childhood connection – putting Lego blocks together, skateboarding… I have always turned  my visions into reality.

Adam Zdanowicz i rower z lodu
You made a bike out of ice and a video about this. Was it difficult? Please tell, how the idea came to be and how the creation process went?

Making a bike of ice was a huge undertaking, the magnitude of which I did not at first realize. I simply wanted to implement an interesting idea that had come to me a season earlier. I assumed it would work. But when I told people we were making a bike out of ice, they all suggested to go and have my brains examined. Nobody understood what I was talking about. Nonetheless, I decided that we would make special anchors for ice, then anchor the bike parts in ice, and then I learn how to freeze water so that it would be possible to use it for riding.

In actual fact, I had to learn a lot about ice. Water kept outdoors at the temperature below 0oC will freeze, for example – in a puddle. However, it takes very low temperatures and a long time to freeze water in a shape of 10 or 15-centimeter-thick sheets. Besides, ordinary ice easily cracks. Meanwhile, I learned about pykrete, a frozen ice alloy made of mixed cellulose and ice, invented during the World War II. As long as the material is kept frozen its strength and toughness are comparable to concrete. Eventually, a week spent in a cold store and freezing paper towels in water placed in a special laser-cut container, led to the creation of the bike. All this was not easy, and making the film was a challenge as well. As I recall, then in the city of Białystok, temperatures were  + 5oC and + 7oC. Therefore, we had to shoot outside the city, further east, nearby the town of Czarna Białostocka, where there still remained snow cover and temperatures below 0oC.

The idea for the ice bike came from a desire to create something unique, something that would represent the region. After all, it is the bike made of the Podlasie water. The video shows the bike made from a sheet of ice cut from the surface of a frozen water reservoir in Czarna Białostocka. This proves that you can do something that seems inconceivable.

When I got to Las Vegas, even before the show where we presented the gold bike, everyone would come up to me and say “You are the iceman, right?” People remembered the bike made of ice, and  they really liked our unconventional thinking. People in the U.S., including the Marshall and other local officials esteemed what we did. The video captured the hearts of many persons, and I am proud of it. At the outset, I did not believe that our undertaking would be successful.

So there was a bicycle made of ice, a bike-Christmas tree [? rower-choinka] "How about a bike made of the sunset?" – as proposed on your website. Apparently nothing is impossible for you! What else would you like to make a bike of?

This is a very interesting question. We have a few designs in mind – wooden, plastic, and some bikes that sound abstract when you talk about them: for example those made in reference to video games or toys. We have some ideas, the time will come for all of them. At the moment,  let’s not talk too much, and keep “secrets of the manufacturers”.  For sure, the world will hear about us– as the company that creates very unusual things.

Would you declare that one of the things that inspire you is nature? If so, please tell us how do you draw from it? (Besides cutting ice for your bike).

Certainly, nature is  my inspiration. Biking directly relates to nature. The most enjoyable bike rides for me are those taken in Podlasie forests, including those growing around  Białystok. For me biking is synonymous with nature. Contact with nature clears my mind and gives me new inspirations, not so much for using the shapes and geometries from nature but reflecting the atmosphere and peace it brings. So when it comes to what nature brings to my work, it is definitely a kind of harmony of shapes with the color forms I choose. Actually, this is a very complex subject – hard to explain. Nature influences the way I work, maybe not directly, rather the way I function as an artist. Indeed, I have a close relationship with nature.

Do you enjoy living and working in this area?

Mieszka Pan w Białymstoku, jest Pan Honorowym Ambasadorem Politechniki Białostockiej, stypendystą Prezydenta Miasta i został nagrodzony Podlaską Marką Roku. Czy Podlasie i Białystok to „Pana miejsce”? Proszę powiedzieć kilka słów o tym, co pan „czuje” do naszego regionu. Dobrze się tu Panu żyje i pracuje?

You live in the city of Białystok, you are the Honorary Ambassador of Białystok University of Technology, a holder of scholarship granted by the Mayor and a winner of the award Podlasie Brand of the Year. Is Podlasie and Bialystok “your place”? What do you “feel” for the region?

I have always been the citizen Białystok, and have always felt like the Podlasie citizen. My roots are here. I think that persons begin to fully understand what is local patriotism and patriotism in general, when visit other places, meet new people, and get to know what is exoticism. When I unveiled the golden bike in Las Vegas, I understood what it meant to be from Poland, to be from Białystok, to be from the Podlasie. I recall the commentator saying “All the way from Poland!”. And this is a great reward, which I understood over time – when someone there, on the spot, who comes from California, says that you came “all the way” from Poland to show your bike – that  golden, exceptional, a result of your work. When your work is valued and the bike wins the first prize – then you really feel attached to your homeland.

Sometimes people ask me why I do not make my bikes in big cities such as Warszawa, Wrocław, Poznań or anywhere else. I tell them straight: I am tied to this place, I do not see any reason to leave. I like it here in terms of incomes, and the Internet gives me access to clients all over the world, so why should I leave? Life goes on at its own pace here, and is very good. I do not have to spend 10 hours to get from point A to point B. All the logistics in our region and city are facilitated. This is remarkable and  supports thriving.  People who think that there are no prospects in Białystok are simply not opening their eyes wide enough. And their eyes, to the extent that they are open, are seduced by novelty of other places.

Everything I need is here. Well, I must admit that I also feel right overseas, in California… When I lived near Los Angeles, I understood that you can live differently, experience something new. But I have never abandoned Białystok and I do not feel any need to leave it. This is awesome  – my roots are here, I have no reason to move to another city in Poland, smaller or bigger.  I have always felt a local patriot, the resident of this region – “Podlasianin”. Occasionally, I speak with the local accent. I know the local dialect to some extent– I learnt basics when I was a child.

If I were to sum up my creative relationship with the Podlasie, it would certainly include bicycles, which are inspired by folk designs and my scholarships. We “smuggle” local designs into our bikes and we sell them overseas. People love it. Folk cut-outs, wooden architecture designs, double-woven fabrics from the Podlasie region – all these have been admired by people all over the world – we are not the only ones who like local arts. I have been trying to rescue this heritage from oblivion, and that is why we keep creating bicycles that reflect the Podlasie folklore. We will continue making bikes of this type, and will promote them, at least through exhibitions. In 2019, I organized the exhibition entitled “Rower Pod Laski”  (Pod Laski Bicycle; the term “Pod Lasem” is derived from “Podlasie”, meaning “near forest”). Then, in a wooden cabin, for all intents and purposes, I presented our studio and reasons why it is famous. The Podlasie is my place, I come from Białystok and live here. I think that nothing will change in this respect. I live and work very well here.

Thank you very much for the interview and I wish you realization of more unconventional ideas!

Thank you.

Questions asked by

Joanna Buharewicz


Adam Zdanowicz / MAD Bicycles