Yeah, I hadn’t really noticed, either.

But then the 2011 Long Beach Bike Salon opened last Saturday at Residence, a new, small gallery tucked behind Shelter Surf Shop on 4th Street’s Retro Row. Despite only 300 square feet to work with, the Long Beach Bike Salon dynamically presents the bicycle’s mixture of art, mechanics and social impacts, along with a smidge of regret over what we’ve been missing.

Co-curators Frank Burton (the gallery’s owner) and Evan Whitener (a Jones Bikes employee with an industrial design degree from CSULB) created a creative cross-section of the bicycle’s artistic potential with photo essays featuring classic Schwinns, a light fixture made from forgotten bike parts, a large fine art portrait of Bob the Greeter with his ride and—of course—actual bicycles.

Bike Salon:  Long Beach's Two-Wheeled Love Affair Comes Full Cycle
Long Beach’s first framebuilder (and firefighter), Adam DeHart, displays two of his elegantly lugged frames, one of which is a track bike still in progress. Local bike collectors scoured their garages and brought in a 1950s Claud Butler Saxon twin-tube road bike, a 1940s Elgin Twin-Bar, a mid-century Schwinn Cycle Truck and one of the first BMX bicycles to ever be built by the infamous Cook Brothers Racing company.

The centerpiece of the entire show, however, is Long Beach-based cyclist Steven Davis’ Surly Long Haul Trucker, which is on a raised pedestal surrounded by photos taken of the bike last spring as he rode it over 1,000 miles across the southwestern United States in one month.

The floor plan at Residence is identical to the Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles, which became famous for holding Andy Warhol’s first west coast solo exhibition). But Residence sharply contrasts with many other art galleries in Long Beach. Unlike Phantom Galleries’ empty storefront takeovers and other event-based spaces where viewing is permitted on opening night and sporatic weekend hours, Residence is the only permanent gallery dedicated to contemporary art practice in Long Beach that has consistent viewing hours.

This accessibility is crucial for the Bike Salon, which aims to bring people together through mutual love of the bicycle. Most of the area’s bike-related art shows—including last October’s Spoke Up at the DownCrowd Gallery on the Promenade—focus on the modern trends and politics of urban cycling. But the Long Beach Bicycle Salon is a multi-disciplinary exhibit that instead spotlights the creativity that arises through the indelible connection between man and machine by paying homage to the bicycle’s history, innovation and current place in culture.

Burton’s vision for Residence as an opportunity to show Long Beach something different will not stop at bicycles. Starting with this show, Residence exhibits will rotate out more quickly than before with music-and-food-truck-filled openings on the last Saturday of every month.

A high school photography teacher by day, Burton’s gallery is a labor of love and he receives little financial help in return for his efforts. But he doesn’t mind pouring money into a space as long as it brings people together and generates discussion.

“What else is there to do?” Burton said last week while smoking a cigarette in the parking lot behind his gallery. “Go to another show at the Prospector?”