Three times a week, Jim Beckman would ride his bicycle along the winding Trinity River, relishing the exercise and scenic views.
About two years ago, the retired engineer-turned-artist was struck with an idea for a sculpture.
On Saturday morning, scores of fellow cycling enthusiasts gathered along the Trinity for a first glimpse of that artwork, the Peloton, a 30-foot-long stainless-steel sculpture constructed of ovals.
“I have been known to wake up at 3 in the morning with an idea and not be able to sleep for hours,” the artist said. “This was one of those times.”
Beckman called the sculpture a sort of ode to cycling. Peloton is a French term for a group of bicyclists who ride close together to save energy.
“I love cycling because it can be very demanding or very relaxing. You can ride fast or slow, on hills or flat land,” he said. “We all rode bikes as kids, and it’s easy to get started again. It’s a wonderful way to start your morning.”
To build the Peloton, Beckman worked with local artist Tom Diel, who spent hours perfecting a technique to roll stainless steel pipe in oval shapes. Construction took about four months.
Once complete, Beckman donated the Peloton to the Tarrant Regional Water District, which provided a black concrete foundation for the 800-pound sculpture. The Peloton is situated in a high-traffic area just south of the river near the Clearfork Main Street Bridge.
Vic Henderson, president of the water district board, said Beckman’s sculpture will complement the 40 miles of trails along the Trinity.
“We have one of the best trail systems in the country,” he said. “And that is evidenced by the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people running, walking, cycling any given day.”
Beckman, who began cycling in the early 1980s during the gasoline crunch, said the sculpture was inspired in part by Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist who has pushed to make the city more bike-friendly. Dressed in a suit, Price joked Saturday that attendees would not recognize her without her workout clothes.
Beckman, who earned a mechanical engineering degree from Yale University, moved to Fort Worth after graduation and started a construction business with his parents. In 2000, he retired and decided to focus on art, creating large steel sculptures, glass-covered, female-shaped lamps and glass chip portraits.
As friends and family gathered around the Peloton on Saturday, viewers noticed a small plaque that simply reads, “On your left. Thank you. Jim Beckman.”