Just got my new shiny Innovation magazine, with coverage of the Dyson Eye For Why competition winners. They gave out prize money for these entries?
"SplitStream handlebars solve a major challenge for triathletes, who during the cycling portion of the a race, must seamlessly and safely transition between a "control" position during the navigation of tight turns and steep terrain to an "aero" position during long, flat stretches of a course. Current triathalon bicycles are equipped with two separate sets of handlebars to accomodate this need, despite their creating unnecessary aerodynamic drag and endangering the cyclist and others in crowded areas. Allowing simultaneous use of breaks and gear shifters, with a hinge mechanism at its center SplitStream collapses the design of two triathalon handlebars into one, allowing an athlete to be more competitive while improving course safety conditions for all."
This is so full of it, I don't know where to start. (I'll let the typos slide.)
I thought design these days was supposed to start with the experience, and user inquiry, and identifying unmet needs?
Granted its a nice problem to start with, as frontal area is the most important concern for going fast on a bicycle. On nice bikes, this is all one nice piece of molded carbon.
However, cyclists usually solve the "major challenge of transitioning" between the "two sets" of bars by....uh.... BALANCE. And the fact that it takes about half-a-second to move your hands. There's nothing dangerous there. Braking usually happens when your hands are outboard, coming into a corner. Shifting happens when you are in the tuck, changing gears to keep a pedal cadence consistent. Braking from the tuck would be stupid.
With this concept, the swinging forearm rests will destabilize an already unsteady bike and triathlete, throwing balance from side to side, everything ending up on the ground. How do you steer the bike, while the handlebars are moving?
You can't make an argument that these bars are for beginner triathletes, because the swinging movement would be even scarier: triathletes have notoriously bad bike handling skills since lots of them come from the swimming pool or running track.
Are you supposed to 1. stop 2. unlock or reconfigure 3. get pedaling again? Or just hit some little button that moves the bars automatically?
And this is getting way down in the weeds.... but a bike rider is going to feel better knowing their bars are the stable, rigid, solid components. Putting multiple pivot points where your hands and arms and body weight goes is simply dangerous. You can't tell me that "oh, well, we could engineer it to be stiff and rigid" because that to me sounds like "heavy".
I think this project creates more problems than it proposes to solve. That its rewarded with a prize and publication is shocking.
Who's more responsible for this project getting an award: the student with the naive ideas, or the jurors who thought "oh what a great idea!" The list of jurors is also in the article. The project probably gets the benefit of the doubt since its not likely any of them have used TT bars before on a nimble-handling tri bike. (Pardon me, I generalize.) If someone designed a fork that had a knife on the handle, everyone would laugh at it since they all know it wouldn't work.