Any bicycle designer around?

I love to bike, but when it comes to bicycle design, I’d expect the weightage of engineering to dominate ID, especially the frame. Of course I have no idea how bicycle design is like for IDer. I can see ID coming in areas like ergonomics for seats and handles, as well as peddals and shifters. Most others are purely engineering with perhaps a shell, So how much ID is involved in bicycle design? Please fill me in!

I worked on the design & development of a very lightweight bike with a particularly unusual frame design (it folds in a way not seen before) for an east Asian manufacturer - it should be on the market this summer.

Most of the work was FEA, solid modelling (for IM tooling) and some building of (functional) sketch models to test different methods of folding, etc for various parts (handlebars, brake levers etc). This was very much a case of the form following the function, though there were a couple of areas where there was more of a free hand to introduce some interesting detailing. To be honest (personally) I would include ID as an extension of engineering anyway, since that’s the way I’ve usually been involved.

There are some bike companies (e.g. Pashley who employ a few ID’ers and get involved with sponsoring design events, etc.

Their Paramount is also a pretty funky shape


What about performance bikes like mt.bikes, BMX, road bikes etc?

I am an amateur recumbent builder and I can say that a great deal of high performance bike design is applied science. This is because the most important constraint is the power to weight ratio with 1/8HP being a common starting point.

Much of the current design is due to recent advances in composite and thermoplastic construction. But even so, some of the early bikes from Bianchi are absolutely gorgeous in their lines and proportions.

Still, there are current examples of ID in bike design. Check out the history of Kestrel or Klein. The Vector tricycle is still one of the most beautiful vehicles on the planet and then there is the Lotus Olympic track bike. The Gossamer series of airplanes were done by Paul MacCready at what was to become Aerovironment. Also, Trek Y-frames were considered an instant classic.

Finally, component lines, like Campagnolo which goes back many decades. Helmets are another ID hiding place as are saddles and… saddle bags. The Camelbak hydration pack has since gone on to be used in military applications. The micro tire pumps started as ID projects, with Zefal leading the way. And finally, I believe much of the sport sunglasses field started with Rudy Projects in the early 80’s.


You should really keep up with what Trek bicycles is trying to do. They reach across all types of bikes, and they are quite progressive.

Also if you live in any city that has any kind of courier buisness in it, or know anyone that rides for a courier, I would ask them about any builders that might have an impact. I know couriers are very specific about their bikes, so maybe insite from someone like that might help. Plus really get to know what a bike is made for and the mechanics of a bike before you even go into trying to design a style of frame.

Nice to see in interest in bicycle design. For my thesis last year I developed a commuter bicycle design with maintanence, user friendliness, ergonomics, and aesthetics. I had some help from the guys out at Trek bikes here in Wisconsin so that was great. There is alot of engineering in the frame and wheels, yes, however that’s the problem. There are so many avenues uncovered by designers like storage and adaptability to the user. I’m really struggling to find a job in the sports design filed because it is so dominated by engineers. Many companies do not have in house designers. Trek does but there is more engineering than design, and it’s almost impossible to get in there unless you know someone.

Anways, those are my thought right now.
Feel free to write back @


Check out sram- I see posting for job opens there quite a bit.

Bicycle design is largely dictated by the axiom that unrolling a set of round tubes used to make a conventional diamond frame gives you perhaps .5 sq. meters of material. Anything you do to the frame styling-wise will add to the material, and the weight.

Materials manufacturers are being rather proactive in the design sense these days - tubesets from Columbus, Deddacciai, etc are mixing hydroformed AL tubes and molded/bonded carbon fiber. So there is more design work being done on the large scale.

I’ve been doing bike design for about 4 years now. It’s a very involved process, mixing ergonomics, engineering, manufacturing, and making something look good to boot. Within the engineering constraints there is a lot of leeway to create something that is functional and innovative aesthetically. Look at the range of carbon bikes used by the pros now.

The big thing holding back bike design is the god damn UCI and their regulations for what a ‘legal’ bike is, from tube sections to weight. It’s BS. Imagine if someone came out and made a rule banning iPods from getting smaller or easier to use.

There’s not a lot of postings/openings in the field because there isn’t much money in the bike industry as a whole…margins are quite small, even at the high end. So a few hundred thousand in a full size run of carbon molds is a huge undertaking for a bike co. Which is why most of them are going straight to the factories in China and Taiwan and literally picking a design off the shelf, painting and decaling it to fit the brand, cookie cutter style.

UCI regs apply only to race bikes competeing in UCI sanctioned events. The metaphor of the iPod makes no sense as the UCI is the regulating body for racing, not for the industry…There is ah uge difference between the Racing market and the rest of the Industry. A majority of race bikes that are UCI spec’d are custom built for the team or rider, not for the general public; that is unless they feel the need to drop $7000+ on a frameset.

A majority of innovation in the cycling industry is done by craftsmen and small frame works and flies under the radar because the innovation is small and incremantal, very niche specific and has a very functionalist bias. .its is true that companies are going straight to the manufacturer and slapping on a decal, for their “price point” bikes for the Wanna be Lances. But its also true that more companies are contracting the same factories out to build to their specs to sell them to the mass market This is where the industry is waking up to the potential bennies of ID as a craft and not as engineering.

A great example of ID and engineering in the bike industry is Crank Brothers and their Eggbeater pedal. Rather just shaving weight or rematerializing a typical clip pedal they deconstructed it, redesigned it and they built a better pedal. check it out:

Question about UCI:

Is it a set of technical regulations such as dimension? Or is it a set of regulation for the physical properties?

Won’t it be more sensible to impose a set of regulation that enforces the structure in terms of strength ( such as drop tests and crash tests) rather than a dimensional regulation?

The UCI regulations are many pages long and can be found here:

This is another good analysis of the UCI regulations:

I admit the iPod analogy was a rather weak one, but in my opinion is similar to the absurd and totalitarian approach taken by the UCI governing racing bikes. Holding technology back to “equalize the playing field” simply holds technology back.

The UCI dictates many things including frame sections (w x l), wheel shapes, whether or not the bike is a “conventional” double-diamond shape, the minimum weight (6.8 kg), and so on ad nauseum. There is no test I am aware of for impact or stress properties of parts. Last year in the TDF there were carbon bars and stems breaking left and right in the opening stages. Hard to say if the riders were using “too light” equipment. It’s up to the companies to uphold their own standards for fatigue testing.

I’d like to add that the UCI regulations, while enforced only for UCI events, are constricting the free flow of ideas and technology at the highest level, which naturally effects the trickle-down application to lower-priced, everyday recreational bikes. Aerodynamics is the most visible hit on bike design. Where would time trials be without the innovations in aero bar design? Minutes slower.

People want things that are the best, and some people are willing to drop top coin on the best equipment, even for their Sunday morning 30 mile bike path rides. If they see a pro using it, that’s even better. Pros have to use the equipment that the UCI deems legal, so that’s all that is sold.

I’m not going to even get into the recumbent argument, fairings, and so on. It’s a different buyer, a different culture altogether.

The UCI is inhibiting bicycle design and stifling advancements in bike technology and the effing capitalist system to boot.

I could probably name three or four of the bikes ridden by the top ten teams in the ProTour that come from the same factory in China. Some of these factories indeed have built up their own frame models and are repackaging them for the companies that want to get into carbon fiber with less pain. The better companies - Specialized, Kestrel, Giant - are either making their own frames, or tightly controlling the design and production to match up the product with the brand story.

The Crank Brothers products are great, and are one of the only things that disregards Bontrager’s mantra (see below).

well, yeah but they’re not exactly cheap,… :slight_smile:

I’ll agree about the UCI and pro bikes, but what about companies that disregard the UCI regs? What about mountain, freeride and downhill bikes? What about singlespeeds? I not being argumentative but I don’t think you can pin it on the UCI alone, yes they are a problem and tend to favor certain European companies(Colnago) but I think that you’re painting the “problems” of innovation with a really big brush.

But I Think you are correct in that no one will buy a high end ridicously innovative bike unless they see a pro on it winning. Is that the fault of the manufacturer or the customer or the UCI? If we can get “cheap” carbon from the same factory in the PRC would people buy a completely UCI illegal bike? If it looked cool and performed well, sure why not? If it was at least cheap and strong and you didn’t look like a kook on it you could sell a few. But it all boils down to the cost benefit ratio of innovation. is it worth the investment or not?

I’ve always had huge amounts of respect for Kestrel and the newest Kestrel Airfoil Pro is a pretty sick bike.

w/o the seat tube its completely UCI illegal… but does UCI regs apply to Triathalons? because this is where somne of the more innovative designs are coming from.

But I do agree that something needs to be done thats new and innovative, besdies running a single speed or putting fairings on and radically changing the rider position…

Triathlons are not under the UCI, they have their own rules, and you pretty much can use whatever you want to get down the Queen K. I’ve seen hubless front wheels, vqrious frames that look like a part of a 747, 650 and smaller wheels, etc. Doesn’t matter because the tri-geeks usually crash anyway. :laughing:

Don’t the low end egg beaters go for under $100? I guess cheap is in the pocket of the beholder.

There is a lot of really cool innovation coming from the DH/Freeride companies. This is where the big companies come in and throw a million bucks at a problem. The Honda DH bike, the RN01 is super duper trick and I’ve heard it rides like a million bucks too. I don’t think the UCI has any kind of regulations for mtn bikes that resemble the road ones. Cyclocross has silly rules too, like no disc brakes. Disc brakes are the shizzle and maybe if there was some innovation in road disc brakes happening for the past five years, old Beloki wouldn’t have broken his femur in the '03 Tour and might have taken down Armstrong in the end!

Road bikes are completely tradition bound, though - so no bike manufacturer is going to take a gamble on $200,000 of tooling on something that is too radical. Throw in all the headaches that the carbon suppliers will give you, for designing something that doesn’t look like a Giant or Orbea, and for most companies the innovation isn’t worth the price. For companies like Kestrel (“the first name in carbon fiber” goes their tagline) it is worth it.

The trick stuff now is the digital equipment being built into bikes, or components. Things like the SRM cranks or CycleOps rear hub that can measure output are becoming more accepted, and less expensive. What’s next, F-1 style telemetry?

check out this site: This website and respecitve software is bad ass! You can design your bike per specific specifications and it pumps out a drawing.

I have a friend who has built several bikes from tubing and used this instead of our Pro/E and Solidworks files.

Aero bikes are like speedos with aero grooves around your nuts. lol.


I’m currently working on a bicycle sharing program for the city of Montreal as my final project in Industrial Design for school.

I’m also working with the help of Trek (providing the bike to modify) and they openly told me that they need industrial designers. The currently employ 15 industrial designers and most of them don’t have a diploma but have been working for the company for years.

They have expressed there interests in meeting after i graduate. I have been biking (road, mountain, DH, FR) for more then 10 years and i’ve also been working in a bike shop for 8 years.

I want to work in the sport industry as a product designer, product manager of some sort. Trek isn’t my first pick but it’s a great company to work with! They have the finances to do some R&D and employ even more industrial designers!

And for our project, we already found a company that was intersted in our system… I can’t wait to graduate… but now the semester is coming to an end and there is still some sleepless nights to be had!

i didn’t know trek was a canadian company in montreal. seen their bikes in good pro bike shops though.

Trek is based in Wisonsin. They have no offices in Montreal. I met with them through work. I work for one of the top five Trek dealer in eastern north america… So they helped me out!

Find the Jan 10 2005 issue of “Design News” - an engineering publication - and the story “How Trek Engineered Six Tour de France wins”…good process story of Trek and Kestrel bicycle engineering.

Might be able to find it at


I’m also working with the help of Trek (providing the bike to modify) and they openly told me that they need industrial designers. The currently employ 15 industrial designers and most of them don’t have a diploma but have been working for the company for years.

15 industrial designers-are you crazy? They don’t have a diploma? So this makes them designers? I’ve been there, I met them. This is not true.

They have expressed there interests in meeting after i graduate. I have been biking (road, mountain, DH, FR) for more then 10 years and i’ve also been working in a bike shop for 8 years.
Watch yourself- If you have any practical experience in the industry you know how it can be. Low margins, competitive and a damn difficult way to make a living.

I want to work in the sport industry as a product designer, product manager of some sort. Trek isn’t my first pick but it’s a great company to work with! They have the finances to do some R&D and employ even more industrial designers!

Don’t start your career by burning bridges. Anyhow a great company to work with? Have you been there? As for R&D- Lance, Lance, Lance that’s it. They are notorius for not pouring into R&D. Employ more industrial designers? Sure they will have 50 designers in a beautiful huge space located in sunny California-Oh God dude you have so much to learn. Fly into Milwaukee or Madison, drive to the middle of nowhere and do their basic tour then go to the R&D building if you are invited. Sorry but they have led you astray. Oh man you need some advice.