Bike Design Project

I thought I open up the floor to discuss the Bike Design Project, where 5 design firms collaborate with their local bike builders for a commuter bike competition.

I think Core77 is doing a bunch of blog posts right now about this.

There is a lot to like about this project. I have always been a sucker for good spirited territorial rivalries in sports and of course we have those in ID as well. NYC vs SF? Portland vs Seattle? Throw in Chicago to proof they are no ID wasteland? Hell yeah, bring it on.

The firms and workshops involved are also all of the top tear which ensures a high quality and passion in the final designs. To top it off, I think it’s a stroke of genius by Levi’s to sponsor the whole thing considering their Commuter collection.

Now to the entries, I will have to dig deeper but initially, I am draw visually the most to Seattle’s entry while I think that NYC has some surprising and quite amazing gems of functionality. That retractable aluminum rack? Pretty sweet.

It would be fun to hear thoughts and opinions. And try to not have your home team cloud your judgment :wink:

my votes:

  1. SF
  2. NY
  3. SEA
  4. PDX
  5. CHI (and I’m kind of a MNML fan so this hurts)

I don’t care for any of it.

Previous Oregon Manifest contests were open to any schmuck willing to enter, not by invite only. The bicycles were judged by their actual performance, the judges used the bikes, riding them for a couple days, instead of pretty pictures on the interwebz.

The designs also seem to be driven by the design end and the builders have no input. There (and these designs show it) is nothing new under the sun with bike design and without the builder input, these bikes seem gimmicky to me.

Seattle - The rear dropouts are totally sketchy. Looks like the would bend in half at the first pot hole. Are the bars solid to become the lock? Too much weight on the front end with the high trail will not work out well.

Portland - Total overkill with the custom Ti tubing. Hate to think of the price. Also, navigation on a commuter? You don’t know the streets where you live?

San Fran - Total kluge for the “universal” rack attachments. How does the seat post stay in place? The BB is ridiculously high and the toe overlap will cause a crash very quickly.

New York - Looks like rear rack couldn’t hold more than a pound or two before bending in half. Little to no adjustment on the seat post.

Chicago - Other than being really ugly, hard to find much functional fault with this one. Tires are really stupid for pavement, but now I am reaching.

That’s true, I think that previous contests required entries to be ridden/raced through a series of tasks over the day to evaluate the intended usage.

The dangling bottom bracket on the Chicago bike was a non-starter for me.

I liked the styling on the 3D printed dropouts and some of the other small components, but can’t imagine that TiCycles enjoyed making those faceted tubes. The kink in the top tube doesn’t do anything except make a parallel with the down tube. Don’t tell me its for stand over clearance.

Maybe I was giving Chicago the benefit of the doubt. :wink:

The BB bothered me too but then I convinced myself the tight triangle created with the seat, chain stays and seat tube would give it enough strength not to twist in half when pedaling.

Maybe not.

I think Bikesnob covers it pretty well…

Secondly, remember how the Oregon Manifest was doing this thing where they were inviting gentrification all-star teams from the five most gentrified cities in America to create the “ultimate utility bike?”

Well, let’s pretend for the moment that the ultimate urban utility bike doesn’t already exist, and that you can’t easily buy it from at least 15 different companies. I realize this is hard to do, because everyone from Bikes Direct to WorkCycles are ready and waiting to sell you a city bike, and all you’ve got to figure out how much you want to spend. Really, in 2014, it’s about as difficult to find the “ultimate utility bike” as it is to find a Subway franchise.

Let’s also pretend that “ultimate urban utility bike” is even an objective thing, because all cities are the same, and furthermore all the people in those cities are the same and lead exactly the same lifestyle. You know, this lifestyle:

So is that Chicago? Portland? San Francisco? Chicago? New York? Well, no matter which city you picked, you were correct, thanks to the insidious global monoculture!

Find the rest here:

So much more eloquent than me …

But then again, he gets the big bucks for writing a blog

It’s a tough brief to tackle. Mostly because cyclists (and designer cyclists, especially) are some of the biggest haters on the planet (and I say that as a designer/cyclist/hater).

Credit to the teams for nice presentations and products. I had a chance to see the SF bike at Huge’s kickoff party last Friday—and it was a work of art in person. Every detail was considered.

So true. I might have contracted immediate analysis paralysis by the prospect of being skewered on design blogs, had our team been entered in this event. Go too far and be ridiculed. Not far enough and be ignored. Take sweet photos and be crucified for it. Yuck!

I to have always suffered a little with projects like this. Generally I get excited to see new things. Then I see the projects and they feel not as inspired as I would have liked to see. Personally I do know the bike builder for the SF bike and he is a great builder. He generally builds more traditional bikes which I like a lot. I am sure that bike is functional because that is his way, if it is a crappy project he won’t do it. Overall I like the SF bike I think there are some really good pieces in there. Not sure if the execution is prefect but that’s how it goes.

Bike culture is a tough one and innovation is very difficult. I think this is mostly because bike riders like the freedom to change there bike to suit them. If you infringe on that freedom by giving them proprietary items that they have to use with that bike it bugs them. Also they tend to like analog things not fancy but functional. I know high end bikes are fancy but the core functionality is there. This is why there has been so much resistance to electronic shifting and other similar changes. I am aware that the new Dura Ace is electronic but that came out after a lot of previous failures like Mavic.

Mavic Zap FTW!

I think nybs hit the nail on the head in that it is ridiculous to define bike culture as a bunch of 20-something hipsters. And when you do design for the 20-something hipster, going over the top like all of these bikes is not the correct route. Cinelli’s core market now is the hipster and you will see nothing from them that is a gimmick.

A safety bike is a very simple mechanism that has been refined for the last 130 years. There is no revolutionary innovation only evolutionary. The crop of bikes this year are trying too hard.

I even have my own design for the Oregon Manifest, I wanted to enter. I would have had Dave Wages from Ellis Bikes be the builder. Maybe I have sour grapes that I could not enter, but my theme would have been forgotten innovations combined with modern tech.

I think electronic is a inevitable evolutionary step. The “Why would I use electronic, index shifting is just fine” is the same as the index over friction shifting arguement 25 years ago which was the same as friction over the cambio corsa 65 years ago which was the same as the cambio corsa over the Vittoria Margherita 75 years ago which was the the same as the Vittoria Margherita over fixed gear 85 years ago.

Also, singletrack, if you know the SF builder, ask him why the designers convinced him to have the BB so high. I can’t believe he would think that is a good idea.

Agree 100%. I’m glad I’m not on any of these teams.

The subject is so difficult, too, as Bikesnob eludes to in his post. Urban Bike is a pretty subjective term and could mean anything from a bomb-proof steel 29er, to a light and nimble track bike, to a Long-John like the LarryVsHarry Bullitt (my personal fave).

I think to try and integrate all the features they’re doing (hidden locks, racks, fenders) is somewhat of a disservice to the end user. The beauty of bicycles, is their inherent customizable nature, and by adding these built-in features, you’re essentially pre-customizing these bikes for the consumer.

Who remembers the Beast of the East?

13" bottom bracket!

Rough crowd, I enjoyed all the projects and digging through the process. The final bikes are beautifully built and there are a lot of great features that would appeal to me as a consumer (granted I’m a 20-30 something designer hipster, but at least they know their market).

I’m not a bike guy so maybe I’m not educated enough to see what’s so glaring insulting to the bike gods about these, but I think there’s more than enough room for this type of exploration. I appreciate the fact that these aren’t just renderings but ridable prototypes, I think it’s cool that they are influenced by people not necessarily imbedded in the bike world but built in collaboration with people who are.

Human’s are curious and diverse, this idea that there’s nothing new under the sun so let’s all just stop what we’re doing and use the same stuff is unrealistic in my opinion.

It is interesting to look at the previous years. 2009 is obviously dominated by the builder’s influence. Only in 2011 would i say it looks like an equal collaboration between builder and designer. In 2014 it looks like the builder was given a spec and told to build, very little collaboration.



I never wrote that, you did. You also seem to forget an avenue to success is to appeal to early adopters. I , and I am sure nybs would agree, am for new ideas. You see them in 2009 and 2011. But design for design sake on an extremely functional item like a bicycle will not win over people who ride most every day.

I got my M700 in Hawaii so when I went to college on the East Coast and saw the M800 (B.O.T.E) I had immediate buyers remorse.

To be accurate though that bike is missing the Force40 braking cam and the XYZ long bar ends!

The Portland one reminds me of this.

Ok it wasn’t a direct quote but it seemed to capture the sentiment :smiley:

Totally agree, but I guess where I differ is that I don’t see these concepts as being less functional just because they are not super utilitarian. Are they the most optimized design possible, probably not, but they seem to check off all/most the boxes that I would have if I made a list of things I want a bike to do.

Yes, appealing to bike enthusiasts is one way to create success or you could just disregard them and target the consumer that’s never owned a bike because nothing has appealed to them yet. The Vanhawks Kickstarter is a great example of that. Is it my cup of tea, no, would bike snobs fall in love with it, hell no, yet somehow they were still able to raise $820K. Obviously they are on to something and have found a consumer segment group large enough that want this type of product that probably were not even considering a bike till they saw this.

I think this years crop of Manifest bikes accomplish the same thing, a different take on a bike that might bring a new rider into the market, and that’s a significant win in my opinion. I appreciate the 2009 projects, they’re all very well done and beautiful bikes but that’s still a niche consumer segment that those bikes appeal to.

You are absolutely correct, nybs ripped that a new one. Not so much for the bike, but more of the “sensing” technology. I’m in agreement in that they make a lot of claims saying their bike is “safer” but they offer no actual proof that it is safer. They only offer marketing fluff. I also find the frame to be fugly, but obviously 802 people disagree. Vive la difference.

While there is nothing new under the sun with bikes, I still think people should try to design, but I think it makes it very difficult to be successful. As I alluded to earlier, I have have some ideas for the ultimate commuting bicycle. But it is more in line with Apple’s approach, I want to combine old elements into a new twist. I may fail horribly, but then I just move onto the next idea, no biggie. In the next few months I’ll try to finish it and I will post here. All shots welcome :smiley:

And for the record, the Oregon Manifest brief is simply “The Ultimate Urban Utility Bike.” They are supposed to be a super utilitarian bike, that is why I am tougher on the 2014 entries than the 2011 and 2009 bikes.