Flame - BS Award for triathlon bike handlebars???

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.

SOP…the panel knew nothing about the product, or its use…sure way to win

BWWAHAHAHA!!! Thats got to be one of the worst, most unnecessary products I’ve ever seen for the cycling industry. These Dyson design awards rank right up there in relevance as the Red Dot awards.

Lets face it - we all know a lot of design press comes from an idea that the general public sees as a great idea and insiders know is terrible.

It’s not the first time it happened. Heck - look at the “solar powered glider” on the front page of Core today. My uncle is actually one of the few people around to be building electric aircraft and I know INSTANTLY that the amount of energy needed to power any kind of engine is vastly greater then what any photo voltaic panels could provide.


If the concept is nicely illustrated, the designer makes a point to explain themselves, and its something the jury hasn’t seen before, it’ll gain press.

I remember the Gravia lamp that won the greener gadgets contest a few months ago as well that was torn apart on here, slashdot, and tons of other forums for simply being impossible.

These blue sky projects will always happen, and seldomly (this isn’t the norm in design) they’ll get recognition. The best you can do is enter your own designs and hope that they win out over the crazy contraptions that work on unobtanium.

C-demon, you’re totally right. Taking that idea further, a lot of design gets press and sales when someone who really knows the subject could tear it up. Its the novelty factor and the power of an image.

The competition WAS sponsored by an engineer/designer though - a really rich one - and this submission was from a student at a college that I thought had a solid engineering basis - Stanford.

I’m probably just sour grapes, in the end. My mama raised me to not be full of it, and I’m envious of those who can win design competitions in that manner.


Can we have a forum specifically for calling out whack designs that win public accolades? The study of crap design can be equally as compelling.

Seriously, it would be so much fun…the Whack Forum, make it so!

A solution is search of a problem. Or a “why have 2 simple solutions when one perfectly complicated solution will do?” and we all know that perfectly complicated and over engineered doohickeys are superior in every way…

The transition between the two positions makes this thing not make sense because the body position riding in a tuck and the body position while braking/steering are pretty different. Due to the bizzarre geometry of a TT bike, you have to move more than your arms and upper torso during the transition.

Get caught or forget to open them up and brake from a Tuck? The image of Michael Rassmussen crashing in to a ditch, twice in the 2005 TDF TT comes to mind…

I disagree…

I got the impression that this is about the aero and efficiency benefit of having one bar versus two, not the cyclists transition movement (which still occurs with this concept, just in a different way.)

I think this is a good concept with a clearly defined need and a reasonable solution (a transforming bar.) I can’t judge the solution though–are there storyboard images?

There’s no aero efficiency if the bar setup doesn’t work. You can say “take away more bars = more aero” but they are there for a reason. The transition movement was called out in the project description:

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

and do so safely and quickly. This does it more dangerously, and I doubt more quickly. There aren’t any storyboards associated with the renderings but they wouldn’t make any difference.

Its a terrible concept, nice illustration, and ZERO defined need. If I posted this to the Slowtwitch triathlon forum…well, it doesn’t make designers seem like a useful part of the product process.

Yeah, a climbing specialist like Chicken Rasmussen wouldn’t even finish the stage on these bars! For innovation in this area, the Oval Concepts dual-spoiler bars work well to channel air past the rider’s body, even on the outboard handles.

It would appear almost everyone panning this design, has some kind of familiarity with cycling and TT bikes in general.

CG, on the other hand, just made the point that we were all hoping to avoid… from an outside view, this does seem like a great execution of an idea, eliminate the need for 2 sets of bars.

This doesn’t make me like the product at all, in fact I’d be very afraid to ride these bars, and yes my first thought was Rasmussen’s TDF TT in 05 to lose the yellow jersey making way for Mellow Johnny’s 6th tour victory of not getting caught doping.

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

Some how I missed that reading the brief.

I would still contend that to an outsider who has no idea about riding a TT bike, this would seem like a very plausible design.

Real tri bars are one piece

lets face it this is a product that just isnt needed. for the small amount of time it would be beneficial,the same if not more amount of time is spent faffingwith different setting. bikes are simple for a reason less to go wrong and thats what counts in any kind of racing.

I say do it, and then watch the responses from a safe distance…you think we’re critical :unamused:

are you Greg LeMond in disguise?

Let’s hope the $2000 second prize will be used for prototyping the idea in physical form. $1000 for prototype, $500 for used triathlon bike, $500 for medical insurance deductible.

I think you’re all judging the execution and not the idea.
I’ll throw out some different executions:

  1. When transitioning to the aero-bars, twist the grip to retract the “wing bars” (or perhaps the natural forward pressure on the bars does this automatically.) Release the forward pressure (or flip a cam-lock) and the bars spring back.

  2. The rider has ergonomic forearm-length bars attached to a pivot at their wrist. The other pivot is at the stem. From the aero position, the rider releases a lock in the palm and pulls back and out, where the bars lock into the standard position.

Look at these TT bars:

…It isn’t hard to imagine how the aero bars could transform into the standard position with some simple mechanics.

Yep, definitely judging the execution. The idea might be great, which I’ll sum up as: “remove outboard hand positions when not in use for aerodynamic benefit”. In this case it is appropriate to judge the execution, because otherwise we’re left with ideas, not designs.

In my mind(and experience), the grips that your hands are on should never move. So, you’re #1 is a good one, because the moveable grips lock into place before you put your hands there.

A slightly different solution would be to modify the front-end geometry of the bike, so that it is more stable when on the aerobars and braking or under power, and eliminate the need for the outboard hand position.

Probably wouldn’t work for climbing, but could work wonders for stability under braking and in corners. Tri bikes don’t need twitchy handling, they need stability with more of a front-weighted bias than most road racing bikes. The geometry needed to build a stable bike that can handle a fairly heavy load at the handle bars is known(and that tracks straigh under a tired rider), but those bikes aren’t meant for triathlons(porteurs and randonneurs). I don’t think any tri-bike manufacturers have made any radical geomety changes in quite a while, yet this is one of the underlying problems that is trying to be solved here, manifest in the bikes feeling unstable when braking from the aerobars.

No, its the idea that is flawed.

Walk through the entire scenario, including the body leaning, turning of the wheel, and judging an apex involved in making a corner at speed. Combine that with the added complication of pivoting elements. There is no way that this will be 1) faster or 2) less dangerous than the existing setup.

Its not dependent on mechanism, springing bars, or cams. The inherent problem is in stability and dynamics of the turn.

Look: In your #1 scenario, where are your hands, when you retract or spring-back the grips? In the air, or on the grips? If they are on the grips, you are now riding an unstable, dynamically changing bicycle, at time-trial speeds. If the hands are in the air, you are flipping switches, watching the bars move, and waiting until they lock into place before getting back into position. Plus you are still transitioning, right?

Go build one and try it. Send Dyson the hospital bill.

manifest in the bikes feeling unstable when braking from the aerobars.

That’s why the brake levers are on the outriggers, normally.

you are correct as teh idea is sound if you are only adjusting the distance your fore arm and shoulders move to put you in a more upright position to give you better balance turning and braking.

Problem is as Slippyfish points out, maneuverability is dynamic. just adjusting the bars does not adjust the other factors necessary to make the bike more efficient at what its supposed to do which is to efficiently transfer power from rider to road thru back wheel

TT bikes have the riders Center of gravity well forward and toward fornt end of the frame. This is not only due to the aerodynamic efficency of that position but to maximize teh extension of the femur in relation to the hips, while in a speed tuck, to drive the most efficient cadence to generate watts to drive the back wheel.

lemme 'splain…you can just drop into a tuck and get great wind resistance w/o aerobars: just grab the stem and tuck your elbows to yer ribs. Problem is in that position you cannot pedal efficiently, you tire quickly and usually crash because you are using the wrong weak muscles to hold you there. So you either lean forward and raise your hips up putting your chin on teh bars or you push youself back and down to get a better extension so your cadence is most efficient and yer ass rubbs on teh top of the tire. SO ideally you extend your arms forward in order to raise yer hips and get an extremely aerodynamic position while pedaling an effective efficient cadence without tiring yourself out.

Now when you have to turn and or brake, if your weight and head and arms are too far forward you’re going to high side it and end up ass over tea kettle. So you transfer your weight back to the rear of teh frame to open up your body to balance at the lower speed. To do this, you must slide your body backwards and open up your posture WITHOUT interrupting you cadence or upsetting the balance of the bike. You do this naturally and instinctively removin gand palcing one hand at a time, strong balance side first, in a two step motion, not in a perfect opening slide. With a sliding hinge it would it unnartural and un-instinctual with your weight and balance center all front like that. Your body and inner ear would go goofy quickly trying tio figure out whic end was up…

The crucial factor here is that a TT bikes geometry head angle is >73º and it has a shorter TT length, making it even more unstable and squirrelier in turns and braking than a road bike but more efficient in power transfer when pedaling in a tuck. Therefore the dynamic balance and shifting of weight becomes a full body experience and even more crucial than on a road bike. which is often why you will always see a tri geek doing whatever they can to avoid curves, riding straight all the time and sucking on yer rear wheel when they should be pulling you…b*stards.

Just changing the bars you do nothing to alter where your balance is, forward or backward.

An example of an effective solution to the “problem” would be to either link the seat and bars together somehow so that the effective Top tube length changes when the bars change it or making a virtual head angle change at the same time as teh bars change to ensure a smooth transition of weight and balance without losing wattage…'cause when it comes down to it the bottom line in Time Trialing is the efficient transfer of raw power from the rider onto that back wheel.

and Im done

I agree with slippy fish: We need to prototype this. It’s too bad that we don’t know where this idea has gone since the contest. I still think it is worthy of an award even if it doesn’t work. At least the designer will have learned something.

However, ideally, they should have tested an ugly prototype, then designed an award winning presentation and not the other way around. In the real world, a client would be pretty upset that you blew $20k-30k and then found out your design was crap rather than spending $500 and finding out your concept doesn’t work.