The Oregon Manifest 2011 Constructor's Design Challenge was meant to get custom bike builders to come up with some innovative and snazzy new utility bikes, in the hopes that their best and brightest ideas will trickle in to the cycling mainstream. This year's top winner ($3K in prize money) was Tony Pereira's entry, a pretty hot pink bike with a carbon fiber front-rack lockbox with slots for stereo and phone, an integrated u-lock, and a zippy electric assist engine. Pereira's addition of electric assist seemed to open the judges' minds to the possibilities of e-bikes. Pereira managed to make his e-bike look fairly streamlined - its battery is housed in a black box under the top frame tube, fairly reminiscent of the '50s gas-tank bikes made to resemble motorcycles.
"2011 is almost over, but 2012 will definitely be the year of the e-bike." - Tony PereiraPereira, who also won the top prize in the 2009 Oregon Manifest challenge, is well-known in craft bike-building circles for his beautifully sleek steel frames. In that year's competition, part of his bike's winning credentials was the integrated u-lock in the frame.
This year, integrated locking systems abounded in the bike entries, as security was one of the competition's criteria. None of the other entries seemed to match Pereira's bike's elegance and impressive feature set.
Though Pereira's bike doesn't move us beyond our conception of what a bicycle should look like (as the University of Oregon's entry does), it manages to take existing technologies - usually a plus for reliability and interoperability - and combine them in a truly pleasing and ready-to-ride way.
The bike used a BionX electric-assist hub-based regenerative motor. The system has four separate levels of assist, and at the lowest level of assistance has a maximum range of 60-65 miles. That's quite a bit better than current e-bikes such as the Sanyo Eneloop, which has a 17 kilometer range.
Pereira said he built the bike with his own cargo-hauling needs in mind - the cargo being his young son. On the 51-mile race that tested the mettle of the Manifest bikes, Pereira was pleased that intermittently deploying the assist for the first 30-miles had used less than 50% of battery capacity.
The electric assist added 15 pounds to the bike's weight, which came in at approximately 60 pounds. Pereira's bike seems to signal that utility and cargo bikes will gain their widest acceptance if they have, or can be retrofitted with some type of assist. Here's Oregon Manifest judge Bill Strickland of Bicycling Magazine on Pereira's winning design:
"When Tony came in for his presentation, he told us, 'This is a replacement for a car.' It's got an engine, a locking trunk and a radio."