Since my visit to the Be Spoke exhibit at the Museum of Art and Design in NYC last summer, I have been interested in custom bicycle design. Of course there are plenty of fancy futuristic bicycle designs, but I always like to know what the future will bring in terms of cooler features and entirely novel forms. You'll notice, that most of the future-oriented bicycle ideas sport a bit of a Jetson's feel while falling short on amenities city cyclists really need - kickstands, fenders, back racks. Oregon Manifest, a bike design challenged sponsored in part by Levi's (recently out with bicycle jeans), is aiming to find the future of utility bikes. Competing for a $3,000 prize, craftspeople and student teams are looking to innovate, show off their bike builder chops, and fashion a bike that makes people able and willing to get out of their cars. Take a look!

"The economy is forcing everyone to focus on cycling as transportation, but too often "city bikes" are just road bikes with fenders and racks slapped on. Everyone's staying in the same box as far as design and approach. But Oregon Manifest is pushing us to find a better answer." - Shane Fedon - De Novo
Oregon Manifest Cyclist in black and white photoA lineup of 34 illustrious bike builders and many student designers from Oregon as well as other U.S. states are working with some fairly specific smart criteria for a city bike. The bikes must have built-in anti-theft devices, fenders, lighting, some load-carrying capability, and some sort of kickstand mechanism so the bike can stand while parked.

Manifest's panel of judges will be looking for entries that also push the envelope in terms of function, materials used, technologies employed, and the ability of the bike to adapt to different environments and lifestyles.

And of course, it has to look good - "a complete harmonious aesthetic and functional whole," as the criteria states, with thought to a modern cycling audience and "curb appeal."

Not only that, right before awards are given, the bicycle design entries will be put through the paces - at least 50 miles of terrains including urban scenes, dirt roads, asphalt, gravel, hills, and stairs. I'll follow the action with posts on how the future of city and utility biking is truly shaping up. Stay tuned.