What is the 'ultimate utility bike'?

Fuseproject Bike Full Length photo

On the heels of the Oregon Manifest Construction Design Challenge 2011, Oregon Manifest aims to find out what bikes we like. They attracted a big batch of entries - 31 altogether - yet the judges' winning pick also set off a web storm of criticism. This year's group of entrants included a trio of special collaborations. IDEO and Rock Lobster, Fuseproject and Sycip, and Ziba and Signal teamed together to show what would happen when bike builders conspired with renown industrial and product designers. Now the show's organizers want to know what we all think. Take a look at the three collaborations' resulting bicycles here and register your vote over here.
The Local utility trike bike photo

The Fuseproject Local trike shown above, designed by Jeremy Sycip and Yves Behar, puts cargo carrying up front, is just 40 pounds total weight and has an ingenious built-in front u-lock to make it less awkward to park a three-wheeler. In a perhaps shameless bit of product placement, it has Fuseproject's own wireless Jawbone Jambox speaker on-board.
The Faraday bike photo

The IDEO/Rock Lobster Faraday takes electric-assist to a whole new level of pretty. The leather-trimmed Faraday has the e-bike battery fitted into the top frame tube, and wiring and electronics run in the down tube. Because the run time is short (30 - 40 minutes), the Faraday can be quickly re-charged in just 10 minutes. And the cargo isn't neglected here - the front rack is integrated into the frame for smooth hauling. Very strong and practical integrated LED lighting front and back, too.
Detail on the Faraday bicycle photo

The Fremont bike photo

Ziba/Signal's Fremont bike lets you carry your cargo carrier with you - the sidecar, with a smart integrated canvas bag (it has a locking mechanism to keep it attached) can be literally folded on top of the back rack when not in use. The roomy bag can also fold flat to allow for other bulky parcels in the sidecar. The lower-slung mixte frame on the Fremont is meant to make it appeal to both men and women, as step-though is easier than on a diamond frame. Last but not least, the Fremont has a handy, integrated braided cable lock and extra pin mechanism that locks the steering.
The Fremont cable lock detail photo

Tall Guy Rides the Fremont photo

So, which bike could you see as a cargo-hauling car replacement? Vote here.

E-Bike Design Wins Bike Design Challenge

Tony Pereira's Ebike.jpg

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 Pereira
Pereira, 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.
University of Oregon bicycle design entry photoThis 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."

Dutch Cycling Embassy Opens

Cycling For Everyone from Dutch Cycling Embassy on Vimeo.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy officially opened earlier this week and posted this cool video about cycling in the Netherlands. The Embassy facilitates cycling worldwide as the most modern, efficient and sustainable means of transportation by sharing our expertise and technology as the world’s number one cycling country.

The Dutch Cycling Embassy is unique because it is a comprehensive network of:

  • private companies: traffic and infrastructure consultants
    and manufacturers
  • NGOs, universities and research institutions
  • national and local governments

The Dutch Cycling Embassy can put you in touch with its extensive Dutch network. Whether your goals involve research, planning, policy-making, product development, manufacturing, construction or building, they can help you find the best possible partners.

Ford Is Making e-Bikes

ford e-bike image

Joining Daimler's smart car, BMW, Audi, and Land Rover, Ford Motor has joined the E-Bike world with a two-wheeled concept vehicle the automaker debuted at the current Frankfort Auto Show. Recognizing the growing electric bicycle market (30 million sold worldwide last year), Ford is on board the "bike wagon" along with making electric 4-wheeled vehicles.

Ford's E-Bike idea is the latest news. The trapezoidal frame is targeted for both men and women and the lightweight lithium-ion battery of aluminum and carbon fiber weighs just 5.5 lbs and is concealed within the frame. With a range of 53 miles per charge, the design will offer effortless Economy, Comfort and Sport rides with data displayed at your fingertips noting speed (up to 15 mph), distance covered, etc.

Ford's E-Bike doesn't go into production any time soon, but shows what the US automaker is thinking about the future of transportation. I'd heard Bill Ford at TED Talks earlier this year discussing the solutions in the works for "smart cars" that talk with each other as a way to address global gridlock and then saw it in action at the company's Forward with Ford conference, which explored what's ahead from Fusion and Focus, as well as lightweight plastics, natural fibers and recycled materials already used in the interiors.

This E-Bike design also integrates "magneorestrictive" sensors, borrowed from Formula One cars, that activate and deactivate the motor within a fraction of a second, which Ford claims is the first time this technology will be implemented with a bike.

Source: AFP's RelaxNews via The Independent UK

Protected Bike Lanes Mean Safer Streets in Chicago

All Chicagoans should feel safer on their city's streets—whether driving, walking or riding a bike. No matter if you're an 8-year-old child or 80-year-old grandmother, they should be able to ride a bike in the city without fearing for their safety.

Protected bike lanes are designed with all kinds of people in mind. I believe they make biking a safe and easy option for everyone. Protected bike lanes use physical barriers or buffers between people riding bikes and motorized traffic to help cyclists feel more comfortable on the street. By providing a physically separated space on the roadway for bicylists, protected lanes help reduce conflicts by encouraging predictable and responsible behavior by all street users. As a result, the street become a safer place for everyone.

Some numbers that bear repeating

  • People want safer streets: A Portland, OR study found that 60 percent of the public would be interested in biking, but do not for fear of safety.
  • Protected lanes reduce crashes: New York City's protected lane on 9th Avenue led to a 56 percent reduction in injuries to all street users and an 84 percent reduction in sidewalk riding.
  • Protected lanes increase ridership: New York City's Prospect Park West protected lane saw a 190 percent increase in weekday ridership, with 32 percent of those cyclists under age 12.

Active Trans’ Neighborhood Bikeways Campaign is working for the creation of a 100-mile network of protected bikeways that will reduce crashes and increase ridership while connecting Chicago neighborhoods.
Learn more and join the campaign.

Built In Bike Lock

Andrew Leinonen staylocked bike frame and lock photo

Andrew Leinonen staylocked bike frame and lock photoThere is the basic bike rule that the lighter the bike, the heavier the lock. Toronto designer Andrew Leinonen breaks the rule; in his new design, the bike is the lock. It's really clever; the lock is an integral part of the frame, and without it, the bike is unrideable.

Andrew tells Herb at iBikeTO:
Putting my mind to the endemic problem of urban bike theft, I realized that in a big city like Toronto or NYC, any lock (no matter how bulky or heavy) can only serve as a deterrent for a determined thief with the right tools. This challenge was the inspiration for the StayLocked bike, a design that integrates the lock directly into the frame. The bike's seatstays have been replaced with a U-lock on a pivoting joint. This is a 'scorched earth' approach; any thief that breaks the lock breaks the bike as well, rendering it unrideable and without value.

Andrew Leinonen staylocked bike frame and lock photoAndrew Leinonen staylocked bike frame and lock photoWhen riding the bike, the U-lock shackle is securely clamped into the rear triangle, but when the rider wants to lock up the bike, they simply unlock the shackle, swivel it into place around the post (or whatever) they are locking to, and slide on the lock body, as with a standard U-lock. Using the lock is instantly familiar, and doesn't require that riders change their behaviour or carry anything with them besides a key. It even saves weight, since you don't need to bring a heavy lock or chain with you (and a rack or bag to carry it with).
Because the U-lock replaces part of the frame, there is much less additional weight to carry around, and it eliminates the possibility of forgetting your lock. Furthermore, the bike thief doen't get anything for their work, the bike will fold up under them. Just don't ever lose your key.

Folding Electric Bicycle by Concious Commuter

 Conscious Commuter has come up with a bike that brings together the compactness of a folding bike, the extra oomph provided by an electric bike, and a hat-tip to the classic step-through frame.

Gabriel Wartofsky of Conscious Commuter has spent 2 years worth of nights and weekends working on come up with a design that is both functional and looks wonderful -- none of the clunkiness that so many electric bikes are burdened with, and less of the kids'-toy look that many folding bikes have.
Here's the slick video showing how the bike folds and unfolds:

From the bike's blog: "Our Prototype #001 was outfitted with a LiPo 36 volt, 10 ah battery, capable of 15-20 miles per charge. it had a 350 w motor, and a throttle assist system. We are discussing the possibility of offering an initial internal battery with the bike, with the option to outfit the bike with auxiliary external batteries for long distance hauls."

If you think this bike design is as rad as I think it is, you can check out the Kickstarter campaign through which the designer is trying to raise $25,000 to get the bike beyond prototype, taking it to the next level of design -- which will be crowdsourced!
I'm looking for crowd-sourced input on options, configurations, colors, names and styles - be part of the product design / development process! Want to be on the inside of live product design sessions? You'll have the opportunity to participate in live on-line planning meetings -- available to all $10+ backers!
The bike is not just an interesting idea, it is also a tribute to Wartofsky's mother who encouraged the family to travel by bike since the family never owned a car: "I want people to experience again the magic of the bicycle my mother lived by for most of her life. My design challenge was to design an e-bike that will enable commuters to re-acquaint themselves with the hidden magic that surrounds daily travel. An easy, fun way to get around. And I can't do it without you."

New York Times Gives Sadik-Khan a Big Thanks


The graphic says it all, as Frank Bruni writes about the wonderful job New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan has been doing for cyclists, in the face of serious opposition. Bruni writes in the Times:
If a city believes that biking is part of a better future, it must sometimes muscle through a reluctant, rocky present. That's precisely what Bloomberg and Sadik-Khan have done, in a fine example of the way the mayor's frequent imperiousness and imperviousness to criticism can work to the city's long-term advantage. If anything, the two of them should move even faster and more boldly, but that's pure fantasy, given the opposition, bordering on hysteria, they've met so far.

Bruni quotes the Chicago transportation commissioner on why bikes are such a good alternative to the car:
The Chicago transportation commissioner, Gabe Klein, noted that biking pushed back against a range of modern ills. "There's the congestion problem," he said. "The pollution problem. The obesity problem. The gas problem."
On top of all that, it makes an important statement about our priorities -- about our willingness to amend the reckless, impatient, gluttonous ways that have created not only smog and clog in our cities but also a staggering federal debt.

"Bikes are definitely a symbol of what your city stands for," said Klein.
More in the New York Times

New York Tour de Fashion

Fashion Week is in full gear in New York City, and stylish men and women are wanting to make way through the streets of the city to see the Spring 2012 collections in anything but a cab or underground are able to tap into something a lot more fun: decorated bikes by some of the world's top designers.

The bikes, available to Fashion Week attendees free of charge, are custom-decorated by the likes of Doo-Ri Chung, Diane Von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, Nanette Lepore, Isaac Mizrahi, and more.

The Tour de Fashion bicycle fleet, purchased by the Fashion Center from Bowery Lane Bicycles, are handmade in New York City and will be available free of charge at tented bike stations located on the Broadway Plazas at 40th Street.

Interested in buying one of the stylish cycles? Bids started today for post-fashion week purchase. Place your bid at Charity Buzz.

$4 Grocery Paniers for Your Bike

One of the easiest trips that people can make by bike, is to the grocery store. With the use of reusable bags, people can typically get out of a simple grocery trip with 2 bags of stuff. Without store bought paniers, it can be difficult and dangerous to transport these groceries by bicycle. Below is a cheap and easy way to make homemade paniers to help on these short trips.

The materials are really simple:
  • 2 reusable grocery bags
  • 1/4" thick 2'x4' piece of masonite (or "hardboard" at Home Depot; same stuff used for clipboards)
  • 1 bungee cord
You can find the reusable bags at many places now, but possible places include Publix, Target, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, Meijer, Walmart, Kroger, and Ikea. They also make insulated ones which would be great for refrigerated items.

Tip: You can get a piece of the wood deeply discounted if you look for one that's damaged.

Cut some of the wood to fit into the bags:

Staple the wood inside the bags to keep them in place.

Then cut two of the handles in the middle:

Sew the bags together:

Then, throw them over your bike rack!

Use a bungee to keep them in place, and voila! You have lightweight panniers that fold down flat and that you can take into the store with you!

Sure beats paying $50+ for ones from the bike shop. You could probably make them even stronger by double-bagging, since by now all of us probably have about 12 of these give-away canvas bags piled up in our closets.