Design Competition Yields Bikes Of The Future

Oregon Manifest, a nonprofit located in Portland, has been running a competition over the last few months in which students and pro teams work to create a next-generation city bike. This isn’t about speed (like the McLaren Venge) or concept design (like the Vienna Bike), but rather about creating a bike that provides the maximum amount of utility for someone looking to ditch their automobile.

These innovation-from-competition events are really blowing up; there have been lots lately aimed at creating everything from mega-efficient cars to electrically-powered aircraft. This one had 34 entrants who mostly had some variation of a cargo bike with electric assist, but they all varied in execution. I have to agree with the people’s choice, though, a collaboration between IDEO and Rock Lobster (pictured).

You can see the other winners here (I like the campus bike and the two-seater), but the Faraday, as the IDEO-Rock Lobster bike is called, really just hit me right in my future bone. Minus some of the slightly retro trappings, I can picture thousands of these crowding the streets. The design is just that well thought-out.

The front wheel has a hub motor powered by that battery underneath the seat there. The battery can be quick-charged at an outlet and are actually the same kind found in the Chevy Volt. The porteur-style front rack has been brought into the 21st century with a removable flat-rack that attaches or detaches in seconds by means of spring-loaded bolts, and the fronts of the support tubes conceal a pair of LED headlights. The rack is mounted on the frame, not the fork, which improves stability. I’ve always been a fan of paniers but this works nicely as well. Reminds me of this bent-wood bike basket. Core77 has a nice design diary for the project, and IDEO has a page for it as well.

It does have some design issues to work out: it’s rather tall, the seat-handlebar relationship is off, and it needs a more potent braking system. But there’s still a weird sort of elegance to the design.

A bike like this for a decent price would go a long way toward replacing cars for many people in the city. Human-powered, compact, and simple, yet able to go long distances and carry groceries. It’ll be a while before they’re really affordable, but the promise of the electric-assist bike, already taking effect elsewhere in the world, seems destined to come to our shores as long as there are people creating things like the Faraday and the other entries to the contest.

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