For city dwellers, there are trade-offs with commuting with a bicycle. Yes you can store it in your apartment, but it won’t lug all your crap. Parking isn’t an issue, but bikes are easy for thieves to nab. You can ride your bike in some places cars can’t go, but have fun peddling up that incline.
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Solving these problems is the sole purpose of Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project. Bicycle builders and high-level design firms from five different cities (NYC, Portland, Chicago, Seattle and San Francisco) are partnered up and compete to create a city-oriented bike for consumers that most effectively addresses common city cycling difficulties.
The Seattle-based team of Teague and Sizemore Bicycle was the winner this year, gaining the most online votes for their Denny concept. The victory wasn’t achieved with 3D printing, bluetooth, space-age materials or jet-like aerodynamics (this despite the fact that Teague helps design Boeings). Instead, the Denny plans to solve the everyday woes of the bicycle commuter through simple yet clever design.
While the Denny’s features are on par with some of the highest-tech bikes on the market, its bread and butter solutions are based on simpler innovations.
Admittedly, the bike doesn’t look as elegant as one might expect. For the most part, it looks like your typical bicycle — its minimalist frame, painted in a two-tone white-and-black livery, is almost reminiscent of a road bike, but the large, looped handlebars and jutting front tray are sure to confuse onlookers. However, their peculiar form follows their brilliantly useful function.
For example, to deter thievery, the handlebar can be removed and used as a U-lock. Not only does this cleverly incorporate the bike lock into the actual design, but the missing handlebar also tricks hoodlums into thinking the bike has already been picked over. The front rack is integrated into the actual frame of the bike, not the front wheel or fork — the benefit being that loading up with cargo on front and turning the wheel won’t throw off the bike’s stability.
But the Denny has even more features that make the urban rider’s life easier. The frame has a lower step-over height than most other bicycles, so riders in a hurry (or, say, wearing a skirt) can get on more easily. To eliminate the rooster tail of water splashing up from wet roads and hitting riders in the back, Teague and Sizemore affixed a small brush to the bike that wicks water away from the rear tire before it’s sent flying. To further save outfits from any other destruction, the traditional chain is replaced with a carbon belt, which uses no dirty grease, is silent and is virtually maintenance free.
It isn’t all simple design solutions; the Denny packs some serious tech, too. A removable and rechargeable battery powers the dark-sensing headlight and taillight as well as the bike’s integrated turn signals (no more hand signals for you). Particularly handy is the electronic pedal assist (powered by the aforementioned battery) which, similar to the Copenhagen Wheel, adds additional boost for uphill climbs. The battery and motor are also coupled with a computer that, based on the rider’s cadence, speed and exertion, automatically shifts one of eleven gears to find the most appropriate one for driving conditions.
While these features put the Denny on par with some of the highest-tech bikes on the market, its bread and butter solutions are based on simpler innovations. Sometimes it feels as though there’s a formula for creating “revolutionary” new products — throw in some bluetooth, LED lights and other electronic gizmos at an everyday item and you’ve created a “smart” device. The increased convenience is appreciated; but there really is something refreshing about simple, elegant solutions that are more clever than smart.
But more practically speaking, its hard to imagine there’s a drawback that the creators of the Denny haven’t addressed. Though it may not fully challenge the mighty automobile, the Denny does at least give auto commute a run for its money, especially for those who have been considering ditching their cars in favor of a carbon-neutral, figure-friendly way to get around. As it stands now the bike is just a concept, but because it won Oregon Manifest’s contest it will soon be produced by Fuji. Look for it in bike shops come spring 2015.