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Interesting concept bicycle design by Bradford Waugh (behance.net)
13 points by elptacek 2165 days ago | hide | past | web | 17 comments | favorite

Dear design students:

The standard upright bicycle has looked almost exactly the same for over a century, for very good reason. The basic diamond-frame design is very close to perfect. A derailed-chain drivetrain can exceed 98% efficiency, is cheap to build and is trivially easy to repair and maintain. I love folders, I love recumbents, I love full-sus mountain bikes, but for 99% of riders and 99% of journeys, precious little has changed since the baby boom.

There have been four meaningful breakthroughs in bicycle design in the last fifty or so years. Shimano's indexed derailer gears, Rohloff's SpeedHub, Mike Burrows' Compact Geometry and Andrew Ritchie's Brompton Bicycle. All of them were painstaking developments that took years of work. Burrows' Compact Geometry is a change as trivial as sloping the top tube on a standard frame, but it took years to get right.

I see dozens of these bicycle design concepts every year and every single one I have seen has been absolutely terrible. In the case of this design, the wheels would be so lacking in lateral stiffness as to make the bicycle frightening to ride and the epicyclic rear wheel would be lucky to go ten miles before self-destructing on road debris. Won't work, never will work, never should have been committed to paper.

The designer had seemingly no interest in the century of development behind the modern bicycle and no inclination to investigate why the status quo is as it is. He bumbled in and designed something cool-looking but useless, because he obviously has no interest in such trivia as the laws of physics. Personally, I think that these bicycle concepts embody the antithesis of good design - a useless, style-led attitude that rarely leads to anything but last year's model wearing this year's tailfins.

If you want to design table lamps and dribbly teapots, keep churning out this hogwash. If you want to change the world, start designing with your brain, not your felt tip pens. The world is full of vital, urgent, life-or-death design problems, but they need substance, not style.

I can't tell if you're saying that bicycle design is a 'solved problem' or if everything that can be invented has already been invented. Either one is a perfectly valid excuse for not looking at anything in an entirely different way, I suppose. People thought that fire solved all their energy needs for thousands of years, right?

Though the seat does look a little far off the center of gravity to me.

I think he's saying that the designer should've started off with understanding why the components of the modern bicycle exist in their current form, in order to more effectively find ways to truly improve them.

In almost any realm it is easy to design things that are "cool looking but useless". This is all the more troublesome when one manages to deceive oneself into thinking that it is not useless and to deceive others into investing or working on it.

Something to keep in mind while you're kicking around those ideas for new startups in the back of your head.

I agree with most of your statements. However, the designer stated that it was a concept design, not meant to be implemented in real life. I could see this used in a futuristic movie, for example. To discourage someone from creating art that gives them pleasure though nonfunctional is wrong to me.

Shouldn't a concept design acknowledge physical law with at least a tiny nod towards actual application? Otherwise it's art for art's sake, not design.

Not sure how the rear wheel won't be getting sheared off. Same with those cranks -- a single bolt like that for each arm looks like it wouldn't be tight enough. And that bottom bracket doesn't look terribly serviceable.

Where's the front brake?

What happens when a sideways pressure is applied to either wheel?

How much weight will end up being added to the frame and wheels in order to keep them stiff? Removing tubes from the normal diamond frame design mean you need to make up for the support they provided elsewhere.

Some group of students actually built a bike similar to this and posted it on Reddit in 2009 or so.

What I never understand is how people imagine the drive on the rear wheel. You'd need an impossible gearbox to spin the gear that interfaces with the rim, and even that gear would need to spin like 10 times for every revolution of the wheel.

To me, that kills the fantasy so thoroughly that it isn't even fun to look at a picture of the device and imagine it in perfect world scenarios.

hubless wheels are stupid.

Why? No chain is a pretty nice feature. I think a lot of casual commuters would be willing to accept quite a bit of downside to get their hands on a chainless bike (that isn't a penny-farthing or a unicycle).

Imagine a sideways pressure on either of the wheels. Pretty much instant collapse.

A spoked wheel has an important property which is not immediately apparent to people who have not worked on them. Every spoke is contributing to maintaining the shape of the wheel in the face of extreme forces. In this case your only hope is to use an extremely thick and heavy piece of metal to maintain the hoop shape. And with this particular design, as soon as that hoop collapses or even slightly deforms, your wheel will jam.

As for the lack of chain, imagine your jeans/dress getting caught in that geared wheel. At least with a crank/chain you can stop pedaling when that happens, in this case you could very well lose a leg. And you aren't even gaining anything, because now the rim of the rear wheel has to be kept meticulously clear of debris or else risk a jammed wheel. Good luck doing that on a rainy day riding through puddles.

For a good commuter design, your best bet is to go with a chain cover like what's seen on dutch bikes. Reliability, easy maintenance, cheap parts, what else could a commuter want? Plus you can add fenders and a rack.

What problems do people have with chains? They're dirty? Well, yeah, you have to keep them clean or put them in a chaincase. They break? Never happened to me, but keep a $5 chaintool in your bag and you can remove the faulty link more quickly than you can fix a flat tire. The gearing doesn't work? Don't ride a geared bike if you don't know how to shift, and don't ride a racing bike when you're commuting. Get an internally geared bike and you will never have gearing problems again.

The chain is one of the least problematic of any bicycle part. But then again, there aren't really any problematic parts on bikes, which is why people like them so much.

Also, the reason why a hubless wheel is stupid is because there is nothing keeping the wheel round. The hub and spokes on your wheel are not there to look good, they are there to give the wheel strength. A metal rim like the one in the article will be bent unusably seconds after someone mounts the bike. A carbon fiber rim will just break explosively the first time you go over a bump.

Anyway, what I've learned from this article is that people associate all the problems they've ever had with bikes with the traditional design, and want a non-traditional bike because they think it won't have problems. The actual solution is to get a traditional bike that's setup for actual use instead of racing. Racing bikes are not fun to ride to work. Commuting bikes are.

Chains have very real problems and frustrations that crop up often- when used on motorcycles. When it comes to bicycles though, I suspect it is the other problem with chains that drives people;

They aren't pretty, symmetric, or aesthetically pleasing. Strangely, this is apparently a very serious problem for many people.

Note: All the problems with a motorcycle chain apply to a bicycle chain, but motorcycles travel massively greater distances, at higher rates of speed, through tougher environments, while transmitting anywhere from 20-400x as much power as a bicycle chain.

You could also just get a bike that features a belt-drive, like the Gates carbon belt. Completely greaseless. The Trek District was even shortlisted for a Brit Insurance Design Award.

I just look at this and hear a loud SNAP as the whole thing falls apart when you sit on it.

Evolution of the venerable Slingshot MTB and not necessarily one that will survive


My favorite part is wondering how exactly the front wheel is supposed to support any weight. Besides the part where the hoop will buckle from the weight being applied at the top-dead-center, how exactly is the force transfered!?

Not to mention the rake looks too small (aka zero), and the axis of rotation of the handlebars is not centered with the actual axis of rotation of the front end. That will be fun to pilot.

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