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Design competition follow up

Commuter, Concept 36 143

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  1. Lyle January 27, 2009 at 10:29 pm -  Reply

    Great follow up, though it shouldn’t have been needed.

    Its easy to get caught in the ‘I do it this way because its what works best’ paradigm that comes with years of experience doing something.

    Just recently they took the elevator out of service in my building, and now I live on the top floor of an 8 story walk up. I found out just how heavy my bikes are after a long ride. (my heaviest being 28lbs) Its something that never even dawned on me before!

    George French has a point about where ‘the masses’ are going to store the Torkel concept. If it’s going to be left in peoples driveways, its got to be weatherproof, stand on its own, and have some type of built in security.

    Oh.. thank you for posting the link to the ihpva archives. I haven’t browsed through them too much yet, but they’ll be bookmarked.

  2. Anonymous January 27, 2009 at 10:50 pm -  Reply

    Jimmythefly’s quote is nothing special. It was accurately predicted and echoed by several people in the beginning. Please check your comments against the very first post on the competition. Not that we require you to quote exactly what everyone told you so far, but you make this particular quote seem as if you never saw it before. Are you even reading your reader comments?

  3. James January 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm -  Reply

    Thanks Lyle, the storage issue is a valid concern and is exactly the kind of constructive criticism I like to see.

    Anon, yes, I read all comments. I quoted one (of many) that I felt was relevant. So what?

  4. jimmythefly January 28, 2009 at 1:31 am -  Reply

    The funny thing is that I posted that comment precisely because it seemed like things that had already been said needed restating.

    I’ve been mulling over the relationship between the custom bike business/high-end retail/new bike sales/repair old bikes/etc. One thought the design competition sparked was that I don’t want this to be just another “thing” to purchase and put in the garage, I want the amount of use it gets over a lifetime(in lieu of using an automobile for those trips) to offset the resources used in its manufacture, at least. The health benefits may need to be accounted for, too, but I really have no idea.

    I’d love a post on cradle-to-grave issues as related to bike design. I know of numerous cases where an old bike brought in for a tune-up gets trashed because it’s actually cheaper to just buy new. Is there another model of service/repair that might keep these bikes on the road? What are the elements of design that increase the life of a bike, or make it easier to recycle in the end?

  5. gsport george January 28, 2009 at 6:32 am -  Reply

    I think it is in the nature of bicycle design that it is quite a cyclic process (no pun intended).

    The bicycle is often said to be THE single most patented item, and if you design anything for a bike you will inevitably find that the searches drag up an amazing array of old designs that never took off which perhaps bear more than a slight resemblance to your “new” design.

    However, many people seem to think that this justifies a statement along the lines that “it has all been done before” or “there is nothing new to be designed”. To me, this is an incredibly depressing suggestion and one that I reject. Bicycles are incredibly subtle, so to ignore the subtle differences is to miss the whole point. To a layman most modern bikes look a LOT like bikes from the middle of the 20th century, but the difference in ride is startling.

    Looking at this bike, it is easy to worry about the steering geometry and the efficiency and design of the drive-train. Looking at the structure it is tempting to “saw the roof off” and make it a cabriolet, which would make the structure much easier to make and probably more efficient. However, IF you do these things, you tend towards a pretty bog standard recumbant which probably wouldnt appeal to people who arent already bicycle commuters.

    And so the “cyclic” design process begins again and if at some point you dont make yourself stop and draw something up then you never “produce” anything…

    The things to “take away” from this design and try to retain are the clean lines and apparent simplicity.

    The things to add are “workable” steering geometry, some sort of revolutionary construction method to keep the costs reasonable, and a lot of very clever design in the drive train to make it work as well as it looks…

    Once the basic structure “works” then adding side skirts to keep the weather out, or a stand is pretty easy. It may even be that the design of the drivetrain suggests ways to make the whole thing fold or telescope for storage but for a starting point this is interesting and the fact that it has drawn so much comment sort of proves that…

  6. Conor C January 28, 2009 at 10:03 am -  Reply

    Continuing on from JimmyTheFly’s quote that Torkel’s elegant design would surely appeal to some non-cyclists, but maybe not others.

    What do you think of awarding a silver and a bronze to other designs with features that appeal to some of these other potential cyclists?

    In effect having a “trinity of designs” that between them tick different boxes for different people with specific tastes and requirements that are currently within the “blue ocean” of non-cyclists.

    It might illustrate the fact that no one bike can meet all needs and that there are many reasons why more people don’t cycle daily…

  7. Ron January 28, 2009 at 12:28 pm -  Reply

    “The bicycle is often said to be THE single most patented item.”

    gsport : I wouldn’t make that conclusion just yet. For instance, I did a small search on the number of international drug patents out there on WIPO. The results gave me a staggering 7700 records with 25 line items each, whereas the bicycle only had some 2000 records. I did not check for semiconductors, computers or automobiles but you may want to dig into that.

    I do see your point about patents.
    Anyone can’t invent something stupid and patent it. Having a strong business sense to take it to market and gain a foothold there is an entirely different thing.

  8. Ron January 28, 2009 at 12:40 pm -  Reply

    Torkel will think of patenting his design sooner or later, atleast that has to happen before he brings out a prototype right? But I caution him against the mistakes that happen to so many inventors ;

    Steve Barbarich, CEO of Inventors’ Publishing & Research (IP&R), has interviewed thousands of patent holders and discovered some of the biggest mistakes they make.

    Top in this list were :

    1. Incomplete Research : Patent holders often believe that asking a few of their friends and family members what they think of their inventions is sufficient research. While this may be a convenient start, it is simply not enough. Good market research for patent holders includes an assessment of the market size, examination of industry trends, analysis of the competition, feedback from the channel, and identification of the target market (potential licensees). Feedback from the channel (frequently retail) is often overlooked by inventors. Although retailers rarely license product patents, their endorsement makes it much easier to license them to manufacturers.

    2. Taking a DIY Approach : Many inventors initially try to do everything themselves. But obviously, taking a product to market is not a do-it-yourself project. Taking on the job of a licensing manager, salesperson, engineer, marketer and designer is too much for one person. It’s much more effective to have a team of professionals working for you.

    Why I highlighted these two is for the simple fact that its all too simple for all of the proponents of the design to sit here and tell the rest of us that this is going to make it. I'm saying, lets not sit in a comfort zone and feel great, it will. It takes a lot of work from the designer/inventor's team to make this a commercial reality. And doing your homework and research spot on is very critical as you can see. Thats why I wondered whether Torkel was a solo designer or whether he works for a larger firm that may take a collective interest in this idea.

    Read more of top patent mistakes here.

    Thanks James.

  9. Jamie Rockwood January 28, 2009 at 12:59 pm -  Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with Ron’s second comment. I won’t say Torkel winning this competition was easy, and there may have been some luck with it just like as wins do. But certainly this phase of the design is by far THE EASIEST. What comes next is tough to say now and it involves planning and financial hope. If you asked me to put a number down for the time it takes this bike to make it to market, I’d say 2 years. Conservative. And this assuming that no one else has a brighter idea and gets to market before him.

  10. gsport george January 28, 2009 at 2:54 pm -  Reply

    Ron, that really must have been a “small search”, I get nearly 50k for bicycle and “just” 35k for “drug” however is it even reasonable to put all drugs into a single category in the same way that you would the bicycle? Ultimately it will all boil down to semantics.
    The point is that there are a LOT of bicycle patents on record worldwide and yet there is still new stuff to do.
    I very much doubt that there is anything patentable about this design anyway since it is more a unique arrangement of existing elements than it is entirely new, and the US patent examiners are pretty rabid on this these days.

    2 years to market would be INCREDIBLY quick for something this complex. I would expect more like 3-5…

  11. Ron January 28, 2009 at 3:54 pm -  Reply

    GEORGE : You did not say where and how searched? Aha!

    I got 5006 occurences using the WIPO website : WIPO is owned by the United Nations.

    50K doesn’t mean its the largest. Hundreds of products out there. Compare with computers, or automobiles.

  12. Anonymous January 28, 2009 at 4:50 pm -  Reply

    James @ 11:06pm : Whatever may it be brother. All I think you’re doing is mining for the statements from people who support your viewpoint and blatantly ignoring the others to settle your case. Look, this whole design competition was controversial from the start. And you guys have selected the most impractical concept from the lot just made it all worse. I guess even I would start justifying my judgements if I were you. Why? Heck, otherwise I’d put my reputation on the line on a blog 3000 people are following and many more reading around the world. You’re in a fix. I think the pressure is now on the designer to make this viable and get it to the “MASSES”.

  13. James January 28, 2009 at 5:49 pm -  Reply

    Conor C, Perhaps a second and third prize would have been a good idea, but unfortunately, I only have one prize to award. I think all of the finalists were worthy and I was happy to be able to share those ideas. Had we picked a second place winner, it most likely would have gone to Rick Marland. His folding bike concept was one that we discussed back and forth as we came to a conclusion. I don’t have time to go into those discussions right now, but it might be good for a future post. A third place finisher would be harder to pinpoint since we didn’t discuss 3 places as a group. I can say, speaking only for myself, that Ian Clewett’s design was second on my list. I really like a lot of things about that one as well, and I think it would appeal to quite a few people. Mark Huang’s concept was well liked too though, so I guess I am back to saying that all six finalists had great ideas that are viable for different market segments witb a little further development.

    I will say again, that I see value in many of the 65 competition entries, which is why I want to continue to post many of the ones that you haven’t seen yet. I consider Torkel to be a very worthy winner, but I also think many of the other ideas are worth sharing and discussing.

    Anon 4:50, please keep something in mind. This is a blog that I write because I am passionate about sharing a lifelong love of bikes and cycling. I always keep an open mind and I readily admit that I learn a lot doing this. I have never once claimed to be unbiased, and yeah, of course I try to support my own opinions. I have done that from the beginning and I will continue to do so. That doesn’t mean that readers can’t influence me though if they present a good case for something. As I said, I consider this to be a two way street.

    The comment about my reputation and the “fix” I am in is just plain silly. Many people enjoy my blog and if you are not one of them, fine…just don’t read it. The reason that I quoted jimmythefly was to reiterate the point that each concept is just ONE approach at a bike for the many people out there who don’t ride. There are a lot of possible design solutions to reach those people and maybe nobody completely nailed it in the timeframe of this competition. I knew from the beginning that the problem was a pretty tough one to solve, but I am still happy with the thought process of many of the entrants. Some of the criticisms of the winning concept may be valid (weight, position, cost, etc) which is exactly why I welcome discussion. In the end though, we picked the design that we considered to be the best entry. You and some others happen to disagree, but I just don’t see that as a problem.

    I allow anyone to comment, even anonymously as you have chosen to do. So tell me, how can I be any more transparent?

  14. Anonymous January 28, 2009 at 6:58 pm -  Reply

    No you can’t James and mucho respecto to you for that.

    But ok, so you get out of the car and decide to buy a bike. You pop down to CycleMart and buy a snazzy looking “This Way” machine because the salesman knows what buttons to press when a lardy, unfit car driver walks in. You wheel it out and ride it home enjoying several encounters with buses and trucks along the way. You hit a hill and have to push ‘This Way’ up the gradient because you have weak, car driver leggies. You nearly break your back because pushing the bike is so awkward. You ride home and throw up. You vow never to cycle again and grab your car keys.

    This concept cannot and should not be offered as a transition between motoring and cycling. There would be no ‘mass’ converts. There would be mass nausea in those we’re trying to convert.

    Great blog though. Let’s give James the credit he deserves for sharing our passion for cycling.

  15. gsport george January 28, 2009 at 7:21 pm -  Reply

    Ron, you are going way off topic at this point, however since it is a good link in its own right:-

    Since I am in the UK, I tend to use this the most, that is the link to the advanced search, just plug "bicycle", or "drug" or "flogging a dead horse" into either the title or keyword field and you will get a good number of results…

  16. gsport george January 28, 2009 at 7:31 pm -  Reply

    Ron, (from a quick look) your link only appears to search patents that have gone through the PCT process. Not all patents go this route. The PCT is like a one-stop-shop for obtaining coverage in a lot of different countries, but most bike parts are just patented in the US and Europe (where the products will be sold) and in Taiwan and China (where they will probably be made).

    Since Taiwan is not widely recognised as an independant country they cant be a party to this and have their own system.


  17. Ron January 28, 2009 at 9:01 pm -  Reply

    gsport : Fair enough. I checked your link. Point to note : We can never accurately know since you also mentioned the semantics issue. For example, merely searching for bicycle also gives you manufacturing methods. So you’re never sure you’re right.

    It may be that perhaps among similar utility vehicles or wheeled mechanisms, a bicycle may have the most patents for systems and subsystems (bicycle vs scooter for example). You did however say that generally a bicycle is the ‘single most patented item’. Now thats a broader statement.

    If you’re doing a very crude search, then patents for automobiles easily trump those for bicycles..where automobile is a four wheeled vehicle operated by an internal combustion engine and bicycle is a two wheeled vehicle human powered. Patents for computers are similarly large, since the software programs and hardware needed to build and run different computer systems are so many and pretty complex.

    Interesting crude searches :

    Engine = 100,000 patents
    Gearing = 11,661 patents
    Bicycle Frame = 2614 patents
    Motorcycle Frame = 1262 patents
    Aircraft Wing = 2776 patents
    Chocolate = 4325 patents (YUM)
    Chewing Gum = 4706 patents
    Knife = 18,739 patents
    Beer = 6914 patents (nice)
    Shoe = 45,700 patents
    Underwear = 1660 patents (wtf?!)
    Drug Delivery = 9832 patents
    Lipstick = 1713 patents
    Shampoo = 3737 patents
    Soap = 11651 patents
    Toy = 41969 patents
    Lubricating Oil = 12635 patents (friction is ever present!)
    Treatment (medical) = 100,000 patents
    Semiconductor = 99,999 patents

    Its amazing that man, to take advantage of his resources and master his surroundings, can use his brain to this extent of variation and creativity! Brilliant!

  18. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 2:51 am -  Reply

    In an Hypercapitalist environment, CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP is the ultimate driving force behind a purchase, the designs seems very attractive, with some potential and a few areas of improvements, but looks and probably will be expansive, thus limiting it’s effectiveness in a real hypercapitalist world. Inexpansive is probably the magic word to put more people on bikes.

  19. gsport george January 29, 2009 at 6:17 am -  Reply


    What I ACTUALLY said was:-

    “The bicycle is often said to be THE single most patented item”

    Perhaps this is just my experience of patent agents specialising in this field who want to emphasise how difficult their job is…

    As I said before, this is way off topic and since the comments are already somewhat huge I suggest we leave it there.

  20. James January 29, 2009 at 8:41 am -  Reply

    Anon, glad to hear you still like the blog even if we disagree on this. I think you are still hung up on the notion that this concept is geared toward every individual who doesn’t currently ride. It obviously isn’t, but I can see it appealing to some people who are not interested in many of the bikes currently on the market. Your scenario assumes that “ThisWay” is to be used as a transition between a car and a more typical bicycle. I just don’t see it that way. I view it as an alternative solution for SOME people (with electric assist as mentioned), not a temporary fix until they start riding bikes like the ones you and I ride. Obviously you wouldn’t buy anything like this, but if you look at the comments and links from other sources, you will see that there are some who really like the design.

    …and Anon #2, I agree that less expensive bikes could serve yet another segment of the potential blue ocean market.

  21. Ron January 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm -  Reply

    Gsport : Hearsay then.

  22. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm -  Reply

    “Anon 4:50, please keep something in mind. This is a blog that I write because I am passionate about sharing a lifelong love of bikes and cycling.”

    If you’re passionate about cycling and spreading the word, you would have addressed the correct question in your competition. And trust me, it has nothing to do with bike design. Like I said, we’ve already presented our case before you. There are hundreds of bikes, hundreds of designs out there. Yet you never asked why cycling is still prohibitive. You fail to apply any sense of logic. But like I said, you and proponents of this design are under pressure. The lasting success of this whole story will be whether this bike is made, whether it gets to market, and whether it will make even .1 % difference to people jumping into cycling because of it.

  23. James January 29, 2009 at 2:26 pm -  Reply

    “If you’re passionate about cycling and spreading the word, you would have addressed the correct question in your competition. And trust me, it has nothing to do with bike design.”

    What does it have to do with then? Advocacy on a local level? I think my record on that is pretty clear if you take the time to go back and look. If that is not the issue you are referring to, what is it then?

    I think my thoughts are pretty clear in the various posts, so I won’t waste my time restating them.

  24. Fixit January 29, 2009 at 4:20 pm -  Reply

    To anon 6:58 and other ‘luddites’ who are stuck in a rut and just cannot think for a second ‘out of the box’ .. as James stated from the start – this competition is for some blue sky thinking and the winner is a concept bike, as an alternative, not a replacement.

    Non-cyclists could still choose more conventional bikes if they want to. Why do you assume that it will be so much harder to ride, slower etc. ? Fared bikes hold speed records, that rain cover panel could be left at home if desired. I dont see it needs to be too heavy – dutch bikes weigh in at 40lbs and everyone rides them (in normal clothes not lrcra). Likewise it needn’t take a bigger footprint.

    I am shocked by how narrow minded so many comments are, especially on a blog about bicycle design – surely design is about considering and shaping alternative futures. Maybe some are simply on the wrong blog. Or maybe some of you just dont want any of those 160m people to join in ? Is there a threat ? Or must new riders do it ‘your’ way ? (lycra, bum in the air and all) or they are NOT proper cyclists? – maybe if utility cycling became mainstream and even your Granny joined in you’d have to find some more obsure, elitist hobby ?

    To James – thanks for arranging the competition, bringing in some alternative thinking and actually doing something positive

  25. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm -  Reply

    Luddite? Moi? Au contraire Fixit, luddites destroyed machinery that they considered threatened their livelihoods; they resisted technological advance. So any such metaphor doesn’t apply here.

    Look, the purpose of a blog is discussion, there’s no right or wrong opinion, but there is a difference of opinion. Thinking outside the box is to be celebrated but a certain amount of realism is also required. This winning design is as deserving of the prize as any of the finalists. But is it a commuter machine for “the masses”?

    I also thank James for running the competition and hosting an open blog. Those who comment here are not luddite. They are looking for truly viable advance in cycling design. I just have my doubts about the achievement. For me, the competition did not deliver what it promised. That’s not the fault of the competition, it’s my fault for having too high expectations of it. Sorry.

  26. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 5:13 pm -  Reply

    I am shocked by how narrow minded so many comments are, especially on a blog about bicycle design – surely design is about considering and shaping alternative futures.

    fixit-what a nice, convoluted idea of design. if design is about the future, then this blog should be renamed ‘future bicycle design’. really. i’m extremely sorry that designs populating today on the internet are nothing but pure vaporware. the deliverables are zero. the ideas are impractical for the day and age we live in. i’ve always seen design as a logical, problem solving approach. if designers are going to take the desk job of a a mere artist cum techno-astrologist, they should consider working in the movie industry. sorry, but the masses are interested in practical solutions.

  27. James January 29, 2009 at 5:22 pm -  Reply

    “I also thank James for running the competition and hosting an open blog.”

    Anon 5:09, yeah I want real conversation on the blog, but honestly, I am confused by your comments. Are all of the anonymous comments to this post from you? It is hard to tell. You might have better luck trying to make a point if you attach a name to your comments.

  28. Fixit January 29, 2009 at 6:14 pm -  Reply

    luddite – noun, broadly:
    Any opponent of technological progress.

  29. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 7:00 pm -  Reply

    Anon 5:13
    From your use of words (eg practical, logical, problem solving approach). I guess you are a VERY old school designer or a non-creative engineer.

    Tell me, amongst a row of technically identical products how do you choose which one to buy ?

    And your choice of partner ? 🙂

  30. Anonymous January 29, 2009 at 7:05 pm -  Reply

    Progress – noun, broadly:
    development; improvement.

    Both ‘Luddite’ and ‘Progress’ are inappropriately used since neither apply.

    Do I make all the anonymous comments? Nope, you have more than one source of critique being offered here. But I won’t comment further. Again, thank you for the effort you put in to your excellent blog.

  31. Franklin January 29, 2009 at 7:49 pm -  Reply

    I assume that James was inquiring about the anonymous comments on this post, not the entire blog 🙂

  32. James January 29, 2009 at 9:08 pm -  Reply

    I had to delete that last comment. Try again without being crude please.

  33. Anonymous January 30, 2009 at 2:57 pm -  Reply

    “I assume that James was inquiring about the anonymous comments on this post, not the entire blog :)”

    I assumed that to be the case too. But, for clarity, I am not responsible for all the anonymous comments on this blog or in this post. Nor would I be responsible for crude posts as I have no need to resort to insult to express a view.

  34. Charlie January 30, 2009 at 11:30 pm -  Reply

    Thanks for the follow up. I’m surprised that I don’t see much–other than a comment you quoted from one of the jurors–about what I see as the most significant flaw:

    When it’s raining and you bike fast, the rain hits you from the front, not the top. Even with fenders added to address road spray, there’s still the incoming rain from the front. Given the recumbent position, that would mostly hit your legs. Throwing on a raincoat is easier than throwing on rainpants, so this seems to address the milder half of the getting wet problem.

    Related is that part of the function of a fairing is to improve aerodynamics. Without the fairing absent from the front, that advantage presumably gets lost too.

    I think they are flaws in the execution, not the concept…but if you consider only the concept and not the execution, then what is the contribution beyond the precedents mentioned in this followup?

    I do appreciate the effort to think beyond what those of us who commute now are using.

  35. Anonymous February 1, 2009 at 4:51 am -  Reply

    As a lifelong designer of bicycles and bicycle products, the best vehicle for everyone/anyone to commute to work to has to be petrol/pedal hybrid, fully enclosed out of the weather (The ‘roof’ on the winning design is a joke, have adequate storage, and a modular serviceable/swappable drivetrain. It needs to be developed in conjuction with road rule legislation.

    Until we have this, we’ll have vaporware / ‘designer lanfill’ competitions like this which i think at the end of the day end up trivialising the importance of getting more bums on seats, rather than encouraging it.

    What it does do however is generate debate which I suspect is the whole MO of this show. Less designers sketching cars must be a good thing, right?

  36. Joan Antoni Silva Generelo February 18, 2013 at 11:25 am -  Reply

    Joan Antoni Silva Generelo says
    Escribo desde Girona ( Catalonia), (Spain).
    Que están esperando para comercializar esta estupenda máquina ??
    Aquí en España nadie sabe decirme nada, nadie la conoce o no quieren saber nada, no interesa, debe ser el “Sistema”.
    Ya esta bién de tanto vehículo motorizado para trayectos cortos con grandes cilindradas y ostentosas carrocerias !!. Soy ciclista desde hace muchos años, pero ahora por problemas de cervicales no puedo montar en una bicicleta convencional. Sería estupendo tener una bicicleta como esta es perfecta: diseño, comodidad, seguridad y exclusividad. Grácias señor Torkel Döhmers y perdone no poder escribir en inglés.

    Saludos y enhorabuena.

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