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Finalists in the Commuter bike design competition

Commuter, Concept 61 1043

After compiling the top ten picks from each juror, I am finally able to announce the finalists in the “commuter bike for the masses” design competition. Rather than elaborate on the entries, I am going to post the 6 finalists, in no particular order, along with the descriptions provided by the designers. I may post comments about each entry from the jurors later, but for now, I want to publish these just as we saw them so that you can all leave your comments. The jury will discuss further and we will select the one out of these six that will be awarded the grand prize, a Cannondale Bad Boy bike.

Before I get on with the finalists, I want to say thanks again to all of you who submitted entries to the competition. The choices were difficult to make and there were some really interesting designs that didn’t make it to the final six (out of 65 entries). I still think they are worth sharing though, so I will post many of the other entries after the winner is announced.

Now on to the finalists, each with a description by the designer:

Update 1/12/09: The images in the post are fairly low-res, so I uploaded the full size boards to a Flickr set. You can click on each to view at full size, or watch a slide show here.

Folding Commuter bike by Rick Marland

The bike’s designed around its lock, which becomes a handle when the bike’s folded. The lock’s big enough to go around a lamppost and if the locks broken the bike can’t be ridden away because the locks additional purpose is to hold the bike together. (Lock can rotate meaning it can lock to horizontal/vertical rails)

The seat and handle bars are fully adjustable in all directions (adjusts to fit most adults), and use a spring-loaded geared quick-release to easily adjust/Fold bike.

The bike wheels have puncture resistant/solid tyres, with dual suspension on single sided swing-arms, which give a slim folded profile (handlebars also fold in). The swing arms have a locking catch system for the various luggage/rack options, luggage can remain locked on the bike when it’s folded and the whole bike can easily be wheeled around with the lock/handle.

The bike’s easy to maintain with its low maintenance shaft drive and 8speed hub gearing, it also uses hydraulic discs, all cables are internally routed. The built in lights are auto on/off (with override switch) and the battery can be charged in the bike, or removed.

(Lock & Quick-release mechanisms are drawn on the incorrect side for illustration purposes)

This Way by Torkel Dohmers

A pedal powered comfortable bicycle with weather protection.

I have made an emphasis on automotive qualities in the design, to attract non-previous cyclists used to cars and motorcycles.

Another selling point to attract more people riding a bike (especially here in Europe) is weather protection – the bike has a roof!

Built in composite materials (carbon or flax fibre) and hydro-formed aluminium, this vehicle is very lightweight (approximate 11-12kg). Has built-in LED lights front and rear powered by a rechargeable battery that gets its power from solar cells on roof. The bike has a built-in belt drive. Riding position is lower than a traditional bike to keep a low centre of gravity and for optimal aerodynamics.

In the rear of frame is a “luggage connector”, where the user plugs-in his/her e g attaché bag. The design also benefits of flexibility and comfort for riders of different sizes, as the crankset and seat is adjustable in length/height.

Although this design is more expensive to manufacture compared to its traditional rivals, it is still just a fraction of the buying price of cars and zero in running costs…

Untitled entry by Ian Clewett

My design takes the best elements of ‘traditional’ Dutch type commuting bikes – that easy, comfortable upright riding position, storage racks and baskets, balance and simplicity; then mixes in new technology and new thinking. The main frame and wheel covers/mudguards are a monocoque in moulded plastic – replacing the traditional tubular frame with a durable, cleaner structure which integrates greater rider safety, visibility, carrying and storage features. ‘Fold-flat’ handlebars and lockable folding pedals allow for unobtrusive storage in garage, corridors or confined space as well as built-in immobilising security. The cradle-style handlebars and low headset design allow for a ‘modular’ accessory system on easy mounting rails to tailor the bike to various needs, along with better weight distribution when laden.

Aesthetically, I also wanted the bike to make a statement of being something very ‘different and fresh’ but still recognisable as a bike. I feel that bicycles are often a jumble of components, rather than an integrated product. My design looks and works as a complete unit, resulting in cleaner lines and more built-in functionality. A bike that does what it promises and is a joy to use.

Untitled entry by Mark Huang

The design features I found to be relevant were easy/minimal maintenance, intuitive use, clean to use, reliable, utility: needs to have storage, upright seating position, comfortable seat, improved visibility/ safety, and appearance: not making user feel awkward.
With these parameters in mind, my design proposal is for casual cyclists and new bike commuters. The frame is constructed out of large diameter aluminum tubing, in an upright seating position, and without a top tube to allow for getting on and off the bicycle with ease. The saddle features a larger seating surface that is more integrated into the frame. The form is simple, with larger easy to clean smooth surfaces.
The enclosed-belt drive train connects the cranks to an internal rear hub, giving the user more gearing options in a clean and compact package with less required maintenance.
The hollow bottom bracket adds aesthetic appeal and another mount for locking the bike when parking it. The attached pannier rack detaches to become a U-lock, so a lock will always be with the bike.

The MuskOx Concept by Erik Nohlin


Is the theme of this commuter. The more You are seen, the safer You get,
-You simply can´t be seen enough.

All systems are integrated in the frame:

# Trip data in the frame as lcd panel. Distance today, this week, this month and this year. The parameters are fun to compare with colleagues and fellow commuters and gives instant feedback of your achievements. Max, average and current speed is shown as well as light status and time. There must be an instant reward for cyclists who normally don´t commute – the feedback is the reward – You reward Your body and the environment and get it in clear LCD numbers.

# Reflective paint. It glows in the dark and is highly visible in all weather conditions.

# Integrated front and rear led lights. 10 pcs of ledlights front and rear.

# Extra led lights in rear, pointing upwards. For trucks and high vehicles.

# Hubdynamo charged batteries.

# Hubgears or singlespeed.

# Integrated sturdy steering lock.

# Diskbrakes with integrated wires.

# Integrated brakehandles “reversed throttle”.

# Beltdrive.

# Several rack and fender mounting options.

Muskox: Endures tough weather, Respectable, Muscular, Barrelshaped.

P-one by Chris Green

Getting people out of their cars means giving them a car-like bike.

Choices at purchase similar to a car, materials, construction and design techniques similar to a car and above all comfort and ease of use – like a car.

No direct drive allows constant peddle speed and pressure regardless of bike speed (governed max. 15mph) or incline which in turn means getting sweaty and out of breath (modern mankinds worst enemy) is a thing of the past. Solar panels, front hub generator and mains power charge means there will always be power and the ‘engine’ can power your phone/ipod/satnav too (just like a car.). Integrated lighting and one touch brakes = simplicity and ease of use

The monoque is strong, light and reduces welding. The internal capacity contains all the mechanics/ electrics and gives large flat areas for the solar panels. The folding mechanism means you never need leave the bike at home whether traveling some of your journey by Train, Plane, Car or Boat.

Updated 1/26/09: The competition winner has now been announced. Read about it here.

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  1. Ken Hurd January 9, 2009 at 12:38 am -  Reply

    All really interesting concepts – From an existing commuter Rick’s and Erik’s concepts intrigue me the most. Rick’s because of it’s portability and compact size, and Erik’s because of the practicality of all the included features.

    Rick’s bike would be great for short commutes, but for a longer ride I would lean towards Erick’s design. Though I think that Rick’s approach pushes the boundaries a little more, Erick’s bike would be the one I’d buy.

    I applaud all the other designers – fantastic imagination put into each design.

  2. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 12:49 am -  Reply

    The Dohmers and Marland designs are the best in my opinion. And I’m sorry, but the Huang concept is sadly lacking in originality. The Nohlin doesn’t fare much better. There are almost 60 other entries that didn’t make the cut? As Tom Hank’s character in “Big” says, “I don’t get it.”

  3. R from the metro January 9, 2009 at 2:44 am -  Reply

    Great effort from all the designers.

    What I get from this exercise is how optimized existing bikes are. For me, the designs fall into two broad categories – small refinements on what’s available on the market (Huang, Erik), and those that went out of the box – such as Marland’s folding bike and the P-One.

    You can replicate the bikes in the first group with current bikes and a few accessories (lights, rack, fenders etc). The out of the box bikes seem to face serious challenges – weight, complexity, manufacturing difficulty.

    Rick Marland’s folder is a great concept, but seems to be so out there that it’s difficult for be to see it being manufactured – how does it steer? how heavy will this steering mechanism be? I have to applaud his design for going outside the accepted notion of what a bicycle should look like.

    Any cargo bike entries? I’m interested to see bicycles that can carry me and thirty pounds of my stuff and do it well.

  4. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 8:55 am -  Reply

    I do not get it. This took so long to evaluate! the first design is unique and interesting if the theme is theft but the other five are nothing new. Lights,covers,locks and phone charging are not what you need as far as I am concerned. This appears to be an essay contest not a design contest. I would prefer to see the remaining 59 contestants

  5. GhostRider January 9, 2009 at 9:14 am -  Reply

    There’s some great stuff in there!

    I, too, would love to see the other entries…perhaps after the winner has been announced you could post some (or all) of the others? Surely there are useful tidbits in the other entries that might foster some good concepts…and good conversations!

    My favorite is the Clewett design…the body panels and overall “look” are stunning.

  6. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 10:20 am -  Reply

    I am amazed people are so negative about these. I think they are all very good and whilst none of them is completely finished and flawless this is a small competition for a free bike, with just one sheet to describe it! What are you expecting? Years of work simply revealed in all it’s complexity to the entire world to copy for a few hundred dollars of bike?!?! Be realistic.

    If you entered something that isnt shown which you think is better then maybe you have cause to moan, but if not, then perhaps try to keep a sense of perspective…

  7. James January 9, 2009 at 11:43 am -  Reply

    Thanks for the comments so far everyone. I certainly want to encourage discussion about the finalists, so keep them coming.

    Anon 8:55, I assumed I would get at least one comment like yours. I don’t necessarily expect everyone to agree with the jury’s picks, which is exactly why I already said that I plan to post many of the other entries in the future. By nature, a competition has to have a winner, and that will happen in this case, but a thoughtful discussion of all the concepts is what I am excited about. Some readers may really like an idea from an entry that the jury did not pick. That is great, because discussion is what this blog is all about. In my mind, that is what separates a blog from a static form of communication like a traditional website or a magazine. So yeah, I encourage criticism…just make sure it is constructive.

  8. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 2:16 pm -  Reply

    I’m for the “Huang” concept. Clean, simple, bulletproof. That is the commuter for the masses. I don’t think making bicycles more “carlike” is the method to get more of the masses on board, but rather bikes need to be less hassle than a car to get people on board.

  9. David January 9, 2009 at 3:53 pm -  Reply

    An excellent set of future-mobiles. The downfall of these competitions is that people go all fature-tastic. There’s no reason to reinvent brake levers, they work fine, and if you do, who the heck is going to fix it when it breaks down? Besides that, cost and feasability are real concerns. I’m not criticizing these designs, but I’ll repeat R’s comment, and add a bit: The fact that it’s so hard to improve on current technology means that it’s pretty darn good. It also means: IT’S NOT ABOUT THE BIKE, to coin a phase. Of all the barriers that keep people from riding and commuting on bikes, very few have to do with the bicycles themselves.

    The winner in my book is the one who figures out how to make it all for the least amount of money, while treating employees properly and without destroying the environment.

    Better yet, the winner’s are the ones redesigning and rebuilding our infrastructure, teaching people how to ride safely, and helping people heal the spiritual wounds inflicted by the auto/oil/military/industrial complex. There’s a mouthful. I really went off on a tangent there, didn’t I/

  10. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm -  Reply

    yea you did.

  11. Jack January 9, 2009 at 5:30 pm -  Reply

    I thought of this contest in the same way I thought about open source software: an attempt to make an existing product marginally but importantly better. That no bike succeeds with all seems besides the point, the process matters. I can imagine some bright mechanic stealing several ideas from this contest.

    For my money, I like Huang’s bike: it passes my Dad test. Could I get my Dad to ride this?, you betcha. Granted, an all aluminum frame will rattle the bejeezes out of my pops, but details, details. . .

  12. Anonymous January 9, 2009 at 7:58 pm -  Reply

    Good evening,
    I have to go along with David 3:53’s comments about changing infrastructure and minds before designs. And yet SOME of it IS about the bike. Henry Ford was once quoted “If I’d asked my customers what THEY wanted they would have said faster horses’. When he came out with a car that did what horses did, and more everything else changed to accommodate it. These bikes all appear to be _slower_ horses – and likely heavier too. The bike that attracts the 97% non-cycling community will be the one that DOES what cars do. Not the one that has car-like features.

    A bike that provides weather protection, stability and adequate lighting on .25hp or less isn’t a pipe dream. Velomobiles are in production that already deliver this, admittedly they do it best in flat terrain. I’ve ridden homebuilt 2-wheel velomobiles and they can do it in hilly terrain.

    To my thinking (and I have the experience to back it up) that’s what will attract people to propel themselves on all the short trips that they currently misuse cars for. My long-term view is that bikes are good for short trips, cars (rented) might be OK for moderate distances and public transit (bus, train, PRT, tube, planes) for long distances. A bike that can carry you in comfort for short distances in any weather at any time of day, then folds to carry in a car or on public transit is my ideal – and what I submitted for a contest design (both an upright and recumbent variant).

    Nick Hein
    Morgantown, WV

  13. jayhay January 9, 2009 at 10:03 pm -  Reply

    I’m with some of the other commenters here in principle. Bikes have been going through 100+ years of heated redesign, reinvention and refinement of the basic function – self-powered travel. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

    So it seems there are two ways to judge these, as an ‘outside the box’ design, or simple, real-world consumer appeal that would get more people on bikes. I tend towards the latter, meaning several of these designs scream “quadrophonic” to me – clever, but ultimately not better.

    That said, I go with the Huang. To get there I think, “Which of these makes me think ‘iPod’?” A product that does much of what the competitors do, but with style and fun. Who wants to be seen sporting the new Samsung mpeg player?

    Getting people onto bikes is about two things, sex appeal and true ease of use. The Huang looks cool to me in a sleek modern way, and I think that’s what it would take to get a non bike rider on a bike – to own something that they will get vicarious credit from, that they will be seen as hipper for owning, AND it needs to bring new fun or convenience to their life. So I think on top of a cool design, it needs to be the Prius of bikes. A simple, zero learning-curve electric assist bike. Someone who is not already convinced to ride needs to be seduced by a sweet looking product that won’t make them sweat. Nice bike lanes would help too, but that’s another story.

    So I say give me the Huang, with a simple, invisible electric assist, and a pass through the Apple marketing department, and you might change some minds. I might even buy one!

  14. Marcin January 9, 2009 at 10:49 pm -  Reply

    I’m very impressed as all of the projects look very sexy. Especially I see Rick’s bike the most visionary.

    I share R’s from the metro 2:44AM remarks about feasibility of those entries. In my point of view the purpose of this contest was to find a good balance between comfort, handiness, innovativeness… but also simplicity. Commuter bike for the masses should be made of relatively cheap materials. I can not imagine average Joe ridding on a carbon and titanium.

    I’m much interested in software and techniques the contestants used. The competition may be very good idea to share skills and experiences. As all of the finalists are individual I feel that it’s the good opportunity to start cooperation between amateurs and professionals or designers and manufacturers.

    It might be a good idea to put all the designs on a separate website allowing everyone to comment on particular concepts and share their constructive suggestions.

  15. Ron January 10, 2009 at 1:47 am -  Reply

    Finally the cats out of the bag, eh? Your readers have been waiting for over a month, but I agree it can be tough to interface with the candidates and the jury especially when you’re talking about 60+ entries from around the world. Good job. Sharp graphics and good presentations.

    Here comes my detail oriented first evaluations. Numbers 1-6 pertain to all the designs posted as they appeared on your blog.

    1. Rick Marland’s innovative design reminds me of
    Josef Cadek’s Locust folding bike. Very similar in looks and the main idea is to reduce the footprint of the folded bike and give good range of adjustability around a central circle. The bike is better over Cadek’s design because it has the fenders, swingarm supports for luggage and the suspensions for comfort. However, shaft drives with 90degree motion bevel gears are not made by a lot of companies. In this design, it MAY need to be licensed unless the designer makes his own shaft drive. Add all this to the cost of buying aftermarket gears to change gear ratios. and replacements for wear (due to high torque) if you’re using it on uphills and you’re looking at some weight and cost disadvantage. I also cannot take comfort in the fact that my bike and lock are ONE. Thieves are mostly unintelligent members of society, and in trying to get the bike free from the lamppost will also break my bike. Not good. Moreover, the strength of that seatpost gets me a little edgy. Will it support a 180-200lb man adequately is the question.

    2. Torkel’s design is almost a photocopy of Miroslav Miljevic’s solar powered Cycle Sol. There’s no telling this may not have been copied. However, one of the difference is Torkel’s bike has a chopper like front end with the handlebars whereas the Cycle Sol has side mounted handlebars. In Torkel’s design, I see distance between the seat and the handlebars as a serious pain in the arms and shoulders for a rider. The other difference is the most interesting wheels. Wow, looks really out of the this world. What is it? Are all those fancy wheel designs going to add to manufacturing cost? The other question to be asked is how do you maintain your drivetrain if you have to? Is there access to the enclosure? And using composite materials for a bigger vehicle like this is going to put on some serious cost. Some similar looking velomobiles in the market cost upto 10,000 dollars. Thats not what potential riders want in a bad economy. Lastly, about the solar cells. The panels, wiring, transducers and batteries could also up the weight and cost. Storage of a velomobile like this would require a garage or something.

    3. I like the moulded plastic idea for the frame in Ian’s design. Looks and color are fresh. The protective enclosures for luggage ensure that if the bike tips over, the luggage isn’t the first thing to contact the ground. Would it be possible to swivel the handlebar and fold it towards the bike? Same issue as in the previous design : how do you gain access to drive train for maintenance? What additional features does it have? The text is too small to even read properly.

    4. I like the material choices and the belt drive option. Very simple design. If the saddle is going to be integrated into the frame, does that mean one cannot remove it and replace it with something of his choice? I also do not understand how you can ‘mount’ a hollow bottom bracket to a lock. Some pictures with explanations would have been good. No fenders on the bike but I assume the designer believes in users fitting aftermarket ones of their choice. Did he really build this bike and test ride it as shown in the picture or is this a photoshop job? It looked great anyway! Ha!

    5. While I like the effort on Nohlin’s part to think up the top tube embedded cyclocomputer, is this really the ‘perfect’ commuter bike? Key slot for handebar lock? Whats next? Remote keyless entry? Is this like an abstinence toy for motorists? Will they really mount their bikes with a key in the hand on Monday morning thinking they’re really stepping into a pleasure car? I don’t know if you want to play with their minds to this extreme but good effort anyway. I do like the integrated lights feature. Be Seen To Be Safe is a great goal to have in a design, especially in a road vehicle thats an underdog in traffic situations. However, you have to wonder how you’re going to bundle all the wires for the lights internally.

    6. P-One may be a neat presentation to you but as readers, we saw zilch. All we can see is a silhouette of what appears to be a bike and loads of text all around it. This is not being fair to the designer either. James, put up another picture of the material.

  16. Jared January 10, 2009 at 3:21 pm -  Reply

    I also am a commuter, and am looking at it from a practicality angle. In terms of maintnence and repair some of these bikes seem quite far fetched. These bikes remind me almost of concept cars, that are prettyto look at, but no one buys. If these bikes are designed for a casual commuter who rides less then 10 miles, and has no concern about repairing their own bikes then I can understand these being viable options. Other then in a big city setting I just cant see these bikes as practicle, or cheap enough for your average commuter.

  17. RJ January 11, 2009 at 2:10 am -  Reply

    I like that ‘This Way’ provides some of the weather protection that currently available velomobiles do– except without the claustrophobic enclosure.

  18. Anonymous January 11, 2009 at 9:48 am -  Reply

    One of the rules of the competition was originality and preceding posts show Rick’s to look like Josef Cadek’s Locust; Torkel’s to look like a Quasar; Mark’s to have been designed for The Sims and Chris’s to be a Moulton, so shouldn’t all these designs be disregarded?

    That leaves Ian’s Dutch style design which would be no fun on hills (Holland doesn’t have hills) and Erik’s, which pretty much already exists through accessories. So the six are either too close to something already done before or are just not viable economically or practically.

    The enthusiasm preceding the competition won’t be realised when one of these is selected winner. What they also have in common is that none have commercial potential and it will be interesting to see what real ideas were uncovered for the price of a Bad Boy.

  19. Anonymous January 11, 2009 at 1:36 pm -  Reply

    Some of the comments so far are from the POV of commmited
    EXISTING cyclists and enthusiasts (pretty obviously on this blog 🙂 ).

    But some have missed the point that the competition is about trying to get non-cyclists and non-enthusiasts to ride … by offering some ALTERNATIVE, more tempting bike designs. It is NOT about changing the road infrastructure or doing more of the same for enthusiasts. To understand the competition (and why I guess these 6 have been shortlisted) we need to listen to why people dont cycle: (safety, lycra image, rain, jargon, complex stuff like gears, etc. etc.) …. yeh yeh on this blog readers all know all this, but try and get into the heads of folk who just haven’t considered cycling AT ALL !!).

    Also I am shocked by the number of commenters who seem to think that an approx similarity means ‘its been done before’ eg all bikes with a circle somewhere in them are the same, all bikes with small wheels, all bikes with tube over the rider are the same, P..LEASE … look closer at the details.

    I would congratulate the shortlisted designs – each has merits and each has taken thought … ignore all these negative armchair critics, who ‘know it all’ (but have never themselves done anything constructive).

    In an industry where a subtle change in top tube angle and a paint job warrant a major press release is great to see some new thinking. I agree with RJ above and like ‘This Way’ by Torkel Dohmers – real advantages to attract car users.

  20. Anonymous January 11, 2009 at 4:50 pm -  Reply

    Very very nice visualisation techniques! I just hope it was not the contest of the best rendering, instead of the best idea.

    Can’t resist to share my cruel ‘comfy-sitting-behind-my-screen’ criticism though, (intended as constructive!)

    RICK: Why do you use such elaborate techniques in places where it does not add any (design) advantages and that will only make it very expensive while adding more problems then resolving; like the pretty large turning circle on the right turns.

    TORKEL: Sorry but at any speed over 3mph your legs still get soaking wet; the most annoying part of your body to get wet (you know: rubbing, jeans that take long to get dry, etc). I guess that altering the design so your legs stay dry will kind of destroy the nice lines you drew there? Personally I see this as design cheating, sacrificing dry legs for smoother lines.
    And 12 kg, with all those features? At the price of $2000 per kg maybe. As stated before: be careful not to turn it into an essay contest it is so easy to write down “12kg”, but engineering it??

    IAN: Very functional and friendly design except for the abundance of bodywork. Adding weight and making it a real cycling nightmare in those crosswind conditions often encountered in cities with high buildings. And maybe you should think about adding a lock to attach the bike to a fixed object. Bicycles are too light for only wheel/pedal/steer locks.

    MARK: Very elegant design in the virtual world. But try to incorporate more realism in your design and I fear it might loose some of its charm: Brake/gear/cables, kickstand, baggage retainers, Seat height, mud guards, etc.
    Furthermore I am missing the selling arguments to buy this bike instead of any of these:

    ERIK: Sorry I wanted to keep this constructive but your design just annoys me; you are like a manager of a software company: “it should have this and could have that and oh yeah while you are at it add this too” And then the programmers resolve your demands.
    Nothing really wrong with not knowing how to engineer something as long as you have some innovative ideas. But no! All I find in your idea is just a cycling computer and the silent absent of many very needed items for our future commuters (locking the bike to a bike rack, not getting dirty, kickstand, comfort, anti vandalism, transporting baggage).
    Hope I did not misinterpreted your idea Erik, otherwise please prove me wrong!

    CHRIS: Don’t you worry that non direct drive takes away the pleasure of cycling as well as the efficiency? Why pedal if you are just charging a battery that you can also charge at the “fast supercharge stations” (soon to come at any gas station near you, )
    With all that added weight, just make it an electric scooter already.

    Looking at the essence of the concepts I return to the Henry Ford quote and say: Because of the lack of the equivalent of Henry’s car in this competition it must be Ian’s faster horse that wins this one for me.

  21. Samuel January 11, 2009 at 5:45 pm -  Reply

    I like the folding commuter most. I think the idea is great, and innovative. It doesn’t look completely comfortable to ride, but I used to think that about road bikes before I actually tried them for any length of time.
    I appreciate the other designs very much, especially “This Way”.

  22. Anonymous January 11, 2009 at 5:46 pm -  Reply

    I want to congratulate all of the contestants who took the time and effort to submit their designs. Although, I agree with Anon 9:48 am. It seems like the finalists took the safe road. Yes, a new commuter wants reliability, and keeping with the old will certainly do that, but a contest implies originality. The worst that could happen is your design isn’t chosen, so take a RISK!! This leaves me wondering how risky and original the other 59 contestants were.
    To the finalist, great job. please don’t let my post tarnish your spirits. I could imagine all of your ideas on the streets in the near future. my criticism is aimed more toward the concept of a design competition.

  23. Ron January 11, 2009 at 7:25 pm -  Reply

    Anon @ 1:36 pm :

    This is an informal forum where James has given everyone the privilege to critique and praise at the same time. I have read all the comments so far and think the views expressed here are fair and balanced. In any design setting, negative ideas have to be kept back at the brainstorming stage for a concept. Now that concepts are out, you need to apply a reality check. Can these ideas really take shape and go forward to create the ‘perfect’ commuter bike?

    Good ideas surface out of critique. That openness is the best thing you can have in design. As for being armchair experts, you don’t really need to be a president to critique his policies.

  24. Anonymous January 12, 2009 at 10:33 am -  Reply

    I love how Torkel’s is between a velomobile and a recumbent bike. One problem I see with it though, is that there is not a straight line between the pedal axel and real wheel axel; that will mean extra chain directors and thus lots more effort to pedal.

  25. James January 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm -  Reply

    Ron, you are correct that this is an informal forum and that opinions can be freely expressed. Certainly, I encourage thoughtful debate about the finalists, or about anything else that I post. This blog is a place for discussion and the comments really do add a lot to every post.

    That said, I agree with much of what Anon @ 1:36 pm said. Several comparisons have been made between these concepts and existing products or previous concepts. One commenter even suggested that some finalists should be disqualified due to similarities. I have to say, I just don’t see it. I once had a designer accuse me of copying a product that I had never seen before. Honestly, when I saw his design, I didn’t really even see the similarity (and I thought mine was much better). He was just focused on one small element that he felt was his and he couldn’t really see that the designs were obviously derived independently. I think that is sort of the case here as well, and the anonymous commenter expressed that sentiment.

    I won’t reference all the bikes mentioned, but as an example, I just don’t see much similarity between something like the “ThisWay” concept and the Cycle Sol. Sure they both have roofs integrated into the form, but that doesn’t even come close to making them the same. Even within the 65 entries received, there are similarities in thought process and even in form. I have no reason to believe that any of the designers who submitted entries saw the work of others, but I think it is to be expected that similar broad themes would emerge.

    Anyway, I am not trying to discourage constructive criticism, but the implications that some of the designs were copied seem to have no basis.

  26. James January 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm -  Reply

    …and Ron, just to be clear, my comment about implications of copying was not geared toward you.

    I was mainly saying that in response to Anon@9:48 who said, “The enthusiasm preceding the competition won’t be realised when one of these is selected winner.” Please… you have to be kidding.

  27. Conor C January 12, 2009 at 12:56 pm -  Reply

    I agree with R-from-the-metro about project designers seem to have either refined or rethought the bicycle. Except that integrating accessories might achieve something of more value to the non-cyclist than the sum of the parts. But I also don’t think out-of-the-box entries need to be evaluated by every challenge in the real work if the concept reveals a new way of thinking about how people could live with bicycles and cycling as part of ever evolving lifestyles.

    David’s observations aren’t wrong, but the point of the competition was that the bicycle industry was focusing at the wrong end of the market. And while infrastructure, legislation and education have significant influence on the uptake of daily cycling, there was still an argument that the machines themselves could be significantly improved to fit with the needs of people not currently being catered for by the major manufacturers and distributors.

    Ron fair play to you for the detailed analysis it gives a lot more food for thought. And Jayhay, that’s a great collection of old configurations. There’s something intriguing about the natural looking riding posture of the recumbent that features near the start.

    Anon 9:48, I confess to have been disappointed initially as well when I saw what was selected. But that was only really because mine wasn’t amongst the finalists ;-). Thinking about the different projects over time, savoring them if you will, merits the effort. Anon 1:36, I completely agree with you to bring the discussion back to the brief. Anon 4:50 I think you have some valid points, especially linking to the Dutch bikes in general. But you could bring more to the argument with a few more positive observations. Anon 5:46 i agree it would be really good to see the other designs.

    Anyway, congratulations to the 6 finalists. With an eye to the original brief: “Do you have an idea for a bicycle that might persuade the average person, with no prior interest in cycling, to park the car and pedal to work?” here’s the order that I think each of the entries best meet the challenge:

    #1st Untitled entry by Ian Clewett – simple, utility bike with protective faring, that can afford varying amounts of storage. I particularly like the handlebars. But if you were to develop it further, I think you could work on the styling.

    #2nd This Way by Torkel Dohmers – The styling for this is really neat, light and sharp. And could work really well for certain commuting situations, but the length of the wheel base reduces the usefulness for nipping around town. The design would merit more attention to mounting, dismounting and parking.

    #3rd Untitled entry by Mark Huang – I would be surprised if this didn’t generate some debate amongst the jury. I missed the subtly of this entry at first, but it’s growing on me and I might rank it higher again with more time. Think more ergonomically fitted handlebars would be an improvement and would question the value of the hollow bottom bracket. Surprised there are no mudguards for such a considered design.

    #4th The MuskOx Concept by Erik Nohlin – Focusing on integrated electrics for lighting and speedometer with a nod to original backstay styling merits kudos. But I don’t think this entry tries hard enough to appeal to a different market than is already the focus of the bike industry.

    #5th P-one by Chris Green – A better range of electric assisted bikes will defiantly help get a greater range of people on two wheels. But I’m sorry, there just isn’t enough information to asses this entry and the accompanying text doesn’t seem to match what we can see of the design. The looks to me to be a more viable version of this format. The inclusion of solar panels on what can be seen of the frame seems over the top.

    #6th Folding Commuter bike by Rick Marland – There is no doubt that a lot of work must have gone into this design. And I think the fear of theft is a significant deterrent to people considering cycling. But the point of a folding bike is that you can take it with you, rather than lock it in places where it would be more vulnerable to theft. So I can’t help but think this entry multiplies the complexity when it addresses the same problem in two different ways.

    PS: have just seen the comment from James on comparisons between entries and other projects. I think we can all just go home if we can’t reference the designs that have gone before or can’t cope with superficial coincidences…

    Finally, this may be an over simplification. But I reckon more bikes are marketed and men rather than women. I was expecting this to be compensated for in the choice of finalists!

    Thanks for the discussion 🙂

  28. James January 12, 2009 at 1:05 pm -  Reply

    Conor C said, “PS: have just seen the comment from James on comparisons between entries and other projects. I think we can all just go home if we can’t reference the designs that have gone before or can’t cope with superficial coincidences…”

    Not at all. I reallize I came accross that way, so I tried to clarify it with my second comment. Making comparisons (as you, Ron,and others did) is fine. I just didn’t like the accusatory tone of Anon 9:48’s comment. Still, I probably should have just ignored it.

    Civil discussion is great; I don’t want to squash that at all. Carry on.

  29. James January 12, 2009 at 1:12 pm -  Reply

    Ouch, “reallize” and “accross” in the same sentence. I really need to spell check my comments.

  30. Anonymous January 12, 2009 at 4:21 pm -  Reply

    Anon 9:48 here. May I offer an unreserved apology to anyone, especially James, who was offended by my earlier post? I judged that the sophisticated readership here would appreciate that the comments were made in the spirit of the encouraged constructive debate.

    Good luck to all the finalists.

  31. James January 12, 2009 at 5:23 pm -  Reply

    Anon 9:48, I wasn’t really offended, I just felt like your comment was taking the discussion down the wrong path. Critique is always good, but the implication that all of the finalists should be disqualified due to lack of originality and commercial potential just didn’t seem to be helping to foster a meaningful discussion. Neither did your statement that “it will be interesting to see what real ideas were uncovered for the price of a Bad Boy”. I read that a certain way, but I apologize though if I misinterpreted the comment. In hindsight, I probably should have just waited and stayed out of the discussion while I was preoccupied with other issues. It has just been one of those days.

    Moving on, I want to mention again that I do plan to post many of the other entries so that you all can decide for yourselves which solution you like best. As a jury, we had different lists of favorites for different reasons, so I expect that many of you will be drawn to different concepts as well. Nothing wrong with that.

    Also, I agree with Ron and others that it would be helpful to post higher res images of the finalists. I am somewhat limited by Blogger, but I will post larger images of the finalists boards to Flickr and point you all there.

  32. Andraz January 12, 2009 at 6:17 pm -  Reply

    Since I have put some effort in to ideas for commuter bike (, I was very curious what will come out of this competition.

    Ian Clewett is a winner in my eyes, for production he should address some styling issues that are purely artistic but impractical, otherwise I can call it a commuter BIKE for the masses especially if it is cheap and lightweight. It is a Piaggio Vespa among motorcycles or an iPod. No dirt, no grease, no aftermarket customizing. (

    Rick Marland has put a lot effort into his project, but it came out too good to be true. I like Torkel Dohmerses recumbent as well but there is too little roof on it to be used for anything else than drag.

    In China there is a lot of electrical aided bikes production and demand increases, so it seems Chris Greens design can have a bright future, but presentation is to weak.

    Congratulations to all finalists and jury… except Erik Nohlin for making bike a disco ball.


  33. mmakis January 12, 2009 at 10:27 pm -  Reply

    I like the The MuskOx Concept by Erik Nohlin. I haven’t read the entire article. And I haven’t read the plethora of comments either. But, the MuskOx looks right up my alley.

    I’m going off of looks though. Mainly because I just ride back and forth the beach.

  34. Anonymous January 13, 2009 at 9:49 am -  Reply

    Lovely designs, but a BMX would fit the brief well – simple, robust, ‘cool’ – they just need to make them a bit bigger!

  35. Anonymous January 13, 2009 at 11:50 am -  Reply

    “Anonymous said…

    Lovely designs, but a BMX would fit the brief well – simple, robust, ‘cool’ – they just need to make them a bit bigger!”

    I agree, over shortish distances, less than 4 miles a BMX is hard to beat for reliability… but bigger is no problem..

  36. slippy January 13, 2009 at 12:37 pm -  Reply

    I’m a cyclist and industrial designer. The visualizations here are really nice. I especially like the pencil sketches of the roofed bike.

    Limiting the competition to ‘commuters’ also enriches the quality of the entries. I think the great designers who participated could do even better work, with a few more “real-world” constraints.

    Bicycle design competitions have been going on for decades. Aside from advancements in miniaturization of components (torque meters in the cranks, small LED lights) and carbon fiber, nearly none of these sorts of design competition entries’ ideas made it into wide usage. Its interesting to debate the merits and drawbacks of these designs, but looking at the history of these concepts makes me skeptical that these design exercises are “forward-looking”.

    If I had to guess, I’d say about 1% of all the wild, competition-winning designery bikes ever penned made any difference in the development of the bicycle over the past ten years. As designers, we should see that something is wrong there. Either we aren’t doing our homework sufficiently (asking and observing riders), or lack the immersive technical knowledge (riding, building, repairing) to produce good concepts.

    They sure bring out some strong comments from readers.

    Ideas-wise, I like Erik’s. I agree there are technical limitations but from a simple frame design POV he has oriented components and tubes to best exemplify his concept. Bikes that look like cars, with fairings and automotive surfacing, are limited in use and impossibly cost-prohibitive, not to mention slow, heavy, and un-aero. And to surmise that “a driver will want a bike that looks like a car” is pretty simplistic… it reminds me of the little mini-Hummers that some parents get for their toddlers.

  37. Ron January 13, 2009 at 11:50 pm -  Reply

    “Bicycle design competitions have been going on for decades. Aside from advancements in miniaturization of components (torque meters in the cranks, small LED lights) and carbon fiber, nearly none of these sorts of design competition entries’ ideas made it into wide usage.”

    Slippy : You have a thought provoking comment there. Once these ideas are sensationalized, to take them from paper to reality essentially requires a channel of funds. You can’t do anything in this world without money. It’ll be lucky if the designer has his own flow of cash. I suspect in most cases, he doesn’t and so they have to approach a company or a venture capitalist for funding who may or may not take interest in their idea because while ideas may seem great and look great, there is also always an element of RISK that investors have to contend with. If they’re going to pour in money into this project and it ultimately fails, there goes millions of dollars in water.

    I suspect this is why a majority of these ‘concepts’ don’t take off and take shape into something that can actually be USED by someone. Practically, they are very unconvincing to the man or persons with all the money sitting in the other end of the table. Feel free to correct me or add your thoughts to this if any.

    To just give a classic example of this failure to ‘take off’, I wrote about Revopower, the gas engine retrofitted bicycle last year. To this day, potential customers around the U.S await the release of the product. Where is it? No idea.

  38. Motorcycle Jacket January 14, 2009 at 12:44 am -  Reply


    I think there are so many people like these designs.

  39. Anonymous January 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm -  Reply

    These bikes makes me appreciate designs like the Strida, Brompton and the Tikit even more.

  40. Anonymous January 15, 2009 at 9:20 pm -  Reply

    I think the number of comments generated so far is great validity of having the competition.

    If one designer in a such a short time could design the ‘perfect’ commuter bike, surely even one company would have done it by now?

    So, even if ‘just’ one design feature goes into production it will be an advance that wouldn’t have happened without the competition.

    Could that be illumiNITE type paint?

    another James

  41. Anonymous January 17, 2009 at 6:28 am -  Reply

    I agree that the number of comments at the beginning of the competition validated it.

  42. Ana y Rafa January 22, 2009 at 3:30 am -  Reply

    High quality of design. International. I´ve been surprised this morning with these concepts and the competitors.

    Please James continue with a new edition.

  43. Cycledad January 22, 2009 at 4:51 am -  Reply

    I’d like to give a thumbs up retrospective vote for Mark Huangs design. Mostly because i’m looking for that bike right now!

    I need a step thru bike short haul commuter bike which doesnt look effeminate (ie a ladies bike for laaadiees) or shoddy and is low maintenance. Its very hard to find and i think Mark has captured it nicely.

    Thumbs up to the pragmatic, yet aesthetically pleasing step thru design and the big ‘easy clean’ surfaces (that idea is genius!)

    Thumbs down to no mudguards and no lights.

    Jurys out on the custom pannier rack\lock concept and saddle. They both sound like things that people have strong preferences about.

  44. Anonymous January 26, 2009 at 12:55 pm -  Reply

    Interesting concepts, but were there any trike/narrow trike options? While we cyclists like to think that everyone can ride a bike there are many people who lack the coordination and/or the experience to keep a bike upright and in control at speed. This can easily be witnessed on any local bike trail on a warm summer day.

    If you put together a narrow trike with some weight reduction work it would help appeal to many and gives a lot more options on storage and capacity issues, including solar and battery capabilities.

  45. ARBA-AlcoSanse January 27, 2009 at 4:24 am -  Reply

    Way by Torkel Dohmers y P-one by Chris Green son las que más me gustan. Son fantásticas y estaría muy bien ver nuestras ciudades llenas de estas bicicletas con gente que va a trabajar o al gimnasio, etc., etc.
    Tambien se podrían añadir algunas ideas de la MuskOx Concept by Erik Nohlin.

    Un saludo y gracias

  46. Helmut Walle January 30, 2009 at 3:58 am -  Reply

    Great competition, but…
    a few more comments regarding Torkel Dohmer’s “ThisWay” winning concept: while the “high 2nd moment of area” certainly provides some inherent stiffness, it also is a good recipe to make the vehicle very sensitive to crosswinds. Specifically, fairing parts high above the ground contribute substantially to cross wind sensitivity. Anyone judging a concept like this one should ride a prototype in slightly gusty conditions before making up their mind…
    And one more point: are the rider’s feet / heels actually clearing the ground? Also when cornering? The bottom bracket looks very close to the ground, and now imagine riding over a small bump with one of your feet in the low pedal position — ouch!!
    Finally, regarding the claimed weight of 11 to 12 kg: I will believe it when I see it — solar cells, batteries, windscreen: these are all components adding to the weight of the vehicle. Yes, it is certainly possible to make a vehicle that looks like this at the claimed weight, but at what cost?!

  47. Prof.Prodromal February 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm -  Reply

    I am a recumbent bike designer, builder, and commuter. I for one can not ride a standard bike because they aggravate my carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritic spine.

    I believe that the only way to sell the vast majority of non-cyclists on the idea of pedaling is to put a motor on them to help climb hills and speed across intersections with out creating tendonitis, or even sweat.

    Prone bikes are for young healthy people that are in a hurry. So I encourage these attempts at designing an appealing bike. But you need to consider the other dynamics:
    A 50 degree seat angle is easier to balance than a seat at 35, even if it is more fun to ride laid back; along wheel base is easier to balance than short.; and the lack of swing steer (.5” trail) is the ‘state-of-the-art’ design because it is more maneuverable, even with a steer axis of 50 degrees.

    My blog is

  48. Prof.Prodromal February 11, 2009 at 1:48 pm -  Reply

    If you want people to give up their cars you must offer them a design miracle: a folding trike with the seat 18” or more off the ground. I would be glad to donate one million dollars to that design winner, if it also leans into the turns like a bike.

  49. imaca February 28, 2009 at 8:17 pm -  Reply

    Rick Marland – too expensive/visually unappealing
    Torkel Dohmers – too expensive
    Ian Clewett – too expensive – cross wind steering likly to be a problem
    Mark Huang – no seat height adjustment
    Erik Nohlin – feedback idea could appeal I think.
    Chris Green – the raleigh 20 has made this form factor eternally uncool

  50. Jim M. Muellner November 29, 2010 at 9:50 pm -  Reply

    The JTB trike has many of the features requested, even the roof and leaning feature. The problem with most users, they do not understand the features and therefore struggle with their current cycles instead of asking key questions of the designer or even test the units available.
    JTB has the tricumbent, it can be ridden as a two wheel recumbent, as a three wheeled trike or can be made into a side by side recumbent. It answers many of the questions ask by cyclist, but few are really interested as all they want to do is talk. JMM

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