Note from James: In the last post, I introduced Eric Stoddard who shared some of his commentary from the IBDC awards. In this post, he is back with more thoughts and observations from the show floor in Taipei:
We’ve been talking quite a bit about the Blue Ocean of potential cyclists that Mark Sanders described in his presentation at the Taipei Cycle design trend forum… There’s definitely a push among the major manufacturers to reach out beyond the traditional road and mountain cycling enthusiasts. Also, because the Asian cycling environment tends to increasingly urban and dense, cycling is emerging as a truly viable alternative to driving, especially when combined with public transport. I believe the Asian bicycle industry is naturally positioned to lead the way in the development of new bicycle concepts.
Starting with folding bikes, this is definitely one of the fastest growing categories on the market, but the clear standout was the IF Mode from Pacific Cycles. This is Mark Sanders’ latest creation, and this time it’s a full size 26″ bike. Ryan Carroll, the chief development engineer for Pacific was there to demonstrate the speed and ease of folding and unfolding the bike, and he let my wife Amy and I try it out. With a little practice, we were able to fold and unfold it in seconds…faster than our Stridas. The bike is stunning to look at, with hidden cables, single-sided fork and single-sided chainstay that conceals the drivetrain. One thoughtful detail is the handle integrated into the stem for handling the bike when folded. The overall market seems to be splitting between bikes that emphasize performance and those that stress ease of folding, but the IF Mode does both.
Electric bikes are another fast-growing niche in the market, and there were dozens of vendors offering their versions. Most of them, however, were not very innovative and were merely converted bikes. I see a vast, green field of opportunity for designers in this type of vehicle, and there were a few examples that are starting to take electric cycling to the next level. I had a chance to test ride the Ultra Motor A2B on the LEV test course outside the convention hall. The A2B has been a standout design for me since it was introduced last fall, and it was clearly the standout of the show for electric bikes. In person, the bike seems larger and more substantial than in photographs, but I really began to appreciate the level of finish and execution, with the battery, controller, and wiring all hidden within the frame. Additional batteries clip onto the cargo rack for added range. While the performance of the A2B is consistent with other electric bikes I’ve ridden, I’ve got 2 words to describe the riding experience: solid, and plush. The ride quality was supple yet secure, and it felt really well put together, with no noticeable rattles or squeaks. Mike Fritz, VP of product development for Ultra Motor, was there to share some insight into the A2B’s development.
While not exactly a bicycle, the Shoprider Flagship was an interesting single-seat micro-electric car from the maker of mobility scooters. Essentially an enclosed electric scooter, it came with wipers, climate control, a rear cargo trunk and sound system.
I usually don’t think of innovation when it comes to Giant, but they had a few very interesting bikes worth noting... This year they introduced the Ascend series, their flagship line of commuters. This bike takes the traditional urban commuter concept to the next level, in terms of engineering, execution, style and attention to detail. The centerpiece of the frame is the beautiful execution of the front and rear suspension that preserves the clean lines of a road bike. Interesting details include the integrated seatpost collar and tail lamp, 3-dimensional badging, polished alloy bits everywhere and a brushed anodized gray finish. This is the bike that was awarded to Larry Chen in the design competition.
They also showed their Bowery ’72 dressed up in matching brown leather bags, saddle and bar tape, polished fenders and retro-green paint scheme. I really like the new Giant logo…Retro and modern at the same time!
The Giant MAMO is a ladies’ city bike that comes with a matching basket/handbag that is color-coordinated with the fenders.
More to come…
Eric Stoddard, Industrial Designer