Prelude: a bicycle for the non-enthusiast

Commuter, Concept, Student Design 33 21

Jason Bushby, a transportation design student at Northumbria University in the UK, recently designed “a bicycle for the non-enthusiast” as his final project. As you can see from the image shown here, he built a working model/ prototype of his design, which he calls the Prelude. Jason had contacted me some time ago to tell me about his project. It was around the time that the commuter bike for the masses design competition was coming to an end, and he pointed out that he was planning to tackle many of the same issues that commenters had brought up here on the blog. From his initial research, Jason determined that “the main contributing factors for people not using a bicycle for local trips were visibility in traffic, carrying belongings, durability, security of the bike and its accessories.” His design intent was to address those issues, while keeping the cost low, in order to develop a bike that would encourage new cyclists.

The first thing that you will likely notice about the Prelude is the integrated lighting in the frame. Jason explained his idea behind that element of the design:

“Night riding is inherently dangerous to cyclists. Small lights can easily get lost in traffic putting cyclists in danger. The Prelude bicycle improves safety at night by using electroluminescent lights for the rear and side, while using a 1-watt LED bulb at the front to light the way. This increased surface area of light allows the bicycle to be seen through 360 degrees. The placement of the lights follow the frames outline creating a recognizable symbol of a bicycle.

The lights are powered by a battery pack attached to the bottom of the seatpost inside the frame. The batteries are recharged from the dynamo front hub enabling the lights to never need any external power source other than the power produced by the cyclist. The electroluminescent wire is encased in silicon protecting the electrics from the elements. The Integration lighting system is not only convenient but also reduces the risk of accessory theft.”

I wish that I could share the entire pdf file that Jason sent to me, but I had to choose just a few select images. Hopefully this is enough to give you the basic idea. Jason is interested in hearing what people think of his concept, so any feedback on the design is welcome.

Update: You can now see Jason’s pdf file here.

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33 Comments

  1. mumbreeze June 2, 2009 at 9:49 pm -  Reply

    This is really cool. the idea of using electroluminescent lights is certainly unique. I would love to see the bike manufactured.

    I don't know if this applies to Jason's design or not, but something that I would love to see developed is turn signals that could neatly be integrated into the bike. I think most of us enthusiasts use hand signals when riding in traffic, but I find it difficult at times to do it properly especially if I'm carrying stuff on the bike, so if I could signal with just a flick of a finger instead, it would be so much easier and more easily noticeable to motorists as well.

  2. GeekGuyAndy June 2, 2009 at 10:24 pm -  Reply

    Ok lets's be realistic. The ideas are certainly good, but adding a dynamo hub to any bike is going to jack the price up. Same with that amount of lighting too. I'm not sure a hub can generate quite the amount of power that system requires either, but it's a good thought.

    Maybe it's explained in other pictures, but the "solutions" are definitely missing from your post. The chain guard pic makes it look singlespeed, but he mentions gearing. It's difficult to have a chaincase that can fully enclose gears, or if he meant that this is a singlespeed than cross that off the list for being a commuter bike in any non-flat area. The other issue not addressed is carrying stuff. I see a simple rack, but no side guards means no panniers. Trunk bags are nice, but may not meet the capacity a beginning commuter is hoping for.

    For all my criticism, this is one of the only "for the masses" type of bike that actually seems functional and does not outrageously expensive to produce. Explain the features a little more (especially racks and sturdy locks), and ditch the hub for a wall outlet charger to make it cheaper and you might have something going here.

  3. Anonymous June 2, 2009 at 11:16 pm -  Reply

    gadgets hung on frames that look the same as everything else don't sell to the masses. the industry and designers need to get over that hump. until then, the masses won't bite unless it retails for less than $100.

  4. Spiny Norman June 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm -  Reply

    Andy: No, plug in batteries are 1990s technology, and dynohubs are the way to go for commuting. Shimano generator hubs aren't too expensive (I paid under $100 retail – they'd be much less OEM) and I've paid a lot more for some rechargeable battery systems I've owned. Since they can power a 3 watt halogen light, they should have plenty of power for a modern LED head and tail light and some glowy tape. I'd use a capacitor standlight though, not batteries, since it's a lot lighter and the lights are already mass produced for the European market. Maybe even power the rear blinky with a wheel magnet and induction coil, like the old Red Alert lights.

    And that bike would have internal hub gearing which works fine with a chaincase.

    As for the bike, it's not as bad as most "Ideal Commuters" but it's still overdesigned. That's fine for a concept bike but not if it's going to see mass production. A commuter bike needs full fenders, that bike doesn't even appear to have any way of mounting them. The rack as shown in the diagram is almost useless (seat post racks are only for badly desgined bikes that can't take real stay-mounted racks, which are stronger and lighter and lower and better). As with the fenders, it doesn't appear to have any way to mount a real rack either. I'm not sure about the chaincase – they do keep the chain clean but make it a lot harder to fix a flat on the road. I'd consider an exposed belt drive like Trek is using on some of their city bikes instead.

    The hidden cable lock is neat, I'd like that on my MTB or my country road bike for quick snack stops en route, but even the thickest cable locks are easy to cut and are not secure enough for a city bike, period. A better means of carrying a U lock that doesn't steal water bottle mounting places would be a nice addition. Oh yeah, it needs at least one bottle cage because it gets hot in the summer – maybe a bar mounted one that doubles as a coffee cup holder. But I'd still put the usual brazeons in the usual places so the owner can decide what to do with them.

    This isn't about this bike specifically, but I don't like overly proprietary accessories like racks, fenders, and lights. It's better even if it isn't as elegant to use standard mounts for those thing, in case things need to be replaced down the road or the included ones don't suit the owner's needs.

    If you really want to build the ideal commuter for the masses, just copy an old Raleigh Sports in aluminum or 4130 CrMo, with modern, standard, aluminum parts and modern dynohub lighting. You could probably get it under 30 pounds without making it too crazy expensive.

  5. GeekGuyAndy June 2, 2009 at 11:56 pm -  Reply

    A better lock with a similar concept is the one embedded in the seatpost. Un-quickrelease it and pull out the lock and your bike AND seat can be secured. I guess it depends where you are, but cable locks do just fine here. I have have no worries with them when I park at grocery stores and other places with pedestrian traffic, but I would never leave my bikes out overnight with any lock.

  6. Tinker June 3, 2009 at 12:45 am -  Reply

    Abus makes a rather neat lock, segmented, so it is flexible like a cable, but hardened so it is safer, like a U-lock. It folds up into a package about the size of a Leatherman multitool, comes with a case and mounts easily.

    The electroluminescent feature is not a conventional reflective tape, it is a powered LIGHT SOURCE that can be used on reflective jackets and the like, similar to an LED. (There are battery powered hi-vis jackets using the technology all over the place, batteries mounted in the pockets.)

    I'd like the rear hub to be built into a HEAVY DUTY WHEEL,or offered from the factory as an option, and the front wheel to be rugged/sturdy as well. 40 spokes(lighted?), a nice fat reflective tire (See the Big Apple/Fat Frank tires from Schwalbe) for the softer ride/suspension effect. (Maybe because I am bigger than average, and I would not like to spend a lot of money on building wheels that will not support me.)

    Or maybe a set of optional Mag-styled heavy duty wheels, since weight is not a problem for a commuter. (Why not try something new?)

    • ian March 22, 2010 at 12:24 pm -  Reply

      mag style wheels have much lower strength to weight ratio than tangential spoked wheels. spoked wheels aren’t weak because of the spokes themselves or the weight the support, but because they are often poorly built. a properly tensioned 32 spoke wheel is more than adequate for heavy duty trail riding, a well build 36 spoke wheel, laced 4 cross can easily support a tandem team that would crush a mag type wheel and is well overbuilt for city riding. mag wheels also transfer bumps and road vibration to the rider better which counteracts any suspension effect the larger tires provide. the solution is handbuild wheels and reasonably wide (38mm+) tires. not mag wheels and huge tires. the former is lighter, stronger, and offers a smoother ride while the latter is weak for its weight and not as smooth…

  7. Alan Braggins June 3, 2009 at 2:51 am -  Reply

    Apart from the rack needing proper support, putting panniers on the rack is going to obscure the integrated rear light – it needs a light on the end of the rack as well (or at least a mounting point there for a battery one), or a fender mounted rear light.
    But those are details that could be fixed.

  8. Dirk June 3, 2009 at 3:46 am -  Reply

    Some good ideas here. I like the integrated light and integrated lock. But me too, I think a commuter bike needs a better lock, a better solution to transport a suitcase and fenders.

    @James
    Thanx for sharing this with us. But why can't you post the PDF? I would like to see it. Are there website-traffic reasons? If you mail it to me, I would gladly publish it on my webspace an send you a link to integrate in your article.

  9. miketually June 3, 2009 at 3:57 am -  Reply

    Bikes that are the ideal for non-enthusiasts already exist; they've been riding them in Holland for years…

  10. jamesmallon June 3, 2009 at 8:05 am -  Reply

    More power to the author, but he's reinventing the wheel, so to speak. Appropriate bikes exist, which only need to be refined by the lighting. Cost is going to be a primary issue, so a 'bicycle for the non-enthusiast' is going to have to come from a major name to take advantage of economy of scale.

    Internal hub is the way to go, and Shimano's hubs are great quality at their price. I prefer the 8 speed versions, but the 3 speed is much cheaper. The Kona AfricaBike Three is $500 US.

    With the appropriate economy of scale, the same bike could be produced in multiples sizes, with integrated front and rear LED 'be-seen' lighting, and reflective paint under the clear-coat. I'd also like to see a more complete chain guard, and very wide tires for the cheapest form of suspension.

  11. spongebob June 3, 2009 at 8:12 am -  Reply

    a great creation,, good,, but this creation no in my country

  12. John Russell June 3, 2009 at 8:41 am -  Reply

    I cycle thousands upon thousands of miles per year, and this still looks cool for me, even as an 'enthusiast'. The lighting sure sounds like a cool idea. Is the front light build it as well?

  13. James June 3, 2009 at 11:45 am -  Reply

    Good critiques and suggestions here; Keep the comments coming.

    Dirk, storage space on blogger was my initial issue with the pdf, but I uploaded it to Google sites so it can be viewed or downloaded here.

    Miketually said, “Bikes that are the ideal for non-enthusiasts already exist; they've been riding them in Holland for years…”

    I have ridden traditional single speed Dutch bikes all around the Netherlands and I agree that they are a viable transportation solution for many people. Those bikes work great in a country that is flat, geographically compact, and loaded with bicycle infrastructure (the latter being the main reason that they have a bike commuting rate as high as 38% compared to 1 to 2 % here in the U.S.). No doubt traditional Dutch bikes have their place, but I don’t think that those bikes, or bikes like the Flying Pigeons in China, are the ONLY solutions that should be considered for transportational cycling. I just don’t buy into the logic that, because many people worldwide ride those types of bikes, no other options should be considered. Lets face it, attitudes about cycling in the U.S. are very different than in other parts of the world, so applying the same formula that works for the Dutch here may not be the right way to get more people to ride (in the short term at least).

    As a quick example, take the issue of integrated lighting in the frame. For someone who travels most of the time on separate bike paths or in a city that is already full of bikes (so people watch for them), visibility might be less of an issue. If you are riding on a road with cars traveling 50 mph though, visibility may be your biggest barrier to giving bike commuting a try. All I am saying is that it makes sense to think about the issues that keep “the masses” from riding. There is no one magic design solution, but that is all the more reason to explore a variety of different ideas.

    …and John, I am with you. I have been riding for a long time, but I like the idea of lights integrated into the frame. It is definitely not just an idea for newbies.

  14. Dave June 3, 2009 at 1:31 pm -  Reply

    Nice elegant design. As others mention, most of the ideas are not new, but it is brought together well.

    I have to think that internally geared hubs are the obvious choice for simple commuter bikes. A belt drive solves some of the chain/chainguard issues, but not all. (And you have to make the frame 'breakable' which seems inelegant from a engineering perspective.) Shaft drive may be the ultimate solution for these bikes. Though I assume there are cost or technical reasons we haven't seen more of this yet.

    Lighting systems powered by the hubs are now standard and excellent. I think the 'frame shaped' light is an excellent idea. I suspect electroluminescent lighting isn't bright enough to be seen from very far though. Safety-wise, I think spinning lights on the wheel would be more visible and still have the intended effect of making it very obvious from a distance that it is a bike. I don't know if any of the current generator hubs are designed so that you can route power to the wheel instead of to the frame though.

    I'm not sure why he needs batteries on the bike at all unless the lighting systems use more power than the hub outputs so you need to build up a charge when riding during the day. That seems like an issue. The systems I've seen can power the lights in 'real time' so you don't need the expense or complexity of back up batteries. Maybe it's just so the lights stay on at stops which would make sense.

    I definately agree in principle with integrated lighting. The long list of things you need to bolt to the bike and then remove so they aren't stolen is a big deterent to riding for anything other than recreation. I worry about lights integrated into the frame some. You know there will be some issue with a proprietary light you can't get parts for beacuse it is unique to one small company's frame design. What about stems and seatposts with integrated lights? These could be fairly universal and theft proof.

  15. Ron June 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm -  Reply

    James : You can upload and publish the PDF quickly to some website like Issuu.com and just send the link to everyone. Its not time consuming.

  16. Dirk June 3, 2009 at 3:28 pm -  Reply

    @Dave
    I agree to your thoughts. In my Opinion the lighting coub be integrated in a fixed rack and the stem. A light at the end of a rack is still visible when loaded and one in the stem lights the corners (they just started integrating cornering headlights in cars).

    @James
    Thanks for uploading the pdf. Unfortunately the link doesn't work.

  17. James June 3, 2009 at 4:12 pm -  Reply

    The link doesn't work? That is strange it is working for me. Is anyone else able to open the pdf that I linked to in my previous comment? I'll check into it when I get home. Maybe, as Ron suggested, Issuu is a better option.

  18. Drew Batchelor June 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm -  Reply

    Replying to Dave's comment above about shaft drive. AFIK, Cost and weight penalty are two downsides of shaft drive. At the moment I'm getting excited about new developments in belt drive. (inc Trek) http://www.trekbikes.com/us/en/bikes/urban/district/district/
    I think new developments in materials might finally provide an alternative to the bush roller chain. After 130 years the chain has had a good run, but it is Victorian technology! There are very few machine elements which have survived with so little change for soo long. (testimony to Renolds genius!)

    back to the OP: For a student project it's very plausible and realistic, a well resolved package. But there lies the problem, to me, it seems too "normal" to provide an innovative student design project.

    EL wire on a bike frame:
    http://images.google.com/images?oe=UTF-8&sourceid=navclient&gfns=1&q=el%20wire%20bike&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi

    Handlebar "whiplock" is a product:
    http://images.google.com/images?gbv=2&ndsp=21&hl=en&um=1&sa=3&q=whiplock&btnG=Search+images

  19. B. Nicholson June 5, 2009 at 7:25 am -  Reply

    Wearing dark clothing exaggerates the dangers of riding bicycles at night.

  20. C June 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm -  Reply

    Nice but what he doesn't address – and neither do any of the comments so far – is the single biggest inhibitor to mass acceptance of bikes: DISTRIBUTION! So long as bikes like this are sold through bike stores they will not become common place. Period. Fretting about the design of the bike is pretty pointless. Bikes more or less like this already exist yet they are still largely confined to cyclists because cyclists are the only people who know they exist.

    Non-cyclists will never see these bikes up close because non-cyclists don't go into bike shops. Why would they? Anyone who goes into a bike shop, even if they don't own a bike, is on some level already converted to the idea of cycling. They're not the people we need to worry about. You want to see bikes like this take off? Get a major retailer to sell them (and not in the toy or sporting goods aisle!) When bikes like this start showing up in Target things will begin to change.

    Instead of worrying about what lighting or gearing is right the real design challenge is how to make a quality bike that can be efficiently mass produced and that the average person can take home from a Target store in a box and quickly assemble themselves. That's the big problem with the bike business. When you buy a $2000 computer or home theater system and take it home you don't need to be a computer or electronics expert to put it together. That's not the case with a $2000 bicycle even though a computer is way more complicated than a bike. You need to come up a with design that can be assembled and adjusted quickly, easily and with little risk of error. It should be no more difficult to assemble than a piece of Ikea furniture, a Sony home theater system or a John Deere mower. Once assembled it should require little to no maintenance. Tires should hold air as well as car tires. The drive train should require servicing no more often than you change the oil in your car. These are the sort of design questions that need to be tackled if you want to see bikes gain mass acceptance.

  21. Charlie June 5, 2009 at 9:31 pm -  Reply

    Very interesting idea, C, that the goal should be bikes that don't need bike shops. I'm not sure whether I agree, but it's good food for thought.

    " I suspect electroluminescent lighting isn't bright enough to be seen from very far though. "

    Yup. A look at the night picture next to a care pretty clearly confirms that.

    I generally think the concept is good, though not revolutionary. It's really like a Dutch bike styled a little differently. Dutch bikes have lots of great features but the style doesn't appeal broadly. Hence the usefulness of this.

    One quibble with a claim in the pdf: the claim that internal cable routing will protect the cables from weather. Cables in a housing is very well protected from weather–it's only where it goes in and out of housing that there's potential for problems.

  22. Dirk June 6, 2009 at 12:58 am -  Reply

    @Charlie
    You are right, a housing is a good cable protection against weather. But internal routing also helps against vandalism and looks simpler. less technical. And that's what C talked about. So in my opinion internal cable routing is a good feature.

    What do you like about dutch bikes?

    @C
    You are right, maintenance of the bike should be as easy as possible. I also think it would be nice if the bike could easily be adjusted to different riders – just like a car. But I don't think it has to be sold by a retailer. Cars are also not sold by a retailer. That means, this can't be the problem. But I agree to you, that potential new commuters have to be aquired outside the bike shop.

  23. Anonymous June 6, 2009 at 9:27 am -  Reply

    I like the light concept but they need to be brighter . And let's get real no fenders and a lame storage rack , hardly a useful neighborhood bike . Still a well thought out bike that needs some design tweaks .

    Some things any bike for the non enthusiast needs ,

    Reliability ,can you leave it outside all year and then jump on it and ride away ? Computers and cars were mentioned .

    Can you see it .Lights , lights , lights ….

    You need to be able carry about a bag or two of groceries as needed . Nobody may do it , just think they can .

    Tires casual cyclists are amazed that you have flat tires on bicycles . Think about it motorists hardly if ever change a tire . I drive A LOT " don't want to " and if I change a tire once every five years it's unusual . A friend who went on a charity ride went into shock when he had a flat .

    Turn signals would be good as most of the motorists have no idea what a hand signal means .

    Fenders and chain-guards , places or ways to hook on stuff as needed . Water bottle or a travel mug for the morning cup of Joe / Tea.

    Keep it affordable max of $500 as dedicated cyclists we think nothing of spending thousands on a bike that we have to work on before and after each ride .And yet you can buy a used car for less and not mess with it to drive to the Deli .

    Comfortable !Easily adjustable .

    Most people don't live where it's flat it needs gears .

    Style , needs to look nice .

    A good marketing campaign .After all look at all the people that got conned into buying Hummers probably the least useful , gas wasting polluting transportation there is and it's ugly !

    Random Ray

  24. Charlie June 6, 2009 at 12:30 pm -  Reply

    @Dirk:

    I'm not actually against internal cable routing in general. Just wanted to point out that the reason for it given in the pdf is bogus. I did bypass it in my winter bike that is exposed to extremes of salt spray and it was helpful in that case. But in general it's not a problem either way.

    You asked what I like about Dutch bikes:
    -Practical provisions, such as lights, fenders and rack are integrated in the design, not afterthoughts or kludges.

    -Low maintenance, largely because of the internal gearing and full chaincase; often hub brakes–features shared by this design.

    -Designed to to ridden in street clothes.

    -Many now have stems that allow adjusting the handlebar position in two axes with no tools. That's a move in the right direction at the same time that the rest of the industry has moved away from adjustable fit by adopting the threadless headset/clamp-on stem system.

    -Designed to last forever, unlike my Al MTB frame that cracked after less than a decade of regular use on a short commute.

  25. C June 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm -  Reply

    " Cars are also not sold by a retailer. That means, this can't be the problem."

    Except that cars have been around for decades now and are already widely accepted. Bikes are not. Big difference. The acceptance of the car as a part of everyday life took very little time and there wasn't really a period where cars were perceived as being toys with no practical value. That's not the case for bikes which most adults do perceive as being solely for recreation.

    • ian March 22, 2010 at 12:42 pm -  Reply

      the first 30+ years of the car’s existence they were considered toys with no value. many minds of the day mentioned the car as a passing fad and a play toy for the rich, while regaling the bicycle as the transportation wave of the future. it wasn’t until cars were successfully mass produced and marketed the every man that they became commonplace. i agree that bicycles need that same marketing to gain mass appeal and a big way of doing that isn’t integrating everything…its making them cheap and sturdy with lots of optional accessories. people LOVE buying accessories and personalizing their stuff. it allows people to feel like their mass produced bike that everyone has is different.
      bicycles started being looked down upon after WWII because many people saw them as european. cars were aggressively marketed to the middle class as american and patriotic. they also became more and more necessary as americas populations shifted to the suburbs where bicycles were all but useless as real transportation and became relegated to children’s toys. Schwinn understood this and focused its marketing on children with crap bikes like the varsity and the stingray which had junk parts and were cheap to make but looked really cool.

  26. Anna June 7, 2009 at 8:47 am -  Reply

    You should go to a big Dutch bike shop and get some ideas…. the Dutch are doing just about all these things right now! Check this website out for some inspiration – http://www.gazellebicycles.com.au/

  27. Anonymous June 27, 2009 at 4:56 pm -  Reply

    Spiny Norman has some good points.

    Riding in the city (with street-lights), I thought a 3W incandescent was good enough. When I got a job that required ~2-3km of highway driving, I found I could not see debris until it was already too late to avoid them. I then bought a dual-bulb 6W halogen system (12 watt max). That was much better.. while the battery lasted. You start running into the issue where you have to square the power output to double the illumination :P

    I suspect the batteries used in the design are NiCd, and are used for voltage regulation. That is, unless the inherent voltage regulation of the dyno-hubs has improved over the years.

    Also, I vote for full fenders as well!

    Regards,

    James Phillips

  28. aleix August 10, 2009 at 6:23 am -  Reply

    Hi there,

    In 2005 I designed a similar set of ideas and actually shared with the community. It's not so nice to pick up the ideas of someone and create that same thing….well…I guess we all get inspiration from the rest…but it's not bad to recognize or reference other works.

    I had uploaded a more detailed visuals before….but removed them from the net. If anyone is interested I can provide them in this blog…

    http://www.coroflot.com/public/individual_file.asp?individual_id=46288&portfolio_id=1595056&

    I guess we all move on…

    cheers

  29. jerry’sdaughter September 19, 2009 at 9:08 am -  Reply

    I am no design expert but here are my comments as a cyclist.

    I use my hybrid bike for multiple purposes – recreational trail rides, local errands, and commuting. It serves these purposes reasonably well, though isn't well outfitted for commuting. Your idea of built in lights is great. A horn loud enough to be heard inside vehicles and over traffic noise by pedestrians would be good.

    Here's my plea as a rider who shops for clothes in the petite section and who needs a step through frame – either redesigned accessories that can fit the frame size or small step throughs made so standard accessories (saddle and handlebar bags, water bottle holders, etc) fit.

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