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The Contortionist folds more than the average bike

Concept, Student Design 10 190

Since these Guardian and Sky News articles came out nearly a month ago, several of you have emailed me to mention the Contortionist folding bike by designer Dominic Hargreaves. I saw a link on Twitter around that time and retweeted it there, but for some reason I also thought that I had mentioned it on the blog. Looking back though, apparently I never did (I have confused myself in that way a few times since I started using Twitter… I guess I need to start organizing the links that I plan to post a little better). Oh well, no matter…the Contortionist is a pretty interesting design and is still worth a mention here on Bicycle Design.

The 24-year-old Hargreaves designed the bike as his final Master’s degree project at the Royal College of Art in London. The design that he came up with, which features an aluminum frame that can fold to fit within the circumference of the 26-inch wheels, is now a finalist for a James Dyson Award. Well, maybe “fold” is not the right word to use. As the Guardian article describes, the frame “rolls up rather than folds up using an ingenious set of pivots”. Watch the video to see what they mean. Hargreaves is currently talking to manufacturers about getting the design into production, so you may see it on the market sometime soon…whether it wins the Dyson award or not.

Take a look at the news section of Hargreaves’ website to see additional pictures of the bike, both folded and unfolded (or should I say rolled and unrolled). You can also see a few of his other bike related projects if you explore his site a bit. If you still want to find out more about the Contortionist, check out these posts from Wired, Inhabit, Core 77, and Treehugger. The Treehugger post in particular already has a discussion underway about the design in the comments section.

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  1. Ron August 26, 2009 at 1:36 am -  Reply

    Ahh there it is…I was beginning to wonder when you would mention this, considering how its being nominated for a design award and everything. How many times are you posting per week nowadays? 2 or 3?

  2. Anonymous August 26, 2009 at 1:39 am -  Reply

    As pointed out by someone else: Notice that one pedal is removed to allow it to fold.

  3. James August 26, 2009 at 5:10 am -  Reply

    I post when I can find the time, but I have a lot going on these days. Probably twice a week on average. Why do you ask?

  4. lolmaus August 26, 2009 at 9:09 am -  Reply

    This is not a bike.

    It has disk brakes, but no brake lines. It has pedals, but no chain.

    It is only a proof-of-concept frame.

    Imagine it having a chain and a full set of braking and gear shifting lines. It will immediately become messy to fold, if not impossible.

  5. James August 26, 2009 at 12:00 pm -  Reply

    lolmaus, I view this as a prototype, so of course there are challenges that will need to be solved in a further iteration of the design. If those challenges turn out to be insurmountable, the concept will not move forward; if they are solvable, it will be developed further. That is pretty much the point of building a working prototype.

    Maybe electronic shifters could be one possible solution for a bike like this. Maybe not, but I am sure the designer is considering options to solve those problems as he transitions this from a basic concept to a fully engineered product. Time will tell, but I wouldn’t call it a failure at this point just because it is obviously not completely developed.

  6. Ron August 26, 2009 at 4:35 pm -  Reply


    Nothing special. I was just curious. Yours is a logical answer.

  7. Anonymous August 27, 2009 at 10:03 pm -  Reply

    This is a fantastic concept and shows what many of us would wish for from a folding bike … like I wish for a pod racer from star wars.

    Only time will tell if it can be engineered … it would be easier to engineer than a pod racer 🙂 , but I guess a lot will depend on the attitude of the designer – if, like many designers and 'inventors' he thinks that it is now 90% done, and 'anyone' can 'just' do the 'easy' bit of engineering the details ! And, then 'just' press the production start button to push them out at 400 bucks a pop; it probably wont happen. But, if it gets the corporate juices of say trek or cannondale going enough to invest some serious development money into it – it might, just, become reality. I hope it does.

  8. steve September 1, 2009 at 11:08 pm -  Reply

    Great concept. Hope it makes it up and down the hills.

  9. in game ads December 20, 2009 at 8:30 pm -  Reply

    The contortionist and his contortionist bike?! A rare pair of talent! But I love the bike.

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