Mark Sanders’ 1985 Strida thesis project

Commuter, Concept, Student Design 5 15

I have mentioned Mark Sanders and his Strida folding bike on the blog quite a few times in the past (if you haven’t already read the excellent guest post that he wrote a few years ago, check it out before you continue reading this one). Though he has designed quite a few interesting folding bikes over the years, the Strida is the still bike that Mark is best known for. You may not be aware though that he designed and engineered the bike that would later become the Strida while he was an Industrial Design Engineering graduate student at the Imperial College London/ Royal College of Art. Just a few days ago, Mark scanned and shared his original 1985 Masters Thesis from that project on his Issuu page.

The research section of Mark’s thesis covers a few of the other Folding bike concepts that were on the market at the time. From there, his thesis moves on to the concept design section, where you can see a couple of his early development models. The section on ergonomics is also of particular interest as it compares a typical racing position to a completely upright riding position for city bikes, an idea that Mark points out has “almost become (his) manifesto” today. The market research survey, manual engineering calculations, and prototype detail sections are all very interesting as well. I highly recommend that you read through the entire 75-page thesis.

In addition to his Thesis, Mark also scanned and uploaded his original Business Plan for the Strida. In that document, you can see the first prototype, which Mark completed within 6 months of the college project. He points out that the design of that first production prototype is “still about 70% of the current Strida.”

It is interesting to see some of the publicity that the first Strida prototype received. Now, 25 years later, the latest version of the Strida is still often mentioned on design sites, so Mark must have done something right with that original design.

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5 Comments

  1. Eric July 2, 2010 at 1:10 am -  Reply

    I just read the whole thing cover-to-cover.

    It’s amazing the level of dedication, commitment, time and effort that went into developing this bike, from conceptualization and market research to engineering analysis, prototype development and business planning. As a Strida owner myself, I have a new appreciation for what it takes to achieve that kind of innovation and bring it successfully to market. Invention really is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration!

    There are so many aspiring designers out there producing amazing sketches and computer-generated renderings of bikes, myself included. So many design schools are pushing visual communication skills and flashy presentation techniques over true concepts and ideas. In automotive design we’re taught to quickly hash out ideas to throw “over the wall” to the engineering types and bean counters, without really thinking abotu what it is we’re designing. There’s not enough emphasis on marketing, ergonomics, engineering, and all the other things that are just as much a part of the process of putting something truly new into production. We could all learn a thing or two by reading Mark’s thesis work. It’s not flashy, but this is REAL design!

  2. Ivan July 2, 2010 at 3:28 pm -  Reply

    Here in the Netherlands I can see the Strida bikes all the time in train stations. It’s by far the coolest design in Foldable bikes and certainly a top 10 in all bikes ever.
    When you see someone pushing it folded… man it looks so cool!

  3. Iñaki July 8, 2010 at 2:39 am -  Reply

    I agree with Eric, Mr Sanders’ thesis work is really inspiring in many ways. Beyond the innovation involved in his design one can see how much effort he’s put in pushing his idea through. Everything from his conceptual design renders and early prototypes to the immaculate typewritten document has been made to the smallest detail (loved those pen frames around the photos… if only you could do that with a computer). Now seriously, really good work and a good example for design students.

  4. Human_Amplifier July 8, 2010 at 1:37 pm -  Reply

    The business plan was done in the (then) state-of-the-art Tasword, word processor (tape loading) on a Sinclair ZX spectrum – this was pre-CAD, and even pre-Mountain bikes :-)

  5. Colin September 7, 2010 at 6:11 am -  Reply

    > and even pre-Mountain bikes

    Not quite. I had a Muddy Fox Seeker in the early 1980′s, and though in early wasn’t the first to have one by any means. Happy days ;)

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