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A couple of folding bike concepts

Commuter, Concept, Student Design 11 3208

For his thesis project at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, Industrial Design graduate student Ramon Hung designed the Velo Chic folding bike, which is specifically aimed toward women living in urban areas. On his portfolio site, Raymon points out that:

“In America, women comprise only 25% of bicycle riders. The main factor that leads to this gender gap is that the industry trend of bicycles continues to focus on the existing bicyclists and ignoring the needs of the non-riders.”

That theme of bikes designed for the large “blue ocean” of current non-cyclists has been discussed on this blog many times, starting with a guest post by Mark Sanders several years ago. The topic always generates an interesting debate about what (if anything) can be changed on a standard traditional bicycle in order to better appeal to those who do not currently ride at all. In this case, Raymon chose to target the subset of urban women within that blue ocean, and I am curious to hear your thoughts about his solution. Check out the additional renderings, sketches, and prototype photos on his website, and let me know what you think.

Another interesting folding bike concept comes from Philip Crewe. He designed the bike a while ago, but just recently built a ridable prototype. The concept is based on a full size frame, with an S and S style coupling on the downtube and two hinge joints on the top tube.  I am not sure if a similar concept has been tried before, but it seems like a simple solution that works pretty well. Check out his video on Vimeo to see the bike in action.


Velo Chic spotted via Design Buzz

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  1. Andy January 30, 2012 at 3:10 pm -  Reply

    I like Philip’s design. It would require giving up some handling characteristics by beefing up the tubes and having the joints, but that’s the quickest and easiest folding system I’ve seen for a full sized bike. Steel frames are great for certain applications, but for a folding bike this would probably be fairly heavy, especially if you wanted gear options. You would also be limited if you wanted to have typical flat bars that would be a bit wider than what’s in the video, since there’s no quick fix to rotate the bars on this. S&S couplers go for about $400 on their own though, so we’re looking at a bike that would cost upwards of $1000 as a single speed though – not quite what the bus riding crowd would be likely to purchase. Just make sure you don’t lock it using only the main triangle!

    • Nick F January 30, 2012 at 7:37 pm -  Reply

      S+S Couplers go for around $450 installed for a pair on a pre-existing frame, by a custom builder. A single, OEM unit, installed during fabrication, would cost a tiny fraction of that.

      Furthermore, the mindset that “only poor people ride the bus” is the fundamental reason we have a garbage transportation system in America.

  2. Matt January 30, 2012 at 3:16 pm -  Reply

    I actually like both of those – unusual, since I’m normally fairly critical of “new” bike designs. I’m really impressed with how much detailed work went into Raymon’s design – would love to see a full-scale prototype. It actually bears a lot of resemblance to many bikeshare bikes (but obviously most bikeshare bikes don’t fold!).

    Philip’s design with the couplers seems really simple and elegant. The only problem is it seems it could only be applied to fixies because of the rear brake run – I know there are couplers for brake lines too but that does interfere with the simplicity. That’s not an issue if you’re a fixie rider… but I’m not.

    • Nick F January 30, 2012 at 7:25 pm -  Reply

      This would work with a rear brake… each join bends less than 90°, which a cable and housing could absolutely handle.

      Now a shifter cable would be a little bit more complex, but there is no reason (apart from convention) that it couldn’t be run along the top tube as well.

  3. steve January 30, 2012 at 6:05 pm -  Reply

    I love to see new designs, but I’m afraid the problem is much larger than more appealing bikes. People, particularly women, have to have a sense they are safe, you heed to have places to securely leave your bikes (sorry – foldable doesn’t work when you are doing errands) and so on. Northern Europe has made great strides – sadly I see little progress being made here outside of a few cities and even there it is trivial compared to the European effort.

    But that shouldn’t stop anyone working on interesting bikes as they are a piece of the puzzle too – but we shouldn’t fool ourselves into thinking they are a major piece.

    • James Thomas January 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm -  Reply

      Steve, I agree with you. I have mentioned in past posts that the design of a bicycle can only be a small part of the solution. The big picture is what we all need to really focus on, and it starts at the local level. I am heavily involved in local bicycle advocacy issues, and that is the focus of my other blog. I encourage EVERYONE who rides a bike to get involved with advocacy efforts in their local community and work to make a difference.

      Of course, the obstacles are not all local. Today, ALL cyclists need to contact their Representatives to voice opposition to the “The American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act” (proposed in the House today) . It would be a shame to lose federal funding for Transportation Enhancements and Safe Routes to School, but it just goes to show that we can never let our guard down if we want to see real change in the US.

      • Nick F January 31, 2012 at 5:51 pm -  Reply

        Couldn’t agree more.

        …maybe the next Bicycle Design competition ought to have a bicycle advocacy/infrastructure focus?

        • James Thomas February 1, 2012 at 9:21 am -  Reply

          Good thought, Nick. Maybe so…

  4. art February 1, 2012 at 2:05 pm -  Reply

    I like the folding bike, but from a structural perspective, the double hinge should be on the down tube (tension member) instead of the top tube (compression member). The current design is going to be prone to buckling, particularly as the hinges wear and develop some play.

  5. kfg February 2, 2012 at 11:35 am -  Reply

    Where women comprise half or more of the riding population you find that most of them ride the same sort of bike; the standard step through safety that’s been constantly popular for over 100 years. Many “non-riding” men have gravitated to the same bike for urban utility use.

    It’s what works.

    Most of those who do not ride such a bike ride a small wheel backbone bike, which are already in plentiful supply from a variety of makers.

    It would appear that industrial design is not where the answer is to be found.

    The basic idea of the Crewe bike has been around for, what for it, wait for it . . . at least 100 years. The last I’m aware of off the top of my head who offered production models was Montague, but they have since gone to a backbone design, as virtually all people serious about making folders eventually do.

    It’s what works.

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