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Tulip Fun Fun rack and the Shape Field bike

Commuter, Concept, Utility / Cargo Bike 15 1948

Tulip Fun Fun flexible bicycle rackI saw Margus Triibmann’s Tulip Fun Fun bike rack yesterday, and mentioned it on Twitter and Google+ saying, “This is a clever bike rack design. I’d be interested to see how it holds up over time in an urban environment though.” A few people replied with concerns about the security of a flexible bike rack, which is made from steel cable covered with a rubber hose material. I can certainly understand the durability and security concerns, but I really do like the idea behind this design (despite the use of a flimsy cable lock on the top tube in the photos). As the designers’ site points out, Tulip Fun Fun provides freedom to choose the way and direction of placing the bike. The fixing place of the bike is not uniquely determined hence it is suitable for fixing bikes with different height and different type of frame.” There may be another advantage to the flexible design though. One common way to break a U- lock is to leverage it against the rack using a crowbar, or even with the bike frame itself, until it snaps. As Barry McCauley commented on Google +, this design could render that approach useless. Assuming the steel cable inside is sufficiently thick; I don’t think it would be any easier to saw through than a hollow steel tube either.

Shape Field porteur style bikeDesign Milk posted this Columbus steel porteur bike, which was a collaboration between designer, framebuilder, and California College of the Arts professor Nicholas Riddle and San Francisco-based product and graphic design firm Shape Field Office. Overall, the bike looks very nice, and the details are well thought out.  I like the use of the triathlon style brake levers to work with the swept back handlebars. The quarter and cork bar plugs on the tubing of the removable front rack are a nice touch too. Check out photos of those details and more on Shape Field’s website.

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  1. Andy January 17, 2012 at 3:23 pm -  Reply

    I’d expect those comments about the Tulip, but fortunately for most places other than the biggest cities, the actual security of a rack is of little concern. I lock my bike up to keep the honest people honest, but know that if someone really wanted to break a lock they would have no problem doing it, so I never leave my bike locked overnight or in places that don’t see at least a little pedestrian traffic.

    The Sharp Field bike looks nice, but they put the rack far too high for a good porteur bike. There are several designs of bikes of that style where they keep trying out small front wheels, to get the rack as low as possible to help with handling. Though given that there are no struts to the dropouts to support the rack, I’d guess that it’s not being designed for big loads.

  2. kfg January 17, 2012 at 3:49 pm -  Reply

    The brake levers are not triathlon style, they are a traditional style, hence their use on this particular traditionalist bike in the traditional manner.

    • James Thomas January 17, 2012 at 3:58 pm -  Reply

      You are right…perhaps that was a poor choice of words. Instead of saying triathlon ‘style’ levers, I should have referred to them as newer alloy levers marketed for tri bars (like these) being used in a traditional manner in this case.

      To me, that subtle detail is consistent with the whole updated traditional theme of this design.

      • kfg January 17, 2012 at 4:42 pm -  Reply

        Their use remains appropriate when the bars are flipped forward rather than back, yes. How the suits chose to present them to the market really isn’t relevant, the subtle detail is simply conventional use of a conventional bit from the bin. Like using a wet suit for Scuba diving.

        So, yeah, it’s consistent with the traditional theme, like using a wet suit to swim under water.

        The only interesting design element of the bike is the rack. Now that I might have to steal.

        • James Thomas January 17, 2012 at 5:55 pm -  Reply

          Yes, the use is the same (and appropriate) either way. All I am saying is that, if not for the tri/ time trial market, high quality alloy reverse brake levers wouldn’t be easy to find these days. Regardless of the manufacturers intended market for these levers, I do like to see them used in a traditional application like this.

  3. Mike January 17, 2012 at 4:19 pm -  Reply

    It’s a pretty bike and fine for its intended purpose (looking at), but Andy is right that the rack is too high. In no particular order, here are the other problems with this bike:

    — Looks like they wanted the rail to line up with the top tube, and I can’t really respect the choice of form over function there.
    — The second top tube is just weird, the bike isn’t large enough to require it and the metal would be better used figuring out a way to better brace the cantilevered clamp-on rack. I’d also have preferred to see it lugged rather than mixing in tig (or fillet, if that’s what it is) but that would have required a custom lug.
    — I’m also not digging the integrated cable stop on the back, it’s fine for wall art and to prove it can be done but in the real world a standard stop or a bridge is a better design, and why have a mixed brake set anyway?
    — Another detail that makes no sense is the through-the-tube rear brake cable routing. It’s clean looking, but impractical for an all weather bike. Something like that on a bike with fenders just screams “wall art” — it’s just too faux.
    — The high, unconventional fender mounting braze-ons don’t make any sense. They also caused the front fender to be mounted way too far forward, which just looks awful. Honjos are a long as they are so that they can be mounted close to the road in the front. The end of the front fender here is even with the bottom bracket, meaning your shoes would be getting soaked if you ever rode this bike in the rain. Not that this is meant to be ridden, but anyway.
    — Not really liking the ornate, windowed lugs and fork crown with the more modern/industrial details of the seat stay caps, rack, and sign bracket, but that’s just my taste.
    — The old “track ends on a bike with fenders and a rear brake” trick. I thought we’d all learned how dumb that is by now, but I guess a few people still haven’t gotten the memo.
    — Reverse levers on a porteur always look nice. They should shellac the grips, though, they just look unfinished as is and don’t match the saddle or wood elements as well as they could.
    — Two piece silver shimano cranks look slick on a singlespeed with a chain guard, but you’re stuck with a chainline that is too far inboard. Bikes built like this tend to be loud and eat drivetrain parts.

    • kosmonaut January 18, 2012 at 7:51 am -  Reply

      Hey Mike, good comments as usual. Could you send me an email on larsenroed-at-gmail. Got a question for you.

    • Nick F January 18, 2012 at 6:09 pm -  Reply

      Well articulated though it may be, I think there is a lot of unfounded hating of this bike going on.

      – First, the front rack. Unquestionably they wanted it to line up with the top tube, but that isn’t necessarily a negative. In fact, according to both the laws of physics and the gods of bicycle handling dynamics (Papadopoulos, etc) a fixed front load can actually be more stable when higher in many conditions! (Counterintuitive, maybe but it means that the front wheel has to make less rapid lateral travel in order to stay beneath the higher center of mass. The situation does of course reverse itself when the bicycle is stationary, but there are likely many ideal configurations dependent on frequency of stops, rider experience, and terrain.)

      – Then, the second top tube. Even if the frame isn’t large enough to warrant it for steering stability , it surely helps keep the downtube from deflecting when the front rack is loaded. I agree that the lack of lugs there isn’t ideal, but it’s certainly not breaking with tradition. Even on old bikes, lugs were far less common than a fillet braze/weld on those joints. See Azor, other big dutch bikes.

      – Internal routings is “faux” on an all-weather bike? Hmm, I could have sworn something called stainless steel tubing existed. I’m sure you know that those aren’t just open holes, and you know that a curved tube is brazed inside, connecting the two openings. If they used stainless steel for that tube, you could submerge the bike daily and that particular feature wouldn’t fail.

      – Horizontal dropouts + Fenders = Foolish? Really? The only thing wrong with the set up is that the rear fender stay isn’t adjustable. Fenders are flexible things, easily moved the ±10mm you’d ever need with a horizontal dropout. Forbidding an entire genre of dropout because you want fenders seems much more foolish.

      – Shimano two-piece cranks give you an incorrect chainline? You mean 42mm, the de-facto standard for track and internally-geared hubs? God, sounds terrible.

      Anyway, what I’m really saying is that I think it is an good looking design and a thoughtful execution. Sure, there are little things that could be changed… that front fender, certainly… but let’s be fair with our expectations from a realized concept bike.

      • kfg January 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm -  Reply

        “easily moved the ±10mm ”
        I believe you’ll need more than that. It will be accomplished by unbolting the stay ends. The fender may be damaged in the process.

        “Forbidding an entire genre of dropout because you want fenders seems much more foolish. ”

        And yet by 1930 or so they had been not forbidden (nobody is forbidding them, they are criticizing them), but largely abandoned, for the simple, foolish reason that they had . . . a better idea. Those that retained them were coaster brake bikes that sloped the slot downward toward the rear (which would be a really stupid thing to do on a caliper braked bike).

        They cause problems, they don’t serve to keep the bike traditional, we know how to do it better; they are a “tark bike” affectation.

        If it were a traditional Dual Purpose bike things would be different, as then it would be a requirement that it be track legal and the fenders would be expected to be on and off all the time. One would simply choose to put up with the problem to not need two bikes.

        “a realized concept bike.”

        This stretches the concept of concept bike to the point where the concept becomes meaningless, as every bike would be a realized concept bike.

        It’s just a bike. One that wouldn’t even have drawn a stare riding down the street in 1950. It is perfectly fair to judge it as what it claims to be.

        • Nick F January 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm -  Reply

          …they are a “tark bike” affectation.

          You say that, and yet, virtually every production bicycle that uses an internally geared, single speed, or fixed gear hub has a horizontal dropout, and only rarely one of the “better” solutions you allude to (a chain tensioner, or a pivoting/sliding dropout). Look at Globe, Batavus, Trek… even many custom builders.

          I agree completely that there are more evolved options… whether they are better is a completely different matter, Simplicity of aesthetics, simplicity of operation, simplicity of fabrication are all complicating factors. Certainly, alternatives provide more elegant operation, but there is something to be said for the minimal, ubiquitous, low-cost solution that a horizontal dropout provides.

          • kfg January 18, 2012 at 10:24 pm -  Reply

            ” . . .“better” solutions you allude to (a chain tensioner, or a pivoting/sliding dropout).”

            Those are mostly solutions that have arrived since the tark bike fad. Some of them are actually there to accommodate the problems introduced with disc brakes, which are irrelevant to the matter at hand.

            ” . . . whether they are better is a completely different matter . . .”

            If a problem is solved, and no new problems are introduced, in what manner is the solution not better? Engineers what to know.

            Do you even know what the problem is?

            ” . . .the minimal, ubiquitous, low-cost solution that a horizontal dropout provides.”

            That is the solution I allude to. Go to Walmart and look at some actual mass production bikes with fenders.

      • Mike January 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm -  Reply

        If the purpose of the second top tube was to better brace the rack, why not just better brace the rack rather than have this silly cantilever design?

        Stainless still rusts, especially with prolonged water exposure. Put a piece of cable housing in a curved stainless tube, pour in water every couple of days, and in a few months pull out the housing. The brown stuff on it will test positive for ferrous oxide. For a faster test take a pair of stainless scissors, dunk them in water, and then keep them wrapped in a wet towel overnight. In the morning there will be brown stuff on the inside surfaces.

        Swapping a flat on a bike with rear facing dropouts and properly fit metal fenders is a pain, try it some time. Standard diagonal horizontal dropouts also maintain better brake alignment as the wheel moves in the dropout. The only reason to do track ends on a rim brake bike to use a chain tensioner. There are no other advantages, plain and simple.

        At first glance I thought this was a 105 crank, and I’ve seen a lot of hack job bikes like this with a standard 105 double with a chainguard in the outer position. Looking again this is actually worse — it’s the version of the Alfine with two chainguards, which means the chainline is 49mm. If you look at the top perspective shot on the Shape SF site you can see just how bad the chainline is. A couple mm is one thing, but 7mm is bad. They should have used the single chainguard model, that one has normal track/ss chainline.

        All my other points stand as well. When you pay thousands of dollars for a custom bike like this it’s one thing to have a couple of iffy design decisions around the details, but you should at least get your $120 fenders mounted correctly. Sadly, this is probably the most botched fender installation I’ve ever seen.

  4. Andy January 17, 2012 at 4:50 pm -  Reply

    Great comments Mike. I didn’t want to dive in first, but…

    – the wood plaque screams out wall bike
    – the fenders aren’t bent to create the right curve around the tires (an easy fix)
    – the seat is tilted back a lot farther than most people would care for
    – the rear brake cable routing caused extra twists in the housing
    – the crank is horrid for a lugged bike. find a classy looking square taper instead.
    – the brakes shown look to be the ones that are outrageously expensive but have gotten bad reviews

    • kfg January 17, 2012 at 4:54 pm -  Reply

      The wood plaque is traditional. You’re supposed to paint it with your own trademark.

  5. kfg January 17, 2012 at 4:51 pm -  Reply

    “– The old “track ends on a bike with fenders and a rear brake” trick. I thought we’d all learned how dumb that is by now, but I guess a few people still haven’t gotten the memo.”

    Tell me about it, I own a Quickbeam. I have no idea what Grant was thinking on that one, but he’s persisted with it on the new model despite all the trouble it’s caused people.

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