On Friday, I first saw the images of the Audi designed e-bike that is now spreading around the web like wildfire. I admit that I didn’t pay much attention to the text accompanying the articles at first, so I was initially confused by the geometry and the oddly shaped “vestigial” saddle that it appears would be comfortable to absolutely no one. Now that I actually have taken the time to read about the bike though, the design makes much more sense. It turns out that the electric bike concept from Audi was designed for trials riding, a discipline where a comfortable seat really is quite unimportant (and many riders choose to eliminate the seat entirely).
Apparently, the designers at Audi were pretty serious about creating what design director Wolfgang Egger referred to as “a high-performance e-bike for sports and trick cycling. During the development process, professional motorbike trials rider Julien Dupont rode the e-bike and offered his feedback. When the bike is publically unveiled at the Wörthersee VW and Audi car show in Austria this week, Dupont and downhiller Petra Bernhard will be there to demonstrate its capability as a trick bike. Perhaps the most interesting feature is the smartphone interface, which provides “coaching for learning and documenting trick riding” according to a post at PSFK. “The cyclist’s smartphone hooks up by WLAN to the computer – when you start cycling, for example, the immobilizer is deactivated. Video images of the trial drive or of a trick, as recorded via the in-helmet camera, are uploaded to the Internet in real time via your smartphone.”
I won’t get into much detail about the bike itself, as PSFK, designboom, Inhabitat, and others have already written much on the subject. I am interested in Audi’s decision to devote design resources to a ‘sport’ oriented bike though. With many other car companies testing the waters of the urban e-bike market, I do think it is quite interesting though that Audi designed something specifically for the tricks and trials riding niche. Perhaps this concept bike, which unlike the Audi branded Renovo wooden bikes was designed and developed by the automaker’s talented internal design group, is just to gain a bit of attention for the company as the designers familiarize themselves with the technology. Maybe we will see a transportation oriented e-bike concept from Audi soon (something to compete with the Specialized Turbo perhaps). In the mean time, it will be interesting to see how this bike will be received by the car enthusiasts who attend the auto show in Austria this week. My guess is that impressive choreographed tricks will hold the attention of Audi fans much more than a presentation on the green credentials of e-bikes as a transportation category. I don’t know if that is what Audi has in mind…but it certainly makes sense to me. Now let’s just hope that the next e-bike that they design is geared toward replacing one of their cars for short urban trips. I wouldn’t be too surprised if that is in the works.