The University of Iowa Hand Built Bicycle Program

Concept, Shows & Events, Student Design 7 3351

iowa-student-bikeI mentioned the University of Iowa’s Hand Built Bicycle Program earlier this year in a post about NAHBS 2014.  That was during my time away from this blog though, so it is likely that the majority of you never saw it. I noticed recently that the Iowa students are gearing up for something new at the next North American Handmade Bicycle Show (in Louisville, KY March 6-8), so it seemed like a good time to give the program another mention.

Dr. Steve McGuire, Professor of 3D Design and Metal Arts, Head of Dimensional Practice (3D Design, Ceramics, Metal Arts and Sculpture) and Studio Division Coordinator in the School of Art & Art History (wow, that’s a long title),  leads the program, which is open to all art and engineering students at the university.  In the class, they design, build and ride hand built bicycles, with new technology and traditional tools.” James Bleakly of Black Sheep Bikes has also been visiting to mentor the students as they learn to design and build bike frames (and you can definitely see his influence on several of the designs). The program is going into its 5th year, and from what I can tell, seems to be a huge success. They brought 14 student built frames and bikes to NAHBS in Charlotte earlier this year, a few of which you can see in my photos from the show.

University-Iowa-HandBuilt-Bicycle-Program-1Back to that new bike that I mentioned they are building for the next NAHBS. A  CAD drawing for the “Double Double Double” posted on the University of Iowa Hand Built Bicycle Program Facebook page calls for two cogs, two rings, and two rear wheels (with fat bike width 197mm hubs). I’m not exactly sure from the drawing how that will work, but I am definitely anxious to see what they come up with.  From the little I have seen, these students are not afraid to ignore the status quo and tackle challenging projects. That’s great to see, because pushing the limits (and occasionally failing) is the way to learn. I commend Dr McGuire on the work he is doing with this program, and I hope to see similar bike design and construction programs at other universities in the future. I mentioned the bicycle design class at Georgia Tech in a past post, and I am curious if there are any others at major universities. If you are aware of any, please let me know about them in the comments.


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  1. Dell Wilson October 6, 2014 at 2:50 pm -  Reply

    Ooooh. That tandem is gorgeous.

    The wheels look huge! Are they 29″

    • James Thomas October 7, 2014 at 9:51 pm -  Reply

      The wheels are huge. Not 29… they are 36 inches.

  2. Jeff Del Papa October 6, 2014 at 4:51 pm -  Reply

    Bill Patterson offered “Single Track Vehicle Design” at Cal Poly, SLO for many years. (I assume he has since retired, as he was having serious back trouble when I visited him 20 years ago). The text for the class, “Lords of the Chainring” is still available. Its a real engineering look at the dynamics of bicycle handling.

  3. Chan October 12, 2014 at 7:46 am -  Reply

    36 inches…so big

  4. John October 17, 2014 at 8:55 am -  Reply

    We have run a successful Velovations program at Michigan Tech – doing R&D for the bike industry.

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