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Semester Bicycles- Hextube bamboo composite frames made in the rural South

Semester-bicycle-sideI was born in Alabama, and spent the first 18 years of my life there, so I was very happy to hear about a bike related project that is focused on creating jobs and better lives for people in one of the rural communities in the Black Belt region of the state. In the town of Greensboro (not far from the area where the Rural Studio program at Auburn University’s School of Architecture is working to improve the lives of poor, rural residents through design), a collaborative design group called MakeLab has partnered with HERObikeFuture PartnersPublic-Library, and industrial designer Lance Rake to develop a bike that can be made locally from the bamboo that is abundant in the region.

Semester-hextube-sketchesTake one glance at the bike, and you can see that it is different from the bamboo frames that seem to be everywhere these days. The main triangle is comprised of engineered composite bamboo “Hextubes,” which you can see in the sketch above, and the photo below. The Semester Bicycle Kickstarter page explains:

 “Each tube is actually a structural stressed skin composite: a bamboo core is skinned on the inside with carbon fiber and covered on the outside with a durable glass/epoxy lamination. The bamboo fibers run parallel along the length of the tube, while the carbon fiber and FRP skins are laid at 45° giving torsional rigidity and protecting the bamboo. The resulting Hextube is incredibly strong and lightweight.”

Semester-bicycle-hex-tubesThe fact that these are engineered tubes means that they are always consistent in size, shape, and performance, so they can reliably mate with the steel headtube and rear triangle that make up the rest of the frame. That makes this design more manufacturing friendly than the majority of bamboo bikes, which need to be individually custom fitted and joined due to variations in tube diameter and wall thickness. Since the goal of the Semester Bicycle projects is not just to produce bamboo bicycles, but to create jobs for the people of Greensboro, that consistent manufacturability is quite important.

Semester-bicycle-teamThe video at the top of the Semester Bicycle Kickstarter page does a great job of explaining the project. For more information, there is also a good post today on the Core77 blog written by the designer, Lance Rake. As an Alabama native and a fan of local small scale manufacturing, this is definitely a project that I am personally backing. They have 13 days left to meet their $40,000 funding goal on Kickstarter, so I encourage you to stop by the page too, and help them create a better community in the town of Greensboro if you can.

See additional images below (courtesy of Lance Rake and the MakeLab team) including more of the development sketches, and a few prototype frame designs.




Test model made from hextubes and lugs fashioned from a salvaged steel “cadaver” frame


Design experiment using bamboo hextubes


Early version of the hextube bike with external lugs and smaller section tubes

Posted in Commuter, Concept, Utility.

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Graeme Obree’s new improved Beastie

ObreePrestwick-12Last year, I posted about Graeme Obree’s plans to attempt the human-powered land speed record in a prone position HPV of his own design.  After his test run at Machrihanish airport in Scotland last year, the record attempt was delayed due to issues with the fairing on “the Beastie.” Now, Obree is back and ready to go with a completely redesigned shell made from Kevlar and fiberglass.

ObreePrestwick-8In a post at Humans Invent (by far the best place on the web to find news about Obree’s attempt), he explains the new fairing shape:

“The front section is rounded, then it widens out and widens out and then comes back in, in a very smooth curve and narrows down to the back end…the most important part in terms of dividing the air and then pulling the air back in again with the least amount of energy is to have a laminar (non-turbulent) flow over the sides of it.”

With his newly redesigned Beastie, Obree again plans to make his attempt at the World Human Powered Speed Challenge, which takes place September 9th through the 14th at Battle Mountain,Nevada.  The WHPSC at Battle Mountain is where Canadian Sam Whittingham set the current record of 82.819 mph in 2009, so it should be very interesting to see Obree’s attempt on the same flat stretch of road.

ObreePrestwick-9As I said before, I will be surprised if he is able to exceed 83 mph riding prone in the Beastie, but Graeme Obree has proven plenty of skeptics wrong before. I am definitely a big fan of his homespun, innovative approach, and I really do hope he can pull this off.

On the subject of Obree, check out the recent interview with him at Humans Invent. The article draws its title from Obree’s statement that “almost every bike is exactly the same now.” He continues, “If you go to a shop and buy a bike it will be the same bike as the rest, just with a different paint job and made by a different manufacturer.” Statements like that are no surprise from Obree, but it might surprise some to hear that he agrees the UCI should impose equipment regulations for cycling as a sport. Though he believes those rules are good for the sport, he states that they are bad for cycling as a whole because the “industry is driven by what is good for racing bikes.” Read the full article for more. Agree or disagree…he definitely shares an interesting perspective.

Finally, I want to share one more Obree related link. Jack Thurston from The Bike Show (one of my favorite podcasts by the way) recently did an interesting show with Edward Pickering discussing the hour record rivalry between Graeme Obree and Chris Boardman. That time in the mid 1990s was a great period for bicycle innovation. Unfortunately, all of the resulting aerodynamic equipment led to the UCI’s Lugano Charter of 1996. I will refrain from ranting about the UCI’s equipment regulations again, as I have begun to come around to Obree’s view that strict regulation (as long as it is consistently applied) is fine for cycling as a sport. I just wish that the industry would pay a little less attention to grand tours in Europe and more attention to what is happening in the Nevada desert next month.  Those are the types of innovations that could really get more people to ride… for both recreation and transportation.

Photo credits:

Posted in HPV.

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Congrats AeroVelo team!

I completely missed this news two weeks ago while I was traveling, but I saw today in a Bike Hugger post that the AeroVelo team finally was able to capture the $250,000 AHS Sikorsky Prize for human powered helicopter flight. Just over a year ago, I wrote a post about the team from Toronto and their effort to become the first group to fly a human powered helicopter for “60 seconds, reaching an altitude of 3 meters (9.8 ft) while remaining in a 10 meter (32.8 ft) square.” In their successful attempt with the Atlas quad rotor HPH, they reached a height of 3.3 meters and stayed there for 64.11 seconds. Drift was 9.8 meters, and it is interesting to see how the pilot, Dr. Todd Reichert, leaned inward to keep the modified Cervelo within the boundary square.

Congratulations to Dr. Reichert and every member the team for this very impressive feat of engineering. I have watched the video several times today, and it continues to fascinate me.

Check out AeroVelo’s latest blog post for more information about the flight…and while you are at it, watch the video at least one more time. Trust me, it’s the coolest thing you will see all day.

Posted in HPV.

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New designs, old designs, velomobiles, and bike art

I was traveling in Asia the past couple weeks, and didn’t get a chance to post here at Bicycle Design. I do have a lot to pass along though, so today I will quickly share just a few of the links that readers have shared with me recently.

Ilya-Vostrikov-Cannondale- ConceptI have shared Ilya Vostrikov’s bicycle renderings a couple of times in the past. He has a few new designs on his blog, including the Cannondale EVO concept shown above.  In addition to the rendering, check out the form study sketches that he posted separately. Nice work!

peugeot-cycles-ae21Last year, I shared three concept bikes from the Peugeot Design Lab. One of those bikes, the Hybrid AE21 (previously DL122) designed by Neil Simpson, is moving forward into production. Availability will be later this year, but for now you can see sketches and a series of nice photos of the final (or near final) design on Peugeot’s website.

Repair-Rebel-multitoolRepair Rebel is a 24 feature titanium multitool by Thomas Smafield and Josh Wilson. Unlike most of the multitools on the market, this one is cast as a single piece with no moving or folding parts. The one piece design weighs in at just 85 grams and can be attached securely under a bike seat, or attached to a backpack, with the included cord. Visit their Kickstarter page for more pictures and information.

Coloral-bottleAlso on Kickstarter, you can find a project to resurrect the Coloral alloy water bottle.  Actually, the goal is not just to create a run of replica bottles, but to bring back Cororal as a British manufacturing company for the long term.  Thanks in no small part to companies like Rapha, vintage bike products are popular these days (and my old 80s parts and wool jerseys are like gold on eBay).  I find some of the pseudo- vintage products that are popping up these days to be a bit ridiculous, but I can’t help but like this attempt to bring a classic brand back to life… and the fact that they will manufacture the products on the same street in Birmingham, England where they were last produced 60+ years ago makes it even better.

organic-transit-elfI am happy to hear of the success of a nearby North Carolina company that is working to shape the future of human powered transportation. Recently, the Organic Transit Elf was featured in a Wall Street Journal article and CEO Rob Cotter was interviewed on the Dean of Duke’s School of the Environment video blog. Check out the Organic Transit website for more information, and see my previous post about the company and their first product.

Bike Night at The Hammer Museum, 2013. Photo: Adam Rindy. Via

Robin Cembalest wrote an interesting article at on the way art museums are embracing bike culture. Take a look at Pedal Pushers: How Art Museums Are Promoting Bike Culture.

The Santa Monica Museum of Art’s fifth annual Tour da Arts, which showcases “the creative side of bicycle culture with a festival and ride filled with music, dance, and art” is just one example of such an exhibition that is coming up in a few weeks.

Update: If you are in the Pacific northwest, here is another bike exhibition at an art museum that you won’t want to miss…and they will have a special guest speaker one night next month.

I could go on and on sharing links today, but the post is getting long and my design projects are waiting. More to come soon though.

Performance Bike Logo

Posted in Concept, E-bike, HPV, Road.

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Design Awards for bikes and bike products


Mark Sanders and the Mando Footloose team. Photo credit:

The 2013 red dot awards ceremony and gala took place last week in Essen, Germany, and as usual, bicycles were among the many types of products that were recognized for design excellence. A couple of days after the ceremony, Yanko Design picked their top 20 product designs from the “Best of the Best” awards, and two bikes were included on the list- the Mando Footloose folding chainless e-bike by Mark Sanders and the Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike by Artefakt industriekultur. On his Google + page, Mark Sanders (pictured above with the Mando Footloose team) has quite a few photos of the Footloose, including a few from the awards gala. The footloose wasn’t the only bike designed by Sanders that received an award though. His iF Move was recognized as well, so congrats to him on both of the awards.


Topeak MiniRocket iGlow pump

Topeak won two red dot awards in 2013 for the MiniRocket iGlow pump and the PrepStation toolbox. Both are nice products, but the MiniRocket iGlow, a mini pump with an LED illuminated optical fiber element inside, is the one I really like.

I am sure that there were many other bicycles and bike related products that were recognized with red dot design awards this year. If you know of any that I left out, please mention them in the comments.


Velodroom GrabCAD challenge winner- Woog wheel light

Though not as big as the red dot awards, another international design competition wrapped up recently.  The winners of the Velodroom Bike Accessories Challenge can be seen at GrabCAD, the engineering community site that hosted the competition.  I was one of the five jury members along with Velodroom co-founder Andri Laidre, Velo Vision and Electric Bike magazine publisher Peter Eland, GrabCAD co-founder and bicycle enthusiast Indrek Narusk, and GrabCAD engineer Kasper Kiis. It was not easy to evaluate and pick my top 10 choices from over 150 entries, but it was interesting to see the similarities and differences between my picks, and those of the other judges.  Overall, it was a good experience and I hope that I will be able to participate in future bike related challenges with GrabCAD.


Rendering of the Mando Footloose chainless e-bike


Canyon-Ultimate-CF SLX

Canyon Ultimate CF SLX road bike designed by Artefakt


Posted in Concept, E-bike, Events, Road.

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Bike Gate by Merwyn Wijaya and Teo Kok

bikegate-rack-1Merwyn Wijaya and Teo Kok Yung are product designers based in Singapore. Together, they designed a bike parking structure focusing on greater security and ease of use.

Here is how they explain their design:

“BikeGate is designed with both security and usability in mind. The dual locking system encourages cyclists to use both a padlock and a bike lock. By using two different kind of locks, the bikes parked are significantly more difficult to be stolen. In addition, BikeGate incorporates a key lock mechanism to allow easy removal of abandoned bikes by the enforcement agencies.”

bikegate-rack-2A few of the concept renderings are shown here, but you can see more on you can see more on Merwyn’s website.


Posted in Concept.

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