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The bike of the future?
August 11, 2014 12:43 PM   Subscribe

Automatic gear shifting, auto-adjusting lights, built-in fenders and platform rack, an electric motor (with detachable rechargeable battery) for pedaling assist, and a detachable handlebar that turns into a bike lock: "The Denny," designed in Seattle, has won a nationwide design contest and will be produced by Fuji.
posted by gottabefunky (94 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite

 
...and belt-driven!
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:48 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Some of the major functions listed are a result of Seattle design requirements, that is, HILLS and DARKNESS. Portlanders are annoyed.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:48 PM on August 11


Me want.

The minimal fender is really cool.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:51 PM on August 11


It looks cool, but not three grand cool.

If I wanted a high-tech futurebike, I'd probably get a Valour.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 12:51 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


that is, HILLS and DARKNESS

I'm sorry, I've never been to Seattle. What are these things you speak of, exactly?
posted by yoink at 12:52 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


It looks cool, but not three grand cool.

Well, sure, but it saves you buying a separate bike lock. What are those running at now? One or two thou a pop? I mean, in the end it's just about saving you money!
posted by yoink at 12:53 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Where does it say it's going to cost $3K retail?
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:54 PM on August 11


It looks cool, but not three grand cool.

Electric powertrains aren't cheap. Probably roughly half of the cost.
posted by mondo dentro at 12:55 PM on August 11


Hard to imaging that "minimal fender" being anything more than a noisemaker.
posted by mhoye at 12:56 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Is $3000 really that expensive for an electric bike? I'm not in the market for an ebike, but my sense is that a lot of them cost about that much.

I wonder if they're going to do a step-through. I think that there's a lot of overlap between the ebike market and the step-through market.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 12:56 PM on August 11


Electric powertrains aren't cheap. Probably roughly half of the cost.

Yeah, looking at highly rated power-assist bikes online, it seems like a $3k price point is in the low-to-mid range...
posted by mr_roboto at 12:57 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Any skilled bike thief would get through that lock like butter. I love this bike, but that's exactly why it would be stolen in no time flat. A GPS tracker like SpyBike would be a necessity, as would theft insurance. Which you can afford if you can afford a $3,000 bike.
posted by zardoz at 12:57 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I suppose most of the cool stuff is patented? I'd love to see the minimal fenders, front-end storage, and handlebar lock migrate to other bikes.
posted by straight at 12:58 PM on August 11


And pretty sure I don't want the electric assist or the automatic gear shifting.
posted by straight at 1:00 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Wow, that looks like what Neo would get in the Matrix if he were to call the operator and say, "Tank, I need a bicycle, now!"
posted by FJT at 1:03 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Ultimate utility bike.

Heavy as a Buick, tho.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:04 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


OK, my "me want" above was knee-jerk ebike love. But I still don't think this bike, as a utility bike, comes close to an Edgerunner, which is available with or without e-assist. They're about the same price, assuming a similar drivetrain. If you go with a mid-drive, it'll set you back another grand or so. But you can carry way more cargo (and even a kid or two) with the Edgerunner.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:04 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Any skilled bike thief would get through that lock like butter.

But then he would hop on to ride away, and realize that he had no handlebars?
posted by R. Mutt at 1:05 PM on August 11 [10 favorites]


Portlanders are annoyed

Seattlers are annoyed too.
posted by mathowie at 1:05 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


That's some lock! You could probably pull it apart with your bare hands.
posted by ReeMonster at 1:05 PM on August 11


that white line made by the frame is sexy as hell though...
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:07 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


ugh. designers are always releasing designs for "improved bicycles" developed without knowledge of why bicycles have evolved to be the way they are.

minimal fenders are a great way to get your ass and shoes wet and wish you had actual fenders.

i could build the ultimate city bike for under a grand. i'd start with a Linus Roadster or any one of a jillion other basic city bikes that just about every company offers. i'd put a belt drive and an internally geared hub on it, and hook up a similar front platform rack. I'd buy a couple of $20, USB-rechargeable, removeable, superpowerful blinky lights. and I'd put my u-lock in my pocket.
posted by entropone at 1:07 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


The internal hub, belt drive and the front carrier are awesome features, in my view. The hub brakes likewise, finally, are becoming standard.

The handlebar presents a nice set of options for urban use with high, wide and low hand potions. This is a big step forward over the poor design of a normal flat bar or other single hand position bar. Hand, wrist and back pain are huge problems. Both the back position/height choices and ability to change grips often helps quite a lot. The lock bit seems gimmicky, but who knows, might actually be useful. It looks big enough, at least.

The "fenders" look laughable to me. In any real wet, both legs are going to get soaked by spray from the front wheel. I'm not convinced that dragging a bit of plastic on the rubber is a great idea either. Furthermore, they've gone to the trouble of using a belt, for crying out loud. It's amazing that they didn't choose to go all in and put on a totally enclosed drive system!

Autoshift, I can definitely do without. Autoshift systems I've seen do not deal with high accelerations or hill climbs at all gracefully.

The electronics, meh. It would be nice if they offered an unpowered option, certainly. This bike could probably go for a grand or so without it. It adds a lot of cost and weight. The built in lights look unexceptional (to be seen rather than to actually provide light---not good on cycle paths, for example), and, ime, cars can't see/don't look for bike LED turn lights.
posted by bonehead at 1:08 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


i could build the ultimate city bike for under a grand.

Not with electric assist you wouldn't.
posted by mondo dentro at 1:09 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I wish it didn't have a belt drive. I'm curious about the fenders as well. All in all, glad to see someone redefining what a commuter is.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:11 PM on August 11


Portlanders are annoyed

Not a big change for this guy.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:14 PM on August 11


Seattleite here, in love with my current bike, but I want to try a spin on this one when it is finally on the market. If it rides nicely and the fenders really do fend off water, I'll be tempted to return to my (very hilly and rainy) bike commute from my home to the train. Also, just impressed with the cleverness of many of the Denny design features.
posted by bearwife at 1:21 PM on August 11


ugh. designers are always releasing designs for "improved bicycles" developed without knowledge of why bicycles have evolved to be the way they are.

I was so not impressed by Chicago's entry. The graphics they put out before the big reveal didn't even have chainstays. They sure had a good PR team, though.
posted by hydrophonic at 1:25 PM on August 11


didn't even have chainstays

If you could actually do that (materials-technology wise) wouldn't that be a feature, not a bug?
posted by yoink at 1:32 PM on August 11


it's been done but there's a reason why it didn't catch on and hasn't persisted.
posted by entropone at 1:35 PM on August 11


No chainstays remove a major issue with a belt-drive---having to cut the rear triangle to change the belt if necessary. The BLACKLINE is the only other bike in the competition with a belt.
posted by bonehead at 1:36 PM on August 11


The integrated lights and lock are unnecessary. Depending on the duration of the power assist (and the number of spare battery packs one might be carrying), it's better to carry a more durable bike lock and, if you've got $3K lying around, you'll probably want to buy your own after-market lights.

I'd like to know whether the grip tape can be customized and, personally, I think I'd prefer riser handlebars to the "handlebox" but I'm curious as to how it handles.

The removable battery pack makes this an interesting option for people who do a relatively lot of riding.

Cool.
posted by mistersquid at 1:37 PM on August 11


This seems over-designed and over-expensive for being the "bike of the future." And it really doesn't move towards addressing the real concern of bike commuting in the US: the lack of bike commuters in the US. I'll take a dozen people out on the road with me on old steel frame roadies/hybrids with some cheap blinky lights and panniers over what is apparently the Cadillac of commuter bikes. This is just the general grousing that could be found any time a brand-new, loaded-with-gadgetry prototype comes about. It does look nice and some of the choices they made seem neat (like the built in lock).

Auto shifting though? Get bent, Denny.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:38 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Honestly, the electric assist on that bike looks underpowered. If they're going to call it The Denny, it should actually be able to climb up Denny hill under its own power. It's also weird that they call it The Denny when most local cyclists tend to avoid that street due to it's pretty extreme vertical rise, and because of the high vehicle traffic, the lack of bike lanes, shoulder or uncrowded sidewalk, and instead often choose to zig-zag up the hill via Olive or other routes, including Pine, which does have sharrows and various segments of bike lane and a less brutal rise.

The aesthetic design of the bike itself is pretty cool and forward-thinking, but also seems to fall under the realm of 3D printing something just because you can. The frame design isn't really new or anything you couldn't do with plain welded steel tube, or modern hydroforming, or even carbon fiber.

If you're going to 3D print a whole bike frame, you have an opportunity to try out some really revolutionary frame designs. The frame could have been something that leverages micro-structures and scaffolds for extreme low weight while maintaining strength, but it would have looked weird, like plant matter or a fractal extrusion or something.

Granted, it still needs to be designed for bulk manufacture, but I'm not sure if Fuji is going to actually 3D print everything or just use it as a template for a more traditional frame building process like hydroformed and welded tubes.

The bike-lock handlebar is cool in concept, but probably lacking in the real world application department. I don't really want handlebars that come off. That's like the very last part on the bike that needs a quick release or dual function. It also is limiting end users to one kind of handlebar, which isn't a good way to fit a bike to your body. And if it's as light weight as a handlebar needs to be to be a good handlebar, it's going to make a very poor lock. If it's as heavy as a U-lock needs to be, it's going to be too heavy and make for a poor handlebar. (Integrated bike locks are a good, nice idea, though.

The "minimal" fenders aren't really very minimal. It looks there is way more metal or material there than there is on a standard pair of plastic or aluminum fenders held up by thin steel rods. I also don't want something like a brush rubbing my tires constantly while I'm riding, rain or shine. That just sounds annoying. I bet leaves get stuck in it and make irritating noises, which also happens with fenders but fenders are probably better at self-cleaning.

Granted, I haven't actually seen it or ridden it in person, but a lot of this bike looks like form leading or taking precedent over function. This isn't a good design philosophy if the bike is supposed to be a daily rider, commuter, grocery getter city utility bike and not a fashion accessory.

And all said and done, this is basically a fancy looking steel commuter hybrid at like 10x the price. You could knock together an old steel Stumpjumper MTB frame into a great commuter with your choice of parts, handlebars and so on for less than $300-400, or buy one ready to go at a used bike shop. Decent bolt on hub drives electric assists or full power rigs start at $500-1000ish, sometimes less.
posted by loquacious at 1:39 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


Aw, bless - they made a circa 2001 Giant Lafree pedelec. The USA never got to see it.

Those mudguards are a hilarious joke. Water doesn't just collect on the tyres.
posted by scruss at 1:39 PM on August 11


For those in the know-- what would be a current version of a bike like this that would be superior?
posted by cell divide at 1:41 PM on August 11


This bike looks perfect for someone who regularly rides a mile or two in an urban environment at night. Since none of that applies to me, I don't find it very appealing. But I applaud the innovation.
posted by srt19170 at 1:41 PM on August 11


All the talk about design choices suited for Pacific Northwest weather or Chicago winters though, does bring up the key point that there really isn't a one-size-fits all design; different regions are going to have different challenges. Sure, when I'm biking up and down (and up and down) around Atlanta, there are times I would have welcomed pedal assist, but some of the features aimed at dealing with cold/wet weather don't really address concerns I have for the supermajority of my rides. Maybe if they could design a bike with a built in sunshade, pollen-guard, and an ice-pack for your taint, then I'd be impressed.
posted by Panjandrum at 1:44 PM on August 11


Those mudguards are a hilarious joke. Water doesn't just collect on the tyres.

But conventional mudguards don't do anything for water that collects anywhere but the tires either, do they?
posted by yoink at 1:46 PM on August 11


For those in the know-- what would be a current version of a bike like this that would be superior?


The Trek District.

The Linus Roadster.

et cetera.

seriously, the bike of the future is the bike of the past.
posted by entropone at 1:59 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


This looks a little better than most of the gimmicky crap future bikes on Kickstarter, but that's damning with faint praise.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 2:02 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


seriously, the bike of the future is the bike of the past.

I was thinking the same thing, however both of the bikes you listed don't have pedal assist or an electric drivetrain. I bike as much as I can, when I can, but the biggest obstacle I still face is that my house is kind of in the hills.
posted by cell divide at 2:05 PM on August 11


Looks cool, some interesting features (some merely nifty ideas, some useful), still not suited for many commuters.

Too heavy.
Doesn't fold or break down for easy office or apartment use.
Not going to fit folks with short torsos or arms in proportion to leg length. Most women and trans*guys, that is.
Still not optimized for hillclimbing.
Still not usable, like most uprights, by folks with lower spine, shoulder, or arm/hand issues. Such as many middle-aged techies who could actually afford this bike.

How come the semi-electric bike of the future looks so much like the bikes of right now? (Aside from leveraging existing parts supplies)
Why not like a recumbent or a bike with electronic balance assist, or sidewheel or trike designs?
When is someone going to make my folding recumbent balance assist or trike?
Why only leg-powered? We've learned a lot about upper-body propulsion systems from wheelchair athletes. Combined lower-upper body drive bikes, perhaps with electronic dynamic loading control would be even more efficient!
posted by Dreidl at 2:06 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Where the water separation happens on the tires is a function of tire speed actually. At low to moderate speeds, these brushes are going to be ineffective. If you ride in the rain a lot, you know that you not only need a front fender, you need a mudflap (another example, some (sfw) mud-flap porn).

A lot of spray also comes from the chain and chainrings. Fenders do nothing for that, but the belt drive may help some. They chose not to add a full chain beltguard as well, but that's because they're designers as opposed to bike commuters, I'm thinking.
posted by bonehead at 2:08 PM on August 11


The internal hub, belt drive and the front carrier are awesome features, in my view. The hub brakes likewise, finally, are becoming standard.

The handlebar presents a nice set of options for urban use with high, wide and low hand potions.

I have an xtracycle edgerunner. I really like that thing. It works well for 95% of my riding life. But I would do morally questionable things to make enough money to convert that thing to a internal hub, belt drive bike. I thought the whole belt drive thing was a gimmick until i tested one out. They're such a pleasant ride (for the riding i tend to do; commuting in a city). They are remarkably quiet, and really light. They just feel mega stable. Do want.

But those handlebars, those are enticing.

We looked at pedal assist & electric drivetrains for our cargo bike, but sweet jesus…it makes the bike so much heavier the rest of the time you're riding that it defeats the purpose. They double the cost of your bike. I just have a nagging feeling that ebike riders just really want a small capacity electric motorcycle…which I also would love to have, but not instead of my bike.

Bikes like this are like concept cars; even if they hit production, they're not really going to sell big numbers. Think of this as a limited edition. However, the features will work themselves into more bikes, and hopefully some of these will be found to be beneficial and trickle down. Especially in the case of belt drives, I could be wrong, but I feel like the only thing keeping them expensive is scale; theres just more chained bikes out there.
posted by furnace.heart at 2:09 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Ultimate utility bike
posted by silence at 2:09 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Why only leg-powered? We've learned a lot about upper-body propulsion systems from wheelchair athletes. Combined lower-upper body drive bikes, perhaps with electronic dynamic loading control would be even more efficient!

All my limbs work and possibly I would be better at this if they didn't, but I feel like my hands and arms have enough to do already with maneuvering and braking that having to coordinate an additional motion meant to help power the bike would just be asking for it. Also I have the suspicion that on most people who can ride a leg-powered bike at all, the oomph available from the arms is not that meaningful compared to what the quads can supply. (I am not a kinesiologist, though.)
posted by dorque at 2:15 PM on August 11


There used to be a company (still is? can't tell) called Scott which made similar handlebars. They weren't locks though, just bars. They had probably their most success with the AT-3s, but they made an AT-6 model which looked a lot like the one on the Denny. They now sell an AT-4 which is sort of a combo barend/ aerobar arrangement.

I had an AT-6 on my regular ride for a couple of years but eventually switched to mustache bars. The AT-6 offered great comfort, but it was really hard to mount brifters on (even more so than the AT-3 mentioned in Sheldon Brown's article above). The mustache bars offered fewer hand and back positions but allowed me to fool around with barends and also looked cool, something the AT-6 definitely did not.
posted by bonehead at 2:20 PM on August 11


Ultimate utility bike

I really really want one of those Christiana bikes. And to live in Scandinavia, where everyone is happy and perfect and rides bikes even to their honeymoons. A utility bike like that and a commuter like the Linus roadster (and somewhere to ride them both without living in the constant threat of a rather ignominious and sudden splat of a death), and life would be just grand.
posted by dis_integration at 2:37 PM on August 11


They need to spin the handlebars off into a separate company and sell them as an aftermarket kit for existing bikes.
posted by sourwookie at 2:44 PM on August 11


(because while the rest is dead sexy, it's not 3k sexy to me)
posted by sourwookie at 2:46 PM on August 11


Stromer seems to be well-regarded.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 3:00 PM on August 11


Yeah, I'm not super impressed. The electric assist just weighs a ton, makes the whole thing more expensive, and gets it banned from loads of bike trails / bike lanes / sidewalks (in places where you're allowed on the sidewalk on a bike). Plus, it might change the licensing requirements (doesn't that make it a motor vehicle?) It also doesn't solve one of the largest problems about a utility bike - the lack of secure storage.

Frankly that looks more like a visual design contest than anything else. I'd like to see one based around actual practicality (I think something like the long-frame cargo-bikes, but with a secured, lightweight trunk, would be best). And no motors!
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:09 PM on August 11


A yearly visit to Interbike, the big US bicycle trade show, will find dozens of similar concept bicycles. Very few of them change the industry.

In 1981 Gary Fisher and I showed our new bike at the trade show. We called it a "MountainBike." I remember a well-dressed industry insider coming up to us and telling us that while he loved our passion, the future of the bicycle industry was aerodynamic components.

Turns out we were right, he wasn't.

A lot of people wants to come up with the "next" mountain bike, something that revitalizes the industry. It's hard to do, because a bike is a simple machine and most of the stuff has been thought of by now.
posted by Repack Rider at 3:21 PM on August 11 [42 favorites]


It isn't that hard to make a diy electic bike assist. Nor is it going to cost thousands of dollars.
posted by humanfont at 3:21 PM on August 11


I feel like the electric assist is what kills this. It's what ruins the price, and it's really not necessary if they had just put in the effort to make it lightweight. I feel like they added all the features they wanted, ended up with a heavy bike, and added that in later. Whether that's the actual truth or not or that was a day 1 drawing board feature, it feels that way to me.

I also think the handlebar thing is a silly idea that sounds cool, and looks good in a video to someone who doesn't understand how a bike lock works. If they had actually made the handlebars strong enough to be useful as a lock, they'd be ridiculously heavy(have you ever held a BIG D/U lock? like one that could lock 3 bikes at once? because that's how big those handlebars are).


I mean maybe it's just that i live in seattle, but i think this thing is silly. The ultimate seattle bike is an entry level cyclocross bike. Something like a kona jake/redline conquest/bianchi volpe. Something with strong, water ready brakes, wide tires, and that's designed to smash through some bumps because the streets here are terrible. You can get any of those bikes for $500~ used, and they're all under $1000 new as i remember. They'll last years with basic maintenance, are relatively light, and perfectly suited to just slap some cheap fenders and lights on and ride here. They also have more than enough gears to ride all the hills here you should be riding smoothly, even if you're just starting out and don't have iron legs.

So many of the features here add a lot to the price without adding enough value. The handlebar thing pissed me off the most, but the silly brake light/turn signal stuff, automatic headlights, etc. And the elephant in the room is obviously the electric boost. It's not strong enough to really pull the thing up a steep ass hill you probably shouldn't be riding up anyways(like denny), but it adds a ton to the price. Automatic shifting sucks, and adds a bunch to the price. The belt drive is clever, but isn't even enclosed(i'm assuming for aesthetic reasons since they probably think the shields are "dorky" and isn't a huge value add when everyone in town already rides with normal chains and it works fine. I feel the same about internally geared hubs. Their cables go out of alignment just like traditional derailleurs, and they fuck up too.

Other than style and design chops, i just don't see what this brings to the table. $3000 would get you a fancy custom made bike at some of the really nice local builders like davidson/elliot bay, rodriguez, etc. And hell, i used to have one of these, which is one of the coolest bikes ever made and also very light, and it only cost me $900. Had top of the line components too, and i even managed to retrofit fenders onto it(it looked hilaaaaarious).

It's sad too, i like the frame and rack design a lot. I even like those silly fenders. I wish you could buy it as like, a frameset. Or just a really basic version that didn't have the electric power or any of the other special features.
posted by emptythought at 3:23 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


If they had actually made the handlebars strong enough to be useful as a lock, they'd be ridiculously heavy

I see your point, but this would replace the heavy u-lock I'm already schlepping around. And my existing handlebars. so while it may weigh more than my current lock+existing handlebars, I'm only concerned with the difference in weight, not the addition in weight, which wouldn't be a deal breaker for a casual in-town rider like me.
posted by sourwookie at 3:34 PM on August 11


I feel like the electric assist is what kills this

The assist doesn't have to be strong enough to get you up a hill without cycling at all (then you might as well just be on a motorbike)--it just has to make it sufficiently easier to get up the hills that someone who would rule out your ideal "entry level cyclocross" bike because they'd get to work a sweaty, puffing mess if they used that might opt for the electrobike in its place.

I think rejecting an electro-assist bike because it's not a manual makes as much sense as criticizing a bicycle for not being a unicycle ("why throw that stupid extra wheel on?"). I mean, if the unicycle suits your purposes and meets all your needs, that's great--but there are obviously needs and purposes it can't fill that a bicycle can. Ditto the electro-assist bike versus the complete manual.
posted by yoink at 3:35 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


I don't misunderstand the utility of it, i just don't think it adds enough value for how much it adds to the price for anyone but a very small group of people. Basically, the friend of people who already buy $3000 bikes who had previously rejected it because of what you mentioned.

That's a silly-small slice of the "people who do or would be willing to try riding a bike regularly" market.

And yes, from what i can tell, it is fairly weak as far as ebike systems go. I've ridden ones like this and they don't give you as much as you'd think beyond the weight they add. I wasn't expected fully electric hill climbing, but just a significant reduction of necessary exertion on a steep ass hill. They're kind meh on that.
posted by emptythought at 3:39 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Portlanders are annoyed

Their bike's video is like something from Portlandia. It seems to be about a cool curated dining-and-shopping app that includes a bicycle.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 3:49 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I don't misunderstand the utility of it, i just don't think it adds enough value for how much it adds to the price for anyone but a very small group of people.

I see a lot of people in my not-very-hilly part of the world riding electrically-assisted bikes. There seems to be a market for them. No doubt you can get the same utility for less money, but then this looks cool and people are willing to spend quite a high premium to look cool.

My real point, though, is that if the thing you really want isn't an electric bike it's silly to slag this for being one (as is the case for all the people in this thread who've linked to "why don't you just buy..." examples of non-electric bikes). It's simply occupying a different conversation. If there's no market for this well...no harm no foul, right? It's not as if anyone's talking about making these compulsory for all bike riders in future. It's not going to impact the availability of your favorite non-electric bike. If, on the other hand, it encourages a few people to take up biking who have thus far considered non-electric bikes to be impractical and/or insufficiently Dwell-Magazine-cool to use, well that's all to the good. It all seems such a non-zero-sum-game situation, I just don't get the level of angst in this thread.
posted by yoink at 3:59 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


The problem with adding an assist is that it doubles the cost of the bike, quite literally. Similar Li-ion front wheel conversion kits run from 1k to 2.5k. People may like them, but there's a big price gap between a nice thousand dollar bike (still expensive, but possible) and a three thousand dollar one.
posted by bonehead at 4:51 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Also, if they're like any other Li-ion battery in the world, they're at half capacity in a couple of years and useless at about 5-8. So they need replacement. And whenever you're not using them, it's just a whole bunch of extra, useless weight and bulk. Plus, now you have to charge the bike. It's also more fragile against environmental extremes. And more expensive to maintain.

But from what I've seen, the real point of electric assist is so you can go hyperspeed on the mixed-used paths and annoy all of the other users. Or be the world's quietest and least visible motorcycle.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:14 PM on August 11


The problem with adding an assist is that it doubles the cost of the bike, quite literally. Similar Li-ion front wheel conversion kits run from 1k to 2.5k. People may like them, but there's a big price gap between a nice thousand dollar bike (still expensive, but possible) and a three thousand dollar one.

Then buy a bike without one. Again, no one is proposing that this be the only bike anyone be allowed to buy, ever.
posted by yoink at 5:46 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


i could build the ultimate city bike for under a grand. i'd start with a Linus Roadster or any one of a jillion other basic city bikes that just about every company offers. i'd put a belt drive and an internally geared hub on it, and hook up a similar front platform rack. I'd buy a couple of $20, USB-rechargeable, removeable, superpowerful blinky lights. and I'd put my u-lock in my pocket.

This is a pretty good plan.

But integrated lights are convenient - you don't have to take them with you, don't need to worry about them being stolen.

Aftermarket turn signals exist, but they are ugly and clunky. Integrated ones seem like a good idea.

Agree on the locking handlebar thing - I can't see how it's better than a u-lock in a holster. More importantly, being about to change your handlebars is an important element of getting a good fit. This is a similar issue that I had with the otherwise very cool Helios smart handlebars - the integrated stems mean that you can't adjust the handlebar height.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:56 PM on August 11


One of the criteria in the design brief was: Design a bike that will blow our minds AND be relevant, covetable and produceable for today’s consumer. A $3,000+ bike isn't relevant for most bike consumers. Heck, a $1,000 bike is still to expensive.

This may be a neat bike in many ways, but a $3k production price fails a fairly important part of the brief.
posted by bonehead at 5:58 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


A motor assist, btw, is not part of the brief. I think this is the only entry with one.
posted by bonehead at 6:01 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


If there's no market for this well...no harm no foul, right? It's not as if anyone's talking about making these compulsory for all bike riders in future.

My issue is that, as bonehead kind of hit on above, this was marketed as a competition for the Bike Of The People. It wasn't supposed to be a concept car, it was supposed to be something that the average jane of 2014 would see and go "this is what i've been looking for!"

They really hosed themselves on that front. It's like hosting a competition like this for cars and crowing the winner the tesla model S. It's not the vehicle of the people, it's the vehicle of one small niche of people who can afford to drop this much.

It would have been a much more interesting competition if they had set a relatively low price cap. Like $1000, or even $500-750. There's some interesting innovation and features/value for price stuff going on in the $500 space for small-apartment-city-living bikes like this and many other things.

Tournaments and competitions that are open ended are sort of inherently boring in the end, and tend to not produce real things actual people will use. It's pretty silly that they didn't really come up with a list of requirements, or if they did it was really open ended and mostly just "go crazy".

It just seems totally tone deaf to the idea of it being "relevant". It's like the homer, with an added tinge of completely disassociation from the real world.

I also think it says something interesting about the state of seattle that the "bike of the people" costs $3000. Kind of reflects what's happening to the rents and demographics of a lot of neighborhoods.
posted by emptythought at 6:19 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


Melim, in Montreal, makes these amazing utility bikes. I'd love to be able to replace my car with one.
posted by mhoye at 6:36 PM on August 11


I recently had one of those "informational interview" meetings at an office where if a position opened up I'd be looking for something very much like this. Downtown so parking is expensive, uphill on the way to work so a little electric boost would mean being able to arrive un-sweaty, and it's the kind of self-consciously design-centric place where (for better or worse) good design is noticed.

I've been fiddling with chains and derailleurs for most of my life -- I'm ready to never touch a greasy chain again, even if it turns out belt drives and internal hubs have their issues too. Integrated lights sound wonderful -- the last thing I want is to get off the bike and have to detach a bunch of stupid crap. I don't take off my truck's headlights when I park, and have no interest in doing the same for my bike.

So I guess I'm close to the target market, and my verdict is a qualified "yes." It would need to come in tall sizes; the handlebar lock seems gimmicky (I'd rather it had an integrated holder for a really good U-lock); but the big picture looks good.

This isn't perfect, but it's closer to what a (small but profitable) minority of bike riders are probably looking for than most of what is currently for sale.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:49 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Dip Flash, maybe check out the vanmoof ebikes.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:03 PM on August 11


Dip Flash, maybe check out the vanmoof ebikes.

If I ever get a job like that, trust me, I will be hitting up AskMe for bike advice first thing.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:44 PM on August 11


Bike Snob as always has a pretty good take on this. Boutique concept, by 20-something hipster designers, with the goal of being novel and attention-getting. Not worth taking seriously as a practical city bike design.
posted by anthill at 8:14 PM on August 11 [5 favorites]


The more I think about this, the stupider it is and the more annoyed I get. That rack in the front is next to useless; you can't put anything even a little bit tall on it, or the handlebars will risk swinging into it. That's a major safety hazard too, since people will be tempted to try it anyway. I guess you could hang panniers from it, but that's pretty low priority; you'd put a good rack in the back, and then panniers on it, before going there. The stupid design of the front rack is evident in the video; why do you think they're carrying a shoebox instead of, say, a bag of groceries? Because only something short will fit!

The minimal fenders are also stupid; I know from having loose mudguards on a mountain bike that only true, large, well-fitted fenders will keep you absolutely dry. These aren't going to do it, and you really need them to, on a commuter. Furthermore, why not use regular fenders? They're light and durable and they absolutely work. Why mess with a successful design? Plus, I worry that if something sticks in/to the front wheel, it could jam against the front fender; it'll break the fender at best, and if it doesn't it might stop the front wheel and cause an ugly accident. Also, if you want to use knobby tires, I guess it sucks to be you.

It really does just feel like a pretentious design project that doesn't do anything but introduce design flaws into a product aimed at a market that was already pretty well served at the high end.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:36 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I would just like to point out for anyone who missed it that one of the people who pioneered the motherfucking mountain bike is posting in this thread.
posted by Jairus at 9:55 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


Anything without a chain/belt guard should not be taken seriously by city folk.
posted by furtive at 10:08 PM on August 11


Yes, you have to love Metafilter when in a thread about bike designs, one of the inventors of the mountain bike shows up.

I own a mountain bike, for the only reason that when I went to buy a new bike in 2000, this was the only kind of bike the shop (in Decatur, Ga) carried. Talk about a world-changing design.
posted by tecg at 11:33 PM on August 11


seriously, the bike of the future is the bike of the past.

Gotta agree with this. I bought one of these Bridgestone city bikes for under $500 and it's been one of my best purchases ever. Run-flat tires, plenty of storage, internal 3-speed hub, chain guard, locking handlebars and rear wheel, LED headlight, AND comfortable to ride for hours. Plus Bridgestone, Panasonic, Miyata, etc make ones just like it with belt drives and electric assist for not much more $$. I'm constantly shocked that nobody has started importing these from Japan and marketing them to urban American cyclists because they're good looking and wonderful to live with.
posted by azuresunday at 1:41 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Dip Flash, maybe check out the vanmoof ebikes.

The vanmoof T looks like the closest thing to the bike of my dreams i've ever seen. and of course it's unavailable in the US. I love 20in wheel but otherwise regular bike "minivelo" style. I wanted this fairly bad(and in that pink color! wtf) but it sold out in like a month from launch before i could set aside the cash. I was also intrigued by this, which seems to be a fairly convincing clone or even the same frame as the bianchi they inexplicably only sell in japan.(and the similar, and also awesome masi, which also comes in fuck-off pink).

Regretably, nothing like that ever comes to the US. And if you can even import it here, the price premium you pay kills the value and over-runs the coolness. I live in a tiny enough apartment that there's nowhere to put my bike unless i'm going to keep it outside under the back fire escape(where it would instantly get stolen, someone has seemingly taken an angle grinder to the rear gate TWICE). I have to just keep my bike at work and walk there whenever i want to ride it. I have a dahon folding bike, but it's clunky and sucky in a number of ways including it's non replaceable, uncomfortable awkward handlebars.

Sigh.

I'm constantly shocked that nobody has started importing these from Japan and marketing them to urban American cyclists because they're good looking and wonderful to live with.

Someone will, but they'll sell them for $2000 to the same people who are being targeted by this bike, just like the buttheads who import dutch bikes and sell them for obscene prices.

My dads friend used to run a business selling vintage clothes and fancy denim jeans in japan, shipping stuff by the container load over there. He also shipped quite a bit of stuff back that was quirky to sell here. If you're going to ship 20 of these over here you're not paying an assload of money in shipping or anything, it's all just pocket money to laugh all the way to the bank to.

I mean, i gotta respect the hustle, but it's also kind of infuriating to watch because this is a solved problem. The city bikes you're talking about do exactly what this one wanted to, and they even look cool... and they're cheap.

Melim, in Montreal, makes these amazing utility bikes. I'd love to be able to replace my car with one.

I love these, but tying in with the above, imported they're always more expensive than this. Like, $4000~

I always dreamed of loading one up with some mackie 450s, a couple of deep cycle batteries or some big LiPos, an inverter, thenstrap my ipad to the handlebars to DJ with and just go ride around with friends blasting music obscenely loud... but yea, $4000.

It's surprising how many bakfiets-style bikes there are in seattle though, seeing as how there isn't really any much cheaper options.
posted by emptythought at 2:45 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


The thing is, a good-quality Bakfiets is by no means cheap, but the cost sort of makes sense - they're a relatively niche product made with high-quality components. The daft thing about this bike is that for about 1/3 of the price you can get a proper city bike with racks, lights, full chaincase and mudguards that can be stored outside and will last for years with minimal maintenance; even one with e-assist should be 20% cheaper than this, and will just work in a way I'm unconvinced the designer fantasy will.
posted by Jakob at 3:48 AM on August 12


The real big market for electric bikes is for non cyclists, See also the following already on the market. see also the following stylish electric bikes.
Mando Footloose (no direct transmission, it merits a FPP on its own.)
Gocycle
Moustache
posted by Drew Glass at 6:00 AM on August 12


A few more thoughts:
1. For the ultimate city bike, try looking at what's worked in cities where bikes outnumber people (ie, Amsterdam). Dutch bikes can be left outside, are cheap enough to not bother taking it with you when you move to a different city, and durable enough to survive for several decades even if it happens to spend a week at the bottom of a canal thanks to some asshole tourist.

2. Electric assists aren't for everybody and probably belong as a minority option rather than the default of an Ultimate City Bike.

3. Most of these bikes are too damn complicated to be the ultimate city bike.

4. Belt drives have an advantage; good, theft-proof, rechargeable, last-forever integrated lights would be a good innovation but I'll be skeptical until I see some that last for 5 years.
posted by entropone at 6:46 AM on August 12


Even the domestic (NA) cargo bikes are expensive, because, as Jakob says above, they're essentially custom bikes hand-built to order. Like buying a recumbent trike, you're going to pay a lot to go outside the mainstream diamond frame market.

My pet issue with this competition the step-over height. I've heard many people complain about not wanting a horizontal top bar over the years. Step-through frames are common, but have to make a bunch of compromises in material and tube thickness to make the frames strong enough, greatly increasing the weight of the bike. This is similar to the single-beam problems alluded to above.

I've always thought an elegant solution to that was the mixte frame style. It retains much of the strength of the double diamond frame, while allowing a much less intimidating frame for more casual riders. It's also reasonably light and inexpensive to manufacture.

One of the big disappointments for me in this competition is that three of the five entries didn't deviate much from the standard double diamond frames. The Chi Blackline has an interesting frame design, while the PDX Solid, almost a mixte, but then dorks it up by raising the top bar back up. The lack of significant consideration of one of the long-standing complaints about commuter bikes in most of the entries was a red flag for me about by whom and how these bikes were designed.
posted by bonehead at 7:34 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Something like this gorgeous creation, was what I was hoping for, but with a careful choice of components and compromizes to bring that $5,600 asking price for a hand-built prototype down to something attainable for mere mortals.
posted by bonehead at 7:50 AM on August 12


I think the electric assist is pretty nice. A lot of people won't ride a bike for transportation if they live in an area with hills — and I don't mean San Francisco hills, I mean like DC suburb hills — because suddenly, one extra turn or errand added to your commute, and your mode of transportation becomes a strenuous athletic event when you might not be looking for that.

You can argue that one of the Problems With America Today is that we segregate exercise and transportation into two categories and never the twain shall meet, but that's a very different issue than why people don't ride bikes around more often. (And unless it becomes socially acceptable to be sweaty more often, I don't think it's going to happen.)

The cost is a problem, though. I started looking into electric bikes a few years ago, and I found the cost and range to be such negatives that I decided to pass on this generation of technology. For the cost of an electric conversion to an existing bicycle, you can get a 49cc scooter. And for the cost of a really nice electric bicycle pre-built, you can get a motorcycle. As a result you have a very narrow market for e-bikes.

Eventually, I think that electric powertrains are going to overcome combustion engines. Gasoline engines are pretty much topped out in terms of efficiency and power/weight ratio, while electric systems are improving annually. (There are already electric motorcycles, although they seem to be curiosities so far.) On the motor side of the equation they already do have a better P/W ratio, it's just the energy storage that's a problem. If someone made an electric bike with a miniature 500W gasoline fuel cell, such that the bike would have basically unlimited range and no need to recharge, that'd be pretty slick.
posted by Kadin2048 at 8:14 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Most riders produce between 100 to 200W. The TdF pro riders can hit 450W or so, but they're freaks of nature. A 500W engine would allow routine cruising speeds of 50 to 60 kph (30 to 35 mph). An engine of half or a third of that would be more than sufficient.
posted by bonehead at 8:42 AM on August 12


Of course, on the gas side, there are things like this out there. They claim up to 120 mpg. They even have a prepper zombie-apocalypse version.
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on August 12


What a thoughtful exercise in beanplating a solution to a problem that doesn't really exist. For my money the ultimate city bike is whatever design gets used for a proper bike sharing system - simple, indestructible, one-size-fits-most. Everyone else can get something that will do the job just as well (if not better) brand new for ~$1K, half that if they're willing to troll craigslist for a few weeks.

That said, I'm jealous of the belt drive. And for fuck's sake, Shimano, build me a cable-actuated brifter for 8/11-speed Alfine already, this is getting embarrassing.
posted by the painkiller at 9:36 AM on August 12


I figured you'd need a 500W fuel cell to meet the instantaneous draw from an electric motor pulling from a standing start, but maybe you could put some supercapacitors or something in there and get along with a much more reasonable <250W one.

It takes the physiology of a TdF rider to produce 400+W over any length of time, but a reasonably fit person doing an emergency sprint — such as a left-turn-across-traffic on a busy street (or, as one of my friends likes to call it, the "shit your pants sprint") — can produce much more than that for a handful of seconds.

The Motoped is pretty neat. I've wondered about the practicality and overall P/W ratio you could get if you took an electric bike but removed the batteries and replaced them with a single-cylinder engine and an alternator (and a really good muffler), so you'd have a hybrid gasoline-electric e-bike. The advantage vs. the Motoped would be that you could swap out the hybrid power unit for a battery, when the technology advances to the point where combustion engines are thoroughly surpassed.

Somewhat relatedly, here's a gentleman riding a steam-powered bicycle. Say what you want about its practicality, it does have full fenders.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:09 AM on August 12


say what you will about e-bikes but they sell the shit out of them in places like Austria and Switzerland where hills are part of the average joe's daily commute.

don't knock Gates (belt) drives until you've tried them. They're not great for racing but they're ideal for commuting.

step-through and mixte frames are, thanks to our lovely American idiotic values, highly gendered as "women's design" bikes and do not sell well in the mass market.

carry on.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:28 PM on August 12 [3 favorites]


painkiller, Shimano needs to address some of the fundamental problems with their 8 and 11 speed Alfine systems before they put together an integrated shifter (my god how I hate the term "brifter", ick) for it; the reviews of them long term are... not good.
posted by lonefrontranger at 3:29 PM on August 12


New York Times: E-Bike Sales Are Surging In Europe

Daimler’s Smart brand is offering zero percent financing on its $3,000 e-bike in Britain, while BMW introduced its own e-bike for about $3,600 this year.

The higher profit margins have saved many a bike shop in recent years. A typical e-bike sells for about $2,700 in Europe, retailers said. The average price of a bicycle, which has been bolstered by the new motorized versions, sells for about $1,300, according to the federation.
...

For buyers who commute, the sweat factor seems to be a significant one.

Noel Regan, one of Mr. De Keghel’s customers, bought a Velo de Ville e-bike about a year ago. Mr. Regan, 35, is an Irishman who works for an energy industry association in Brussels.

“I have a regular bike,” said Mr. Regan, who paid about $4,000 for his e-bike. “But I wanted something I could commute to work in so I wasn’t hot and sweaty when I arrived.”

posted by Dip Flash at 5:30 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


Yeah, my GF's Dutch uncles and aunts loved their E-bikes. They had the fancy Bosch - drive models, which have a combination crankset / pedal force sensor / gearbox / motor assembly as the bottom bracket.

They're pedal-assist e-bikes, but if you crank the assist to "extreme", a flex of your toes will spin the rear wheel on gravel.

As I rode around Holland, middle-aged ladies carrying groceries were constantly passing me.
posted by anthill at 2:05 PM on August 22


As for electric bikes, it's all about the hills. If you live someplace flat, like Kansas or Chicago or Amsterdam, then you won't really have a need for it. But in San Francisco or Seattle or even L.A., electric power makes a huge difference. Going up hills can make the difference between, for example, getting to work perfectly coiffed or drenched in sweat.
posted by zardoz at 6:16 PM on August 22


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