Look at these crazy bikes! These are future bikes!
September 30, 2010 8:43 AM   Subscribe

The Seoul Cycle Design Competition: all shortlisted entries. Some examples: the winning entry. This one looks like a mean glow-worm. Some hearts, just for fun. A luggage-carrier. A foldable round bike. Horse that is only a pretend horse. Kind of a kitchy ivy lock. Poke around, look at all the different designs!
posted by Greg Nog (22 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Poster's Request -- frimble

Tired of always facing the direction of travel!? Now you don't have to!
posted by theodolite at 8:55 AM on September 30, 2010

A lot of the designers were treating the triangle between the steerer and seat tube as negative space to fill and play with in various ways (either make some pretty arrangement of tubing or find a functional purpose for it) or try to eliminate it entirely.

Bike design competitions are getting more interesting in recent years because more of the designers seem to be more intimately familiar with bikes and bike culture, and more interested in designing either functional bikes or in coming up with fantasy designs that could actually be built. Hoop-wheel bikes, which have been reinvented several times a year since the late 1960s without anybody ever positing whether they're buildable, are blessedly on the decline in these bike-of-the-future design reviews.
posted by ardgedee at 8:56 AM on September 30, 2010

Those bikes are all terrible and I hate them. Instead of making awesome images of something that sort of looks bike-like they should have to actually construct a working model so they could realize "Oh hey, pedaling a generator that then powers an electric motor in the rear wheel is horribly inefficient!" or "Wow, this umbrella bike sure is heavy the 360 days a year I'm not biking to the beach!", or "Ow, I banged my nuts on my pretend horses neck when I had to stop suddenly". If you're going to design a future bike without having to figure out how it will actually work why not make a hoverbike powered by farts.
posted by ghharr at 9:00 AM on September 30, 2010 [12 favorites]

It would be nice if these awesome concept bikes had any rooting in physical reality, but that's just me being a grumpy engineer. Most of these designs seem to fall under the category of "removing structural elements for aesthetics" which seems to me that they'll fold in on themselves riding over the first large pothole they find.
posted by backseatpilot at 9:08 AM on September 30, 2010

Great here goes my day. These are really interesting links thanks.

This one is great: folds into something that looks like a box and it chargers your electronic items while cycling.

Bike taxi that sort of looks like a sail boat
posted by Wolfster at 9:10 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh look, Apple made a fixie!

The thing I hate about "design" is how much utility they seek to obcuscate or just do away with. For example, I have a computer lab with iMacs. Every semester, I have to teach the new people to turn it on. That's not intuitive. That's stupid.

All of these designs seek to do away with complexity that exists because of efficiency gains. Chains suck in a lot of ways, but are lightweight, easy to maintain, and really efficienct compared to the alternatives. Same with adjustable seat stays.

But I'm not a "creative", so I'm probably missing something.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:11 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, the chain grease problem is already being addressed in single-speed / internally geared hub bikes with kevlar belt-drive
posted by ghharr at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

As a cyclist, I agree entirely with ghharr. No bike should be allowed to win a bicycle design competition until someone has ridden it 10 miles across town and up and down a reasonably-sized hill. These bikes all suck completely as bicycles, and are only interesting at all as pretty pictures.

"Design" does not mean "drawing pretty pictures of fantasy objects" it means "thinking through how to build something that will actually work".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:13 AM on September 30, 2010 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the problem with most (all) of these designs is tht the designers haven't figured out how a regular diamond-frame bike works. Many of those bike would have steering so twitchy as to be unridable. It's clear none of these folks thought about trail, for example.

The fundamental bike shape is more than 100 years old. While it's tried and efficient at what it does, there's plenty of room for a rethink. I do wish these students (and judges!) had done their homework though. Bikes are functional, not just decorative. Most of these designes are pretty but would be less comfortable than a $250 Huffy from Walmart.
posted by bonehead at 9:19 AM on September 30, 2010

"Design" does not mean "drawing pretty pictures of fantasy objects" it means "thinking through how to build something that will actually work".

I could not agree more. I am a designer. I design things that work, that have to work, and that have to work the first time, it's a one shot deal, no prototyping. I have worked with so-called "designers" that think making a pretty picture is a design.

That being said, there is certainly merit in art that at least pretends to be functional. Look at it as art-with-constraints. The bicycle seems to be a favorite subject for this kind of exercise, I suppose because of it's fundamental simplicity. Every now and then one of these kinds of competitions reveals something about materials, form, and function that is worthwhile thinking about.

One thing I like to tell engineers - well, anyone, for that matter - is that we all know that "form follows function". My counter argument to this is that "style has substance". It's the difference between dressing like an engineer, and being well dressed.
posted by Xoebe at 9:38 AM on September 30, 2010

The thing is that bike design has been constrained by materials and metalurgical contraints. Diamond frames are a truss, strong and light. Spoked wheels are the same, very strong for their weight. Only a few metals are used for bike frames, aluminum or steel for the most part, but due to their matierials properties, steel strong but dense, aluminum light, but less strong, it didn't really matter much to bike weight which metal was used. Titanium by the way is no better. It fits almost exactly in the middle of steel and aluminum in terms of strength and density.

New materials, and, particularly carbon fibre, have real potential to change the stasis of the metal density-strength trade off. Weird and wonderful designs should be possible with it and other new materials. Beam seat posts---to removing extra mass. Spokeless wheels---spokes have a lot of wind drag---a real problem on a bike). Single-arm forks and rear wheel supports---simpler mechanical connections. Some of these are less sucessful than others, but I think we're just at the start of this new innovation period.

There are lots of interesting things that can be done with bikes, but they have to be rooted in an understanding of what a bike has to do, and what newer materials can do to replace the old. I don't think that bikes need to stay the old diamond truss shapes, but they do need to be better in some way, not just prettier.
posted by bonehead at 10:07 AM on September 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

I really liked the idea that bikes can be mass produced much cheaper using molded, recycled plastic.
Unfortunately this one also fails the function test. The ribbed I-beam structure would have very little torsional stiffness. The two wheels would flop left and right relentlessly. It would have been better to mold the shape in two halves and fuse them together.
posted by Popular Ethics at 10:27 AM on September 30, 2010

Without taking the time to comment on any specific designs, any "designer" that attempts to reinvent the bicycle without reading everything that Jobst Brandt has ever written should probably consider a career change. There's a lot of reasons the bicycle has hardly changed over the last century, and he's got no problem making that clear to anyone within earshot.
posted by god hates math at 10:28 AM on September 30, 2010

> steering so twitchy as to be unridable. It's clear none of these
> folks thought about trail

Yes, that leaped right off the page screaming as soon as I looked.

Designers should be required to test their designs in actual use and survive.

I understand this approach greatly improved aircraft design, long ago.
posted by hank at 10:36 AM on September 30, 2010

I'll be painting my bike to glow in the dark now, thanks.
posted by krilli at 10:54 AM on September 30, 2010

(Safety and maximum radness, together at last.)
posted by krilli at 10:55 AM on September 30, 2010

Jobst Brandt scares the crap out of me, even on the internet.
posted by everichon at 11:18 AM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm both a lover of both the perversely-novel and the stalwart traditional, and some of these designs are certainly pretty, but they all look heavy and stiff, and they don't really solve any real engineering problems without introducing greater ones in exchange.

There's a reason that bicycles have looked about the same for a hundred years, and it's because the safety bicycle is a pretty dang perfect machine. It's got flaws, but the flaws are trade-offs for valid reasons.

A chain's a sort of an old-fashioned thing, probably, but the complexity, expense, weight, and clunkiness of a shaft drive replaces a little technical quibble with a great big thonkin' mess.

Sitting upright hurts your back? You can go recumbent, but then you're two feet off the ground, even more invisible to motorists than before, and you've got a chain a mile long, weird steering arrangements, and it sucks to pedal up a hill.

You can't shift, so you get an automatic bicycle. Neat trick. Saps your pedaling energy like paddles churning cool molasses.

I want new and exciting bikes to come along, but they're too often all about new and not enough about ingenuity. Mind you, I'm a little bitter, as a fan of the inexplicably footnoted Moulton bicycle and its low rent, but cultishly-beloved, impersonator, the Raleigh Twenty. I've just spent the afternoon criss-crossing downtown Baltimore in the rain and winds on my little green Twenty, on the roads and sidewalks (hey, it's Baltimore, okay?), and it's just about a perfect little scootery mountain goat of a thing, with strong little wheels (on its original 1969 tires) and lovely, lovely hands-free geometry.

It just boggles my mind that so many people go gangling around the city on big flumpity mountain bikes when there's something better, but people don't like change. They just got used to this whole mountain bike thing and they're not going to been seen looking like Kermit the Frog on a strange little Moulton, and that's a bike that's genuinely glorious to ride, once you've gotten over yourself long enough to take one out for a spin. I can't imagine wooing more drivers over to the land of riding with a heavy, weirdly-complicated bike that looks like a Moen faucet, but maybe that's just me.

Meanwhile, I'm doing my part to win over the skeptics, rolling my little bike neatly into the elevator at headquarters as I head up to the fifth floor for yet another meeting.

"That's a cute little bike," they say, and smile.

"It is, isn't it? Thank you."
posted by sonascope at 1:34 PM on September 30, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'd probably love these if they were just presented as "Hey, look at these cool fantasy bicycles we drew!" It's the veneer of odd, pseudo-engineeringy language that invites so much ire, and there seem to be so many design competitions like this these days. They're very good pictures, but you can't just put science words on the page and call it a finished design.
posted by lucidium at 1:39 PM on September 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ironic that there are comparatively few bikes in Seoul because it's so fucking automobile-oriented and dangerous.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:15 PM on September 30, 2010

Bikes, especially fixed-gear, are HUGE with college age kids in Seoul. It looks like Brooklyn, except everything is sleek, carbon-fiber future machines. I'm drooling everytime one rides past me. In University areas, it looks like a show room.

That said, riding a bike in Seoul is like walking a tightrope over an acid pit. You might survive, but there's probably a better way to get around.

Stuff like this also bewilders me a bit- Seoul is having a great arts & design moment, but the culture is still xenophobic, the cities are still ugly (Rows and rows and rows of identical buildings. Very Soviet.) and there's not much of a counter-culture. I think it's almost entirely younger Koreans leading the charge on this kind of stuff and that's, honestly, a relief.
posted by GilloD at 4:50 PM on September 30, 2010

I applaud the idea of improving a good thing, but most bicycle designs involve removing possibly the most sensible thing: the chain. A chain driven bike is quite possibly the most efficient power transfer mechanism available, and with a derailleur it affords a wide range of gear ratios.

Substituting the chain driven system for anything else is the equivalent of trying to improve the wheel by making it non-round.
posted by dgran at 10:06 AM on October 1, 2010

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