Clever Concepts

The CYLO concept bike, which calls itself "the ultimate urban bicycle."
The CYLO concept bike. Its creators call it “the ultimate urban bicycle.”

What is it about concept bikes that catches our eyes and piques our interest? Maybe it’s the way they challenge our ideas of what a bike can/should look like or how it should operate. …Or maybe they just look cool. 

The best urban concepts seem to integrate components that are typically peripheral (racks, lights, fenders) while taking advantage of ground-up design to create brand new ones, such as brake lights and in-frame batteries.

A friend sent me a link to the pre-production CYLO urban bicycle above. Aside from its interesting looks, it comes with several features suitable for an urban bike, as well as disc brakes, a belt drive, and the aforementioned built-in brake light, all of which make pretty good sense.

It made me think of another thoughtful urban concept bike, the Faraday Porteur:

Faraday
The Faraday Porteur has an in-frame battery for pedal assist and built-in lights.

The Faraday has a more classic look with several innovative features, but after hitting the scene on Kickstarter a couple years ago, the website says they’re still only taking pre-orders. Maybe that’s the main drawback to these bikes: sometimes they remain conceptual longer than planned.

What do you think of urban concept bikes like these? Do you like one better than the other? And are they design worth paying for, or overpriced frills? What features would you include if you were designing a fully integrated urban bicycle?

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6 thoughts on “Clever Concepts”

  1. Is this for real? I hope not. It looks to be as unsafe to ride as it is impractical. First there’s the incredibly weak frame design. Its like they designed it to bend as soon as possible, at that place above the crank where three tubes come together. One good bunny-hop should do it.

    The fenders with no struts, especially in front, should result in some fun stories to tell about how you got your facial scars.

    This is not a design that can be lightly set aside — it must be thrown aside with great force.

    -Mark

    1. Thanks for your thoughts here, Mark! I appreciate that you are concerned about people’s safety, and I can understand how you would have such a strong reaction to something you perceived was unsafe.

      Honestly I hadn’t considered structural integrity, because I assumed that this is a basic and critical consideration for any bicycle design about to go into production. It certainly wouldn’t be to the company’s advantage to suffer a lawsuit from the gruesome injuries you suggested.

      I’m not an engineer or bike designer (maybe you are?), so just by looking, I can’t tell whether or not the critiques you raised would play out on a physical model. I do know that triangles are strong, and while the shape of this frame is a little unconventional, it still exhibits a triangle-based design, unlike some of the other interesting(!) concept bikes I found while writing this blog post.

      Overall, I appreciate when designers are willing to try new approaches to address user challenges. The CYLO bike does that on some levels, I think, and that’s why I chose to feature it.

      Thanks again for sharing your opinion.

      1. Aldan,

        I hope my remarks weren’t intemperately harsh, but I do think the design has major flaws. To answer your question, I was a full-time bike frame designer-builder for over 20 years (retired in ’98) and studied mechanical engineering in college. Since I’m no longer in the bike biz, I do not have a dog in this fight.

        According to this design-oriented blog http://veerle.duoh.com/modernhomedesign/article/cyclo_urban_bicycle, the lead designer is Nike’s former design director. I question whether they actually employed any BIKE industry veterans, because if they did, they’d know (among other lapses) that you must not use radial spokes on a front wheel if it uses a disk brake.

        Another indication that they are not bike industry veterans is their claim that no one ever thought of having a brake light before. It’s been thought of over and over, in every decade since WWII (if not earlier), and the cycling public has responded with a big yawn — no one seems to want that feature.

        They go on to state that most bike accidents involve getting hit from behind. Statistics show the opposite, that this type of accident is rare. The fear of getting hit from behind is mostly in the minds of non-cyclists and beginners. I have never heard this claim from a real “industry veteran” before.

        About the structural integrity: Yes triangles are strong, but not all triangles are created equal. Any good bike designer since the 1890s knows the “depth” of the frame (vertical spacing between the top tube and down tubes) should reach a maximum in the middle of the frame (front to back), where the bending moment, from holding the rider’s weight up, is at a maximum. Their triangle of tubes come almost to a point in the middle, leaving the depth of the frame barely more than the thickness of one of the tubes. It’s like they have a front triangle and a rear triangle meeting at a point in the middle, which serves as a hinge.

        I sent this to the framebuilder’s mailing list I belong to, and one respected European frame designer replied that this frame should have a decal applied there in the middle with a dotted line and “Fold Here”. Other comments from the framebuilders on the list were overwhelmingly negative as well. It isn’t just me!

        Did you notice (I didn’t at first) — there is no physical, actual bike in any of those photos. It appears that they haven’t built a prototype yet! Those are all computer renderings, inserted into real photos via Photoshop or some such graphics program. I think as soon as they build a real bike they’ll figure out the weaknesses and make changes, such as adding fender struts, replacing radial spokes with tangential (crossed) spokes in front, and increasing the separation of the top and down tubes in the middle of the frame to give it some structural integrity.

        Or the whole thing could be vaporware, and no physical bike will ever come from all this CAD jockeying. We’ve seen it before.

        Finally, for a humorous review of the Cylo, check out the “Bike Snob NYC” blog. His review was somewhat less kind than mine.

        -Mark

      2. This added background really helps me understand your position. Thank you for taking the time to write it out! You make many excellent points, and it’s clear you have an initiated eye for the types of design flaws you pointed out. That’s interesting about the “Fold Here” comment from the European designer.

        You’re right that all the renderings are computer generated. I didn’t notice this at first since they used actual photos (with people, even one riding). Because of this I assumed they at least had a physical prototype. Seems premature to be taking pre-orders if this isn’t the case. Admittedly, I feel a little hoodwinked…

        Sounds like I may be guilty of creating noise for a product that is yet untested and may have quite a ways to go before it is a viable design. I still really like the brake light, though! Even though Bike Snob NYC makes fun of this particular one (“vestigial coccyx” did make me laugh), I wouldn’t mind having one in general, along with some front and rear turn signals. Seems like this could be practical.

  2. Hi. Nice post.

    Ironically I saw this bike in the ‘news’ I was a little annoyed by it. Unless I am missing something, it doesn’t handle a bike rack. Right? Even if you were to figure out a way to put a rack on it, wouldn’t it block the rear light?

    1. Yeah, seems like a glaring omission! The ability to carry a load is pretty much my top criterion for an urban bicycle, so it’s disappointing that feature is missing here. If this isn’t the final design, hopefully they will add a rack later. If not, then I’m not sure it’s deserving of its self-proclaimed title of “ultimate urban bicycle.”

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