GrabCAD spoke to Shannon Holt, co-founder of Oregon Manifest and creator of The Bike Design Project. A crowd-sourced competition and exploration, the cycling public decided which bike was the Ultimate Urban Utility Bike in their collective eyes. Since Oregon Manifest is an independent innovation platform for utility cycling that asked teams to create a new product outside the larger bicycle industry, it felt most appropriate to allow the general public to decide which bike they'd like to see on the retail floor. The competition included 5 teams from Chicago, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle and the winning design will be manufactured by 2015.
Why did you organize this contest?
The Bike Design Project is a design/build competition for the Ultimate Urban Utility Bike, the bike for the everyday rider. Oregon Manifest is an independent innovation platform for the transport or utility bike. The Bike Design Project partnered high-level design firms with deeply talented bespoke bike builders to collaborately develop their idea of the next-wave utility bike - one that could perhaps entice those who normally use their car for daily driving to instead consider riding a bike for the same purpose. To this end, our five teams where charged with creating a design that provided the same level of amenity and convenience that your standard car might include. The competition design criteria was devised around offering flexibility and usefulness to the rider in one convenient package.
We created The Bike Design Project because we saw a deficit in the industry and on the retail floor. Typical commuter bikes that you'll find in any bike shop are cheaply made and priced, devoid of features, and really the lowest common denominator in the lineup. Oregon Manifest, born in the cycling-centric city of Portland, feels that the everyday bike is the most important one - far more so than the niche or specialty bike. We know that better products can create better experiences. Thus we decided to address this product gap by independently providing an inspiration point to both the cycling public and the cycling industry with our design competitions.
This is the third iteration of Oregon Manifest and in some ways the most expansive because we were sited in five cities nationally and because we brought mass production into the picture. Partnering with Fuji Bikes to produce the winning design allows the ideas sparked by our design criteria to become a reality on the retail floor of bike shops. The Denny, our winning bike, offers quite an elevated design and feature story than any other that you can currently find in a shop. We're extremely excited to see the prototype design become available to anyone who wants a better designed bike for their daily ride.
What were the challenges?
The challenges in forming the competition were many: finding talent on both the design side and the bike craft side- in the same city - that could work well together; funding; shaping an online competition for a real-life product that would be judged by an online audience... there were many pieces to this puzzle that needed to come together seamlessly.
What is the biggest challenge in the cycling industry?
I think the biggest challenge around transportation bikes in the cycling industry is that they typically practice trickle-down design; innovation is concentrated entirely in the performance category (and therefore only touches a narrow band of consumers) with the understanding that it might trickle down to the commuter or utility product. However, when you look at the products on the retail floor currently, there is in fact no trickle down effect. Commuter/utility bikes remain the cheapest, plainest, most feature-devoid products in any bike shop.
The Bike Design Project turned this methodology upside down by asking our teams to explore everyday urban cycling from the ground up: Where are the pain points and how can these be minimized? Where are the opportunities to upgrade the experience and convenience? What kind of features will make a bike more attractive as an everyday transportation option? How can a modern bike fit into today's lifestyles and enhance the daily transport routine?
Are you satisfied with the results? How difficult was the judging process? What is the feedback from the world?
We're delighted with the results: not only did we get five great, innovative bike designs - one of which will go into production with our manufacturing partner, Fuji Bikes, but we also received an enormous amount of attention around what is typically considered a rather dowdy category, the everyday utility bike. The national and international attention during the voting period and after was tremendous. Every bike had its fans, and while only one is slated to go into production, I think the competition has shown that there is indeed room and need for innovation in the age-old design of the bicycle to make it more relevant to modern lifestyles and expectations.
Why is the winning bike unique?
The Denny bike is unique both in it's individual features and the way the entire package of amenities is holistically integrated into the frame. One of the coolest and most remarked upon features is the handlebar that also operates as a u-lock, eliminating the need to carry a second lock. As an everyday cyclist, I celebrate this ingenious feature. The other most high-lighted feature is the Denny's very unique fender system. Instead of a piece that sits over the wheel to prevent water and debris from hitting the rider, the Denny utilizes a brush system that brushes excess water and debris from the wheel; this creates a minimal looks and quite a conversation starter! More amenities include electric assist with automatic shifting (completely unique), running lights for increased visibility, minimal battery, integrated lights and rack. You won't find many (or perhaps any) bikes with this larger package of useful features - one of the core reasons that we created this competition.
What are your future plans?
We're taking the bikes to Interbike in September, the cycling industry's largest North American trade show. The bike industry will be able to see these designs up close.
Thank you Shannon for this interview and good luck in bringing this bike to the streets! Take a look at the competing bike concepts on Oregon Manifest's website.
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