Why did you choose to participate in the Bike Design Project? Why is your bike unique?
We were invited to participate by the Oregon Manifest and to be the representative for NYC in The Bike Design Project. We believed in the cause and were excited about the opportunity. Merge is a unique take on the urban bike. In New York, as well as many dense cities, space is a huge constraint. You have to navigate tight spaces while riding as well as while climbing the stairs of a 5th floor walk up. A tight, nimble and compact ride is valued here. At the same time, cyclists need utility. Lighting, fenders for rain protection, security features, and cargo features are all necessary. Merge has all of these features fully integrated into the frame, along with a couple nice-to-have features like USB charging for your phone. They can be pulled out and retracted back inside the frame as needed, essentially making it multiple bikes in one.
How many designers/engineers worked on your bike?
We had a core team of 4 designers and 3 engineers, plus Thomas Callahan, our partner on the project from Horse Cycles. Hard to say exact hours, but we designed and fabricated the bike over the course of about 7 months. There was a significant time investment in [man] hours.
What did you learn during this process?
Prototype early and often. I wouldn't say that we learned this on this project, but this project certainly reinforced what we already knew. We latched onto a few mechanically/electrically complex ideas pretty early on, and those needed many rounds of refinement to perfect.
How did you use GrabCAD Workbench?
We use Workbench to back up and share files between the team. That was the case with this project as well. We used it to interact within and among the engineering and design team. Because of the internal nature of the product, we didn't need to use the Partner Spaces as a resource with vendors or clients, but as a file management system it worked well for us.
What did you find useful in Workbench?
Built-in versioning. When going on a design tangent, it gives the ability to save a good reference point and go down a path without having to export a copy of the whole assembly. It is an extra layer of safety and a time saver.
What is your opinion about the cycling industry in general - what will the future look like?
We think the future of the cycling industry is bright, especially with new, more elegant electric assist bikes popping up and with the spread of new bike sharing programs. As more cities get on board with infrastructure that supports cycling, daily commuting by bike will continue to grow. I wouldn't say we have specific advice for other bike designers other than a hope that a concept like Merge can help to push the thinking of what an everyday bike can be.
Do you have any plans for Merge?
We have no specific plans, but we are speaking with potential partners as they approach us. There are also possibilities for pursuing portions of the bike as stand-alone products. We have talked briefly about the potential for offering our top tube as a complete assembly with integrated lighting and USB charge in the front and an integrated seat post to allow for the spring loaded, retractable rack with integrated lighting in the back. It would likely have to change quite a bit, but could be possible.
Thank you Mark for this interview and good luck with your future projects!