Designing a Better Bicycle

Vince and Allison look at bicycle designs past, present and future.
 
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Designing a Better Bicycle

Today, we're looking at bicycle designs, from the past, present and future. Bicycles didn't always have rubber tires û early models had uncomfortable wheels made of iron, and unflattering nicknames like the ôBoneshakerö. Designers often added spring suspensions for a smoother ride, even on unpaved roads. And the ladies' models could be ridden even in a long skirt!

Bicycles of today are far more advanced. In 2010, Santa Cruz Bicycles introduced APP, or Actual Pivot Point, suspension with a variable shock rate. It delivers a smooth transition from a sensitive initial impact, through a more heavy impact resistance deeper in the stroke, until the shock rate progression finally resists bottoming, thus creating superb jump landing and g-out characteristics. To design these new systems, the pencils and paper of yesteryear are replaced by sophisticated CAD systems like Creo elements Pro that allow multiple design iterations before prototyping

In the future we may see a return to more multi-purpose bicycles to replace some of the trips you currently take with an automobile. This Camioncyclette, designed by Swiss Inventor Christophe Machet, turns a bicycle into a veritable station wagon. This prototype can carry up to 300 lbs with lots of room for cargo thanks to the very small wheels. Wired magazine called it a shopping cart you can ride.

This is Bike 2.0 by Danish designer Nils Sveje, winner of the 2010 Seoul Cycle Design competition. At first glance, it looks quite ordinary. But notice, this design has no chain. Instead, it has a motor on the rear hub, powered by the brushless electric generator in the pedal gearbox -- the continuously variable stepless gearbox, no less -- controlled by wireless rings on the handlebars. A nice replacement for shifters and derailleurs.

David Swain and team were the winners of the transportation category in the ô2010 Create the Future Contestö, where they introduced a regenerative braking system that can be retrofit onto the front forks of existing bicycles. With this device, hitting the brakes will transfer kinetic energy to a hydraulic accumulator, which Swain says is over 97% efficient. Now, since it weighs in at around 12 pounds, the system is not for racing bikes.

Taking regenerative braking one step further, student Camilo Parra Palacio of Columbia designed the ZigZag, a totally electric tricycle. But this is no toddler's toy! It benefits from the stability of a 3-wheel design, and its electronic power and regenerative braking system mean that you won't need to pedal this trike to get where you're going.