The design blogosphere has been abuzz with Fuseproject's announcement of their creative collaboration with Santa Rosa's SyCip Designs, which they've dubbed "LOCAL." The design is credited to Fuseproject founder Yves Behar, though it's rumored that Jeremy SyCip had been considering a three-wheeled design for some time now, his first in over two decades in the framebuilding game.
The bike at Checkpoint 2
We're almost there—putting the finishing touches on a bike that's not just fun to ride, its fun to live with.
LOCAL is a neighborhood bike, all you need to get around, transport stuff, and enjoy a local self-powered life
We at fuseproject + Sycip wanted to find the perfect mode of transportation that would allow us to do everything in our local neighborhood. After lots of thinking, designing and refining we are happy to announce our bicycle: LOCAL. At its core, LOCAL is just that: the perfect neighborhood bike. With LOCAL, we visit friends down the street; we ride to shops in the vicinity such as our favorite hardware store, we drop-off the kids at the school nearby, we grab a picnic and take the whole family (including surfboards) to the beach.
Over the years, as our lives have become more complicated and full of stuff to take to work or play, our traditional bicycles have become less practical. So we designed LOCAL to address our daily needs, and to bring back the fun of riding around the neighborhood.
LOCAL is the bike version of the practical pick-up truck—it's utility and function isn't limited to carrying a laptop or a sixpack. The sturdy, flexible front platform carries the groceries, surfboards, lumber and kids creating an ideal vehicle for a self-powered life. This is not a specialized commuter getting you from point A to B, it's a real workhorse that you can use for nearly anything.
It's always a bittersweet time in design when you have to stop dreaming of all the possible concepts and solutions and just get down to the one that works best. But when the time came for us, it was fairly straightforward. We had to rip the band-aid off and go for it. From our last two choices, we are down to the final design.
Having explored several designs through sketching and prototyping. We settled on the direction that the team collectively felt would be best for the competition and in our own lives. It wasn't just about feasibility and features, it had just as much to do with simple enjoyment and a level of everyday utility that would last.
Over the past month we have been working closely with Jeremy to further the design and building process. Our collaboration has resulted in a good amount of tenacious idea volleying, which has helped us overcome mechanical challenges. These challenges needed to be addressed and overcome if we are to make our bike concept a reality.
Through this collaborative process, Jeremy has come up with innovative options to address some of our design's most fundamental challenges, which was exciting news for all of us. This willingness to innovate on Jeremy's part has meant that we as designers are freer to pursue ideas that, with another partner, might be too far afield to achieve from a technical perspective. However, it means more than just creative freedom; it means that we can develop a final entry that does more to address the needs and desires of our target audience.
Prototyping is an integral part of the design process. Designers use prototypes all the time, at various fidelity levels, to refine ideas, improve the final design and more importantly to expose flaws earlier on in the development process. Prototypes inherently help push a design by helping to unearth areas of concern quickly, but they also highlight important issues before they become too challenging to address, making the design process faster.
Designing a bike that is a departure from traditional bike forms absolutely requires a series of prototypes before starting a final build. We must establish that the approach will result in a bike that is both feasible and functional as a utility bike.
National Bike Month is celebrated in May and this past May 12th was Bike to Work Day in San Francisco. The focus of this year's Oregon Manifest Challenge aligns perfectly with the goals of these events. Bike to Work Days are geared towards educating people about the benefits and ease of using a bike for commuting to and from work. The Oregon Manifest Challenge of 2011 is about building the ultimate utility bike for modern living that could better support bike commuting.
If we look at where the average American lives today, walking to work is not always an option, but at the same time driving to work isn't always necessary. This is especially true in urban areas. In cities, like the San Francisco bay area, a good number of people live within reasonable biking distance of their place of work. This fact has made us believe that there is a "distance sweet spot" for the bike we are designing. Therefore, if we optimize our bike design for trips within that "distance sweet spot" and for errands that urban dwellers want to run, then we have the freedom to develop iconic forms rather than developing a bike along purely traditional lines.
Now that we have the kernel of an idea for the bike, we are thinking about ways to make it a reality. As we touched on previously, the form has to be practical for our lifestyles. It must be something that allows us to go about our lives on a daily basis, doing everything for which we would have used a car.
We have taken a closer look at bikes around San Francisco, and there are some many examples of bikes that are nimble and great for getting people from point A to point B. However, it's apparent that the bikes most people are riding now aren't necessarily great at getting people and their "stuff" around town. There are plenty bicycles that can accommodate panniers, which is perfectly suited for small loads, but a modern utility bike needs to accommodate both small and large hauls, from, say, a Home Depot run.
Western Addition Vacuum Haul
As we have been contemplating bike design, we haven't been able to stop thinking about how bikes fit within our culture. The question that kept coming to mind was: is it time to stop thinking of a bike as a bike and start thinking of it as a viable choice for transportation? Now it's more important than ever to apply design solutions to the fundamental concept of a bike to make it as relevant of a transportation choice in America as it is globally.
Too often, at least in the US, the bike is thought of only in terms of leisure pursuits. A suburban youth might ride their bike to school throughout their adolescence but we all know what happens when they get their driver's license. Urban commuters (hipsters... that word is so tired, how about we retire it?) might faithfully ride their bike now but what happens when they have children? Weekend warriors spend thousands on a racing or mountain bike but a car is still their primary mode of every day transportation. Why is that, when the prevalence of bikes as a transportation method is so integral to other cultures? How can we overcome the daunting American sprawl when denser urban areas of other cultures make biking so much easier?
As we develop concepts for the competition, we are focused on unique form and practicality based on our own lifestyles. We aren't aiming to reinvent a racing bike or to remake a folding bike, but we are thinking about designs that are flexible and therefore more likely to become a viable transportation choice. From our point of view, what feels appropriate is intrinsically linked to people's home cities and the concepts we are developing aim to be flexible enough to accommodate those different needs. Check the jump for some local inspiration!
At fuseproject we make products, brands and experiences on a global level. We pride ourselves on following our designs from the earliest concept all the way to the factory floor. When our designs finally meet the consumer, oftentimes bringing a product to the mass market requires an impersonal process of manufacturing. You can't be friends with an injection-molding machine. That's why we're so excited to be partnering with SyCip -- it's a rare opportunity to create something distinct and handcrafted in collaboration with the person who is building it.
We met with Jeremy in early January after interviewing three other builders. All of the builders we spoke with had excellent pedigrees, however we chose to partner with Jeremy of SyCip because we felt an immediate kinship. Jeremy went to the Art Center College of Design Pasadena and graduated with a degree in Product Design. His design background is apparent in SyCip's bikes and this perspective helps our communication and process. We share the same language of craftsmanship and design. Moreover, it was clear that Jeremy's vision of possibilities is limitless, and his bike designs embrace the type of inventiveness that we strive for in our work.
From left to right: Jeremy SyCip, Yves Behar, Nick Cronan, Noah Murphy-Reinhertz, Serge Bealieu, Andrea Small, Hardy Chambliss, Jade Dalton, Josh Morenstein
fuseproject x SyCip
fuseproject and SyCip Bikes are ready to "take it to the next level," from their San Francsico base with a plan to develop a new class of bicycle that is both utilitarian and beautiful. This team hopes that their bicycle will inspire a more inclusive urban bike culture with real world applications as a real sustainable transportation alternative. The builders at SyCip have been crafting custom bikes since 1992 from their "fabrication Shangri-La" in Sonoma County for everyone from Bay Area bike messengers to World Class racers and anyone in between. About 1/3 of fuseproject's studio commutes by bike regularly, traveling the distance with commutes up to 17 miles away! The sustainable and civic-minded focus of the Oregon Manifest design challenge speaks to the core of this self-described "scrappy" team - not to mention a penchant for competition. Speaking of competition, the folks at fuseproject are throwing down the gauntlet with a proposed mileage competition for bragging rights - studio vs. studio.