The consensus regarding the "FLIZ" concept bike we saw a couple weeks ago was a general sentiment that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it"—specifically, that the draisine-inspired novelty was inferior to the tried-and-true diamond frame. Still, we can't fault designers for trying, and Priority Designs are the latest consultancy to try their hand at rethinking the bicycles.Forkless, chainless, and dynamically adjustable, the concept was radical. But turning a sexy concept illustration into a working prototype is a tall order. It would require creative engineering, design sensitivity and serious fabrication capabilities. Priority Designs had all of those, along with the passion to sweat every detail...and get it done in time for the show.
The Columbus, OH-based design firm developed the Continuously Ergonomic Race Vehicle, or CERV for short, for Cannondale, who came up with the concept and brief to the Priority Designs team.The CERV features a dynamically adjustable headset that moves both fore-and-aft and up-and-down. The genius lies in achieving the above without altering the seat-to-crank height. This system puts the rider in an optimal position based on the terrain. The headset translates forward and down for a clean, low-drag position when descending. When climbing, it moves up and back, creating a more upright position for maximum leverage on the crank. Doing all this with a traditional fork in place wasn't going to cut it, so a single-sided swing arm was proposed. Designing a forkless front-end has its own challenges, integrating it into a multi-axis adjustable system is another degree of difficulty altogether.
Priority Designs took the original concept sketch and got to work exploring mechanical solutions to the challenges presented. In addition to working through the mechanisms in SolidWorks, mock-ups were built and key components were tested. Ultimately, a proof-of-concept bike was fabricated to validate the engineering principles and define the working envelope. Cannondale reviewed the mechanical solutions and dimensional realities revealed by the test mule. A revised concept illustration was created and the team at Priority Designs was given the green light to turn the vision into a reality.
That's right: a functional prototype of the CERV debuted at Eurobike just under two weeks ago. While I imagine it was mostly for show (and not test rides), I can't help but wonder if the unorthodox design translates to unparalleled performance: I've never ridden a shaft-drive bicycle, much less one with an elaborate steering mechanism (it looks something like a piston)... but I'd be especially curious about whether the dynamic geometry comes at the expense of stiffness and ride quality.
But the real question is what nickname we'll go with: the frame looks something like a cross between an "X" and a "Z," though the latter might make a logical successor to the Y-Foil of yore (à la Gen X » Gen Y).