Earlier this year, we saw a manufacturing video of a Thonet chair, well worth revisiting on the occasion of a new collaboration that has been making web rounds (the relevant segment starts at 1:48 or so). Now that its iconic steambent design has been around for 153 years, the Frankenburg, Germany-based company is looking to branch out (no pun intended) from furniture with none other than a concept bike.At the end of 2010 London based-designer Andy Martin was asked by THONET to design and develop a concept road bicycle using their steam bending process developed in the 1930s. Andy Martin Studio developed three designs of which the final was selected because its beauty and modest connection with the heritage of the company.
Andy says 'The challenge was to take on fairly low tech process of steam bending and then apply it to a 21st-century bicycle with highly complex engineering.' With the many restrictions of hand bending the beech frame the final jointing and contours would be cut and adjusted on a cnc machine. Andy Martin has also developed a series of connectors and sprung rods to reinforce joints and the major stress areas in the frame.
As some of you may have guessed from the images, it's a fixed-gear, which the press release duly declares to be "the tradition of cycling: one has a greater connection to the bike and the surface one rides on." Curiously enough, they also note that it has no brakes and "several interchangeable gear ratios"—implying that the Thonet Bike is indeed rideable.
At $2,900 (£1800), the HED H3 carbon wheelset pictured in the renderings denoted by the press release would typically be upwards of 20–30% of the total cost of a high-end track bike... but they're practically a bargain on this build: the limited edition Thonet bike will be available for £43,000 ($70,000). Rideability notwithstanding, you'd have to be crazy to actually ride the thing—one-percenter or not, you'd probably be better off with a Van Hulsteijn.
Nevertheless, upon seeing the renderings, I couldn't help but recall my colleague hipstomp's post about a student concept for a sewing machine, which, per his expertise, he deemed too farfetched to be feasible.
Alternately, it might be compared to the almost-as-controversial "FLIZ," which made it to prototype stage despite the fact that it's ostensibly an absurd concept.
Martin's concept bike for Thonet is perhaps most clearly a thought experiment in contrast to, say, Cannondale's CERV, which was prototyped by Priority Designs, as opposite ends of the concept bike spectrum—i.e. form vs. function.