Professor Kevin Shankwiler of GeorgiaTech has been teaching a third-year bicycle design studio for the past four years. The 8-week course is primarily focused on understanding product systems design and exploring opportunities for innovation in commuter bike design. David Hotard was among the 12 students in the SRAM-sponsored fall studio, which culminated with four teams (of three students each) developing very different bikes. He worked with Matthew Campbell and Edwin Collier on reimagining the hubless wheel as a cargo space; here Hotard shares how they arrived at the final product.
"Transport" is a commuter bike design project sponsored by SRAM. Although panniers and saddle bags are on the market to make commuting easier, we found that many cyclists prefer to ride with a traditional backpack. This doesn't mean that a backpack is comfortable; it's just more practical than the panniers that clip to a rack. We discovered that many commuters didn't want a bag that felt like a dedicated commuting bag but rather a bag that would work in any scenario. We started to look at what we do with bags when we're traveling by car, plane, train, and other means and realized that there is almost always a compartment for them. We realized that what commuters wanted was that compartment... on their bike. Research on futuristic bike concepts inspired us to use the negative space of the much-debated hubless wheel for our trunk. The result shows that a trunk in the wheel could easily accommodate various backpacks and might well be very feasible solution. We were also happy to see that Yale mechanical engineering students built a bike with a hubless wheel while we were in the midst of our project.
We researched the hubless wheel to the extent that we could validate that it is technologically feasible; besides the Yale project, the Lunartic was an inspiration to us. Although it may be more expensive to produce and currently less structurally sound than a traditional wheel, we know that in many cases people are willing to pay more for a design that satisfies their needs. We did a lot of research looking at concept bikes, current products and observing users. The hubless wheel storage system brought those three areas of research together by giving commuters the ability to travel with any bag, not just a rack-able bag, and also showed a practical purpose for a hubless wheel concept.
We were given a brief with exact objectives:
1.) To learn about the fundamental nature of product systems, that is the relationship and interdependence between products to products (function, integration and context).
2.) To understand the relationship between a product, it's component make up, and it's larger context.
3.) To build literacy and competence with digital tools as a component of prototyping.
4.) To understand the links between intent, material, and process.
5. To explore existing products and built-in technologies to develop a comprehensive understanding of product design and integrated machinery.
6.) To adopt an open ended approach to identify problems and identify opportunities for design.
Challenge: Urban cycling is the current fertile ground for bicycle innovation. Why? Mountain biking and road cycling markets have matured greatly, leading to evolutionary design development based mostly around frame materials, suspension performance, and weight reduction. The UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) governs (and limits) specifications for competitive road bikes, which has directly impeded the development of non-triangle main frames. Urban cycling, on the other hand, is ripe for innovation. Few bikes have been designed specifically for riding in the urban context. This type of riding includes commuting, couriering, cargo hauling, and others. Your goal is to get more people to ride a bicycle to work. Make commuting to work by bicycle more enticing for people who currently use other means.
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For those worried about the effect of the luggage mass on steering & stability, maybe the luggage doesn't really need to be part of the wheel but can simply be suspended within the wheel; supports from the frame would be able to hold it still while the wheel rotates around it. You get the benefits of lowered cg without the problems of heavy steering and the displacement of the eigenvectors in stability space.
The 700c wheels might be a place to nitpick this idea. On one hand it provides a larger 'platform' for storage. On the other, the lower commuting/city speeds a bike like this would see, would be better with small wheels.
I rode a 'mamachari' bike around Kyoto, with tiny 20" wheels and a somewhat normal wheelbase, and it was amazing. You can go fast enough for traffic and getting a move-on, but the slow speed maneuvering with a front tray full of take-out sushi and beer was what made the bike really fun.
I think these designers wanted to go after a fast, aero-looking shape which looks great as a concept but would exclude a lot of potential riders of a bike like this. The riding position is pretty 'slammed', which isn't real comfortable for city riding for most people...but again that's nitpicking. Thumbs up guys.
My light touring bike has just a front rack, it handled fine with 2 panniers and the handlebar bag on the small roads in the Alps last summer, including fast descents on narrow roads with less-than-perfect pavement.
I know that most people nowadays put most of their loads on the rear rack, but just because many people do doesn't mean it's right! Considering that on an average bike, the rider's weight is about 2/3 on the rear wheel, it is no use adding even more weight on the same wheel. But of course, the bike geometry must be adapted (which is not the often case on modern road or mountain bikes)
Look closer Kosio... those are most definitely SRAM shifters.
You may have addressed the concern with the current generation and a front flat. It's simple do it like a Cannondale Lefty, just leave the wheel on the bike, only have one blade on the "fork".
keep it up.
Please google "front panniers" and count the bikes using front panniers without rear panniers and while you're at it, look at the size difference between the bags, which is my point.
You handle the criticism very well, which is an awesome skill to have (which not many people do). My comments were just driven by bike enthusiasm and engineering point of view. The project still is pretty awesome and I want to congratulate you with the fact that core77 posted it.
Thanks for the tip on the trek concept, its awesome to see new designs the bike builders come up with because they can abandon UCI with tri purpose bikes. TT might be the only place where a non double triangle design could have benefits because weight can outweigh (pun intended) the aero advantages! The upcoming triathlon trend might be of big influence to bike design the next decade. Exciting!
cheers and keep up the good work
Most commuters will have a separate bike for commuting, it is very task specific. "Fast" styling, or whatever you want to call it, is not a primary concern of a commuter, ask any Dutchman.
As for the cargo up front, commuting is far different than than touring/randonneuring. Traffic, poor road conditions necessitate agility. A heavy front end is the exact opposite of what is needed. At least with your concept, use a 32mm tire. The 23mm you have in the pictures will get a pinch flat in no time with a heavy front load.
All it needs is a custom white polycarbonate SRAM carry case that magnetically locks on (fidlock), and won't spoil the look of your cool hub! Brilliant.
@Sean: This would definitely be cool as a sub-system that you could replace on standard threadless forks. That is something we imagined. Also, to answer your question about draining there are many solutions we considered; you could simply add a drain, make the system with a water-tight lid, or design the trunk out of a different material like a wire-mesh and waterproof the bag.
@Thijmen: Thanks again for your feedback. I really enjoyed the project so it may not ever be finished for me. If I have the chance to redesign I will address your concerns; I particularly agree with your statement about crosswinds. This could be addressed by a change in material such as the wire-mesh I mentioned above or even some form of fabric. I don't believe that we will always be tied to the double-triangle frame design as we push the limits of materials though. See this recent design by Trek: http://www.coroflot.com/jonrussell/Trek-FE26 As always, I appreciate any feedback, especially practical feedback, so in no way have I found your comments to be overly critical.
@S. E. Wilson: Thanks for your kind comments. We are happy to produce a design that is generating discussion. I think pushing the boundaries raises questions like "what else can we do with that negative space if we make a hubless wheel work?"
That said, I love experiments like this and would love to ride this bike. Perhaps it will surprise me. However, intuitively, a "trunk" on the non-drive side of the rear wheel seems like an improvement to this concept.
I would even go so far as to say that putting the load in the front is the only good idea in this project, the hubless wheel probably being the worst, because it limits your choices for rims and brakes, and makes fixing a flat a nightmare.
In my book, a bicycle is supposed to be simple. And there is already a very simple (and cheap) way to carry a backpack (or a lady's handbag, or whatever you may be able to carry in your hubless trunk-wheel) on a standard bike: just use a basket !
Maybe there's a reason hubless wheels haven't caught on yet ;-)
Thanks for you reply, this got me to rethink my opinion.
Styling the bike like a cool concept bike to gain interest of the audience is a good reason to use these aesthetics. I was looking at the bike whole, which maybe was not the point of the article.
I still largely disagree with cargo in the frontwheel. Yes, this is done in touring bikes often, but is advised only when there is no room for more load on the rear rack or when the rear load is so heavy there is danger of losing traction on the front wheel (aka an unwanted wheelie). One of the links in the article also pointed to a proven concept of a rear wheel hubless bike which could have been implemented. Also, the geometry/tire size/wheel size of a touring bike is different which accounts for more easy handling compared to a racing style bike.
One last thing, being a triathlete myself I have some knowledge of TT bikes, and there are no serious TT or other bike concepts which look like that any more (which actually was my point in my first comment). The double-triangle design just has an optimal material/strength ratio. Also, since you have a TT bike yourself, you probably know that having a closed rear wheel gives some aero advantage (although this might not be with a wheel this wide for cargo) while a closed front wheel can be quite hard to handle in crosswinds, which was a design aspect I did not yet talk about in my previous comment. If you look up front rack panniers you'll see that they usually allow more wind to pass than a fully closed front wheel.
I might be overreacting or over-criticizing, but because the article stated that this was an bike design workshop sponsored by one of the biggest bike component companies I decided to give some practical feedback.
Solely on the hubless wheel alone, I think it's a great idea, particularly if it can straight up replace the standard threadless forks on a 700c wheeled bike.
I agree with Thijmen as well about commuting on a carbon racing bike; this would be much more appropriate on an al hybrid.
Aside from drainage (and possibly some sort of waterproof cover), my only concern is maintenance: If I get a puncture, how do I get to the inner tube? It's going to be a world away from the quick release and Allen key release skewers we've grown used to.
Thank you for your constructive criticism. You are correct in stating that putting the cargo in the rear wheel would be better for handling; however, given the overlap of the crank arm and complexity in engineering we chose to pursue a front wheel design to illustrate the concept. We did in fact test this in a couple of ways: we strapped some pink foam to a bike to account for additional space the trunk would take up, and also rode a bike with panniers on a front rack to experience what the additional weight felt like there. This setup is fairly common on touring bikes. Although handling performance decreases, we found that it was very minimal.
I understand your concerns about construction. The frame of the prototype really served to excite our target user, a competitive cyclist, about commuting and not looking like a loaded-down mule. Sure it also looks like a 90's, or 2013, TT bike concept, but who says the serious cyclist's commuter bike has to look like everyone else's at the rack. I ride my triathlon bike on the road all the time to train, as do other triathletes and when I commute to class, I still want to get there like I'm in a race. Although the construction of our bike may look outlandish, it is difficult to predict how technology may advance or what the future of "realistic commuter bikes" actually looks like.
With that being said, this was only our third true, Industrial Design studio and of course, like most projects we reflect on, there are probably some things we would do differently now. As stated in the write-up "we've considered continuing the project to make the hubless wheel and fork subsystem to put on a rideable bike." I hope we do get the opportunity to explore that or at least have someone else pick up the idea and run with it. Hopefully that is why it was posted. Thanks again for your comments.
Also, the bike construction is one that is very material inefficient. The rear stays on the fork are there for a very good reason. Removing them looks cool but requires heavy reinforcement to other parts of the frame. Furthermore, the bike is supposed to be a cargo/commuter bike but looks like a (1990's concept) time trial racing bike. Carbon trispoke wheels look cool but are not strong enough to withstand heavy abuse (and some urban vandalism maybe) and the aero advantages only outweigh the weight penalty on high and relatively steady speeds (not exactly something you have in an urban environment). In fact, the frame looks like it would be made of carbon which is an awesome material for racing bikes, but not so much for every day city bikes which are generally abused (just look at that bike rack where they took one of the photo's). That bike rack does in fact show what a realistic commuter bike looks like in terms of geometry and materials.
In short, it looks (IMHO) cool for a quickdesign but if you keep in mind that there were 24 weeks spend working on this, its kind of badly thought out. It's not hard to make something look awesome with a lot of expensive parts but it actually takes more effort and less carbon fibres to make something really "re-inventive" in an extremely saturated and high technology market like bicycle market.
But it looks cool, which is probably why it was posted, right?