This weekend saw the unveiling of the collaborative bicycle designs that are going head to head in the third edition of the Oregon Manifest, in which five teams in as many cities set out to create and craft the best urban utility bike. As of Monday morning, the public is invited to vote on their favorite one, which may well be produced by Fuji Bikes in the near future. We are pleased to present exclusive Q&As with each team so they have a chance to explain why their bicycle is the best before the voting period closes this Sunday, August 3.
Core77: Did you and the team at 4130 know (or know of) each other before the collaboration? What was the matchmaking process like?
Chris Harsacky (Huge): We didn't know of 4130 but after interviewing several builders we knew he was a great fit. Tom's background in product development made for an easy collaboration. He was also the builder that seemed most open to doing things different. From the outset, we knew our concept would be a departure from traditional frame design.
By its nature, the design-fabrication relationship for this collaboration is far more intimate than your average designer's relationship with a contractor or manufacturer. To what degree did you educate each other on your respective areas of expertise? Has the collaboration yielded broader lessons?
It was certainly different from other partnerships. The very first meeting was more like a Q&A. Tom is a trained industrial designer so it made it a lot easier. The two major areas where we needed educated on were bike geometry and fabrication techniques/ materials. While we set out define a fresh gesture with new functionality, we wanted to make sure we were following acceptable ride geometry and using practical build techniques.
Transitioning into fabrication was pretty fluid actually. We had a CAD database that we based the build on. Things fell in place remarkably well. The hardest part was trying gauge how much time it would take to finalize the final bike. Its basically and appearance model that needs to function like a production unit.
Was there a single 'eureka moment' when you arrived at a concept that would direct the rest of the bike design? Or was it an iterative process of adding to and subtracting from the classic diamond frame?
The idea of modular attachment points was one that our team came to in one of the first meetings. We set fairly quickly on this symmetrical trussframe geometery. There real front-end design time was spent dialing in the geometry and refining the concept.
A "utility bike" can be task-specific or open-ended. Did you set out to address the established routines and use cases of an idealized rider, or are you hoping to expand a bicycle's utility to new, unfamiliar uses? Alternately, who, exactly, is the bike designed for?
We observed several daily ride patterns and realized that the optimal SF bike set up was actually to have multiple bikes suited for specific uses. Many riders have hardcore cargo bikes, like the Yuba, for weekends but also kept a "daily driver" road bike for daily commuting. The people who didn't have space for multiple bikes mostly rode cycle cross bikes with bold on racks. This is where we saw the opportunity: SF is so diverse in lifestyle and terrain, there isn't a suitable one bike solution to take advantage of everything it has to offer.
Besides environmental factors such as weather and road conditions, how did the backdrop of San Francisco inform the design of the bicycle?
SF is one of the few cities where you can actually find single-track off-road trails in and near city limits. A lot of our personal riding patterns include going for rides on weekdays after work. We wanted the flexibility to be able to take our commuter bikes for longer recreational rides. To satisfy this need, we developed a quick connect rack system to be able to quickly take off unnecessary weight. We also tuned the bike geometry itself to be more off-road friendly. The low rise bars and elevated crank are more traits of a mountain bike.
Bike nerds will be interested to learn about the materials and componentry; what were your criteria for customization versus off-the-shelf parts? Do you think you could develop any of the specific innovations as standalone products, or is the sum greater than its parts?
Our core focus was to develop a modular accessory platform that could foster an ecosystem of racks and add ons in the future. The frame, fork, and handlebars are all custom, while the componentry is highend off the shelf product.