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 Method know of each other before the collaboration? What was the matchmaking process like?
Chris Watson (Project Manager & New Product Strategist, MINMAL): MINIMAL and Method were paired by Oregon Manifest. Coincidentally, our studio and Method's shop were located only blocks away. Our proximity made collaboration much easier during the early stages of the design process.
By its very 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?
We relied on Garry to keep us grounded. From the beginning, we made the decision to showcase Garry's craft on our frame. Rather than limiting our design, choosing to make the entire frame using traditional craft was a good counterweight to our team's desire to push boundaries with different forms and materials. Conversely, the design team pushed Garry to experiment with different frame architectures that were outside of his comfort zone. Our collaboration was a constant exchange of ideas in which we arrived at a solution that could have only been realized through our joint efforts.
Has the collaboration yielded broader lessons? What was a particularly memorable area of difficulty when translating the design into fabrication?
A major element of our frame design is the single main tube, which is constructed by mitering and brazing several tubes together. It was not clear from our original drawings if the frame would hold up to the abuse of city riding. No amount of analysis could have helped; we needed to build and test a frame. Garry did an amazing job translating our ideas into a working prototype in order to confirm our design would work for the final product.
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?
Design is almost always iterative. The frame is important, but there are many other details that need to work in harmony with the shape of the bike. We had to iterate on the design of the bike with all the components in place before we landed on our final design.
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?
The BLACKLINE is for everyone, but we made decisions in our process with the needs of Chicago riders in mind. Rather than design a bike that is everything for everyone, we focused on meeting the needs for bikers in our city. We believe this makes the BLACKLINE the perfect utility bike for Chicago.
Besides environmental factors such as weather and road conditions, how did the backdrop of Chicago inform the design of the bicycle?
Chicago has many transportation options; cars, trains, busses, and boats. Though public transportation is available and can get you to most parts of the city, we felt strongly that a bike gives you freedom and spontaneity to travel on your own terms. The BLACKLINE is designed to get you to all the places in between, and give you a more connected way to experience the city.
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?
We worked with some incredible partners that gave us the ability to customize existing products to better meet the needs of our bike. We worked extensively with Helios to co-develop a custom handlebar and iOS app that provides navigation, night visibility, and GPS-enabled location awareness to help get you where you need to go safely and make sure your bike stays put. We also worked with SRAM to customize their 3-speed internal gear rear hub that was developed for the World Bicycle Relief program. While customizing these parts was important, we feel the sum is absolutely greater than the parts. We love the BLACKLINE not just for its individual parts, but for the complete bike and the city it was made for.