Seattle’s numerous hills and frequent drizzles are a deterrent to many potential cyclists. But addressing those obstacles helped a local team win a national contest for designing a new urban bicycle.
Teague, a local design firm famous for crafting the interiors of Boeing commercial jets and the look of the Microsoft Xbox, teamed up with Fremont custom bike builderSizemore Bicycle to create a bike for the modern Seattleite.
Since word got out, says the latter firm’s Taylor Sizemore, “I’ve been getting so many emails, it is absolutely ridiculous … I started getting a lot of emails from Europe, Denmark in particular, wondering when it is going to be available.”
The bike, named the Denny after one of Seattle’s founding families, won the Bike Design Project contest on Monday after an online vote. Fuji Bikes is expected to put a version of the Denny into production, though details won’t be clear until next spring.
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The competition, which ran for seven months and was created by bike-innovation nonprofit Oregon Manifest, was pretty simple. Organizers paired up design firms and bike-makers in five cities: Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Chicago and New York.
Each team designed a bike that was specific for its city but would also inspire urban commuters to ride rather than drive.
“It was really us trying to design the right bike for Seattle,” says Teague creative designer Roger Jackson. “But not so much catering to the spandex-wearing road warriors we have riding around Seattle today.”
The bike was designed to emulate some of the simplicity found in driving a car, Jackson says.
In his native England, he always drove a manual transmission car. But once he moved to Seattle with its hills, wet roads and traffic, says Jackson, he decided, “I don’t want to deal with that.” He switched to an automatic.
He took that same approach to the Denny. Based on speed and the rider’s exertion, the bike automatically shifts through its 11 gears. An electric motor also assists riders up Seattle’s hills.
Instead of covering the tires with fenders, the Denny has rubber bristles that lightly touch against the tires, keeping water from hitting the rider. And instead of a chain, there’s a carbon-fiber belt, which Jackson says is more reliable and does not make a greasy mess.
Other features include removable handlebars that double as a bike lock, large headlights, a storage system in the front, and built-in brake and turn signals.
Designing a bike is something new for Teague, which dates back to 1926. Jackson says the five-person team included bike enthusiasts whose passion came across in the final product.
Taylor Sizemore has been making custom bicycles since 2008. He said he’s never worked in a group with a creative background like Teague’s, and it opened his mind to how he could design bikes in the future.
The bike prototypes from other cities had some pretty interesting features, too. The New York and Chicago bikes both featured USB ports for charging phones. San Francisco’s had a number of detachable cargo-carrying options that could be mounted on the bike’s front and rear. The Portland team designed a companion smartphone app to work with the bike’s GPS system.
“If we are going to get car drivers onto bikes, we have to look at those conveniences,” Jackson says.
A Fuji spokesperson says the company has not yet met with Teague or Sizemore about mass producing the bike. Due to all the interest in the Denny, Fuji set up a website where interested customers can sign up for email updates.
Jackson says he heard that Fuji could make up to 1,000 Denny bikes. It’s still unclear how much of the original prototype will go into the mass-produced version, but if the e-assist and automatic transmission are included, Jackson speculates the bike could cost $3,000 to $5,000.
Even that price tag wouldn’t deter Sizemore, who said he plans on buying one.
“There are a lot of things about cycling that are hard and awkward and tough to get over,” Sizemore said, “I think this (bike) takes care of a lot of that.”
— Brandon Brown: firstname.lastname@example.org