The Wheel Turns: 15 Dazzling New Directions for Bicycle Design

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It is one of mankind’s best, greenest inventions. It spearheads an industry that thrives even in the depths of a global recession. And…it is undergoing a shake-up. Our healthiest, eco-friendliest mode of personal transportation is enjoying the attention of the cutting-edge of design and material technology, not to mention a good dollop of the crazily creative. All rise for the ever-changing bicycle, as we explore 15 unexpected directions our two-wheeled friends are taking us.

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(Images via: Disney and Gizmodo and Monkeylectric)

Last year, Disney unveiled a little project they had been working on called Tron: Legacy – and a hundred million blogs exploded. One of the most visually influential films of the ’80s is about to be sequelled, but now the question hangs in the air: if we’re so much more advanced nowadays, why haven’t we got around to inventing lightbikes for real? Happily, some people are working on it, and it’s not hard to see why – the idea is a terrific one. Why bother with headlamps when your bike is itself aglow? Monkeylectric‘s LED-lit wheels (that can even display adverts) are a reality, but we may have to wait a little longer for Teague Design’s ‘Pulse’ centerframe to hit the market.

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(Images via: Lightlane)

Another glowing idea: for urban areas lacking safe, reliable bike lanes, why not take your own with you? Lightlane uses laser light to lay bright lines on the road either side of your bicycle, encouraging car-drivers to take a little more care when they are overtaking. You can see how effective the concept is by watching the prototype trials here.

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(Images via: Bergmoench)

Parking a bike is almost zero hassle (one of its most endearing features), but wheeling it about is another matter. When the going gets too tough, bikes turn from dream rides to cumbersome nightmares. That is, unless you have a Bergmoench. When your legs can’t take any more, shift the weight onto your shoulders – and that pack slung over the crossbar is indeed a fully-working rucksack.

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(Images via: The Design Blog and NeonLug)

Unsurprisingly, this winningly practical idea has got the attention of these two designers, fighting over the name “Backpack Bicycle“. Lay your bets now.

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(Image via: Yanko Design)

Integration is the keyword for modern bike design. Why bother with accessories when you can turn your trusty steed into the equivalent of a Swiss Army Knife? Take the descriptively-named This Bike Is A Lock. When you’re done cycling, clamp it onto the nearest post and you’re away. (Wannabe-thieves: you might want to go for the post, as it looks the easier challenge).

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(Images via: gadl and velib)

Forget road clogged with taxis, spewing out pollutants and charging you the earth for the “convenience”. No – the way forward is the Beijing model, filling the streets with whirling wheels and keeping the air sweet-smelling. Paris has just undertaken a radical new step in this direction with its groundbreaking Velib bicycle hire service. For a dollar and a half a day (or a paltry $40/year), you get unlimited use of bicycles in 30-minute stretches, pedaling them between sensibly spaced hire stations. Europe and elsewhere, take note.

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(Image via: Mail Online)

Bikes are not immune from the current commendable obsession with solar paneling. The Cycle Sol recumbent, daubed in a canary yellow that is so attention-grabbing that it has to be the safest thing on the road, is fitted with panels and a motor that charges up as you cycle through the sunshine. When you need a breather, on comes the motor, propelling you along at 15mph or lowering the resistance on the pedals to make hills easier.

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(Image via: London Evening Standard)

Now we’re talking! This sizzlingly sexy beauty is the work of cycling pro Chris Boardman, and it’s packed to the pedals with gadgetry including a fingerprint-recognizing lock, puncture-proof tyres and yes, solar panels and a battery. Is Mr Boardman a Tron lightcycle fan? Do we really need to ask? And since it’s designed by an Olympic and world record holding cyclist, we presume that performance isn’t an issue either.

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(Images via: Gelardi)

Wouldn’t it be nice if car-drivers were a little more aware of the fact that they shared the road rather than owned it? We have seen Lightlane’s response to this problem, but for a longer-lasting approach, meet Contrail. As you cycle, you leave a trail of colored chalk behind you – making your mark on the streets in both a literal and figurative sense. Cyclists follow well-wheeled paths to a greater sense of community – and car users become more aware that they’re not alone.

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(Images via: Shweeb)

Cycling meets Futurama with the Shweeb: one capsule per rail, seven gears and speeds to raise the hair on your neck. Right now it’s a slightly crazy human-powered vehicle sport – but could this be a municipal transport system of the future? Nice to think.

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(Image via: dznuts)

All these space-age building materials are very well, but human beings could do with an upgrade themselves. Yes, we are talking chafing. All cyclists suffer if they spend too long in the saddle, and…well, let’s not go into details, except to say that some areas recover slower than others. Which leads us to dznuts – people-mending technology in a tube. It serves as the first line of defense against chafing and infection – and it does it with an eco-friendly sheen, containing organic, Fair Traded ingredients free of animal testing. So go ahead, protect your junk (that is their slogan, honest).

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(Images via: Mikael Colville-Andersen and Milton CJ)

Copenhagen sets the tone. The capital city of Denmark is a world leader in bicycle use: in the city’s Greater Metropolitan area, over a third of commuters head to school or work on two wheels instead of four. In the city centre, it’s the most popular mode of transport during rush hour. It is the perfect place for a shift in the thinking behind road-building – to make large-scale roads specifically for bikes, not just treating them as a transport afterthought.

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(Image via: Copenhagenize)

Here is how it all starts. The city is currently building 13 bicycle “superhighways”, complete with fast lanes, pit-stops supplying air and bike tools, and straight routes in and out of the city without automobiles hogging the route and providing dangerous distractions. Across the whole city, connections of “greenways” or eco-conscious cycling routes are being woven together into a network that will cover over 100km. Want something similar in your neighborhood? Your local council is waiting to hear from you.

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(Image via: Penny Farthings Pushbike Parking)

How much do you love your bike? Enough to build it its own little home? That’s the hope of Penny Farthing Pushbike Parking, who are the creators of the Green Pod, a personal bike park of the future. From the outside it looks clean-lined and pleasant, but hardly a marvel of innovation…

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(Image via: Penny Farthings Pushbike Parking)

…until you step inside and see it is fitted with lockers, changing rooms, hot water showers, LED lighting and an electronic security system. The garden shed doesn’t even get a look in.

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(Images via: Porro and Treehugger)

We are making good use of the sun’s energy, but our bicycles have barely discovered the wind – which is rather strange considering how firmly mainstreamed wind-generated power has become. So we ask, where are the bicycles with sails, let alone sporting turbines? We are awarding a tentative Fail to modern inventors…and for now, seek solace in one-off inventions such as the Dutch Energy Centre’s Impulse, competing in Aeolus 2008.

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(Images via: benstein and MIT and Keetsa)

Back to Copenhagen we go for a deeply clever, deeply fun way to connect with your local biking community. From the MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning comes the technology to find those who crossed your path as you cycled around. Find where? On the social networking site of your choice, such as Facebook. It is all done with wireless smart tags, probably fitted under the seat of your bike – and when you pass someone using the same system, you exchange contact details and personal data of your choice. Since the device also tracks your movements around the city, you can monitor your personal habits and compare them with your green principles. Could it even be used for some kind of citywide massively multiplayer game? We hope so.

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(Image via: Cycloc)

If your budget doesn’t stretch to a Green Pod but you want your bike securely out the way, you could try this elegantly simple piece of recycled plastic. Hook your bike’s crossframe into the front of the Cycloc, and the cunning design uses the bike’s own weight to lock it tightly in place – tight enough to hold it above the ground. And since it is hollow, it is a handy place to shove your smaller items of cycling gear. To lock it, slip your standard bike lock around the outside, as shown above…and enjoy the all floor space you’ve suddenly liberated. (Be sure to remember – the Cycloc is only as tough as its fittings -  and your wall).

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(Image via: Treehugger)

Finally, we get to the bottom – or more specifically, what is under it. Never mind all these fancy-pants anti-chafing creams – why can’t we design a saddle that takes the pressure off? The answer seems to be force of habit. The classic narrow racing saddle is ideal for professionals spending much of their time leaning forward, but when commercial bikes follow this design and we mere mortals climb on, the whole thing becomes a colossal pain in the rear. The answer is to spread the load before we do fundamental damage to our fundamentals – and for that reason, the No Nose Saddle is perhaps the most important and the longest overdue innovation in modern bike design. Just pray it catches on while we’re still intact.

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