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December 31, 2013
What a year! Let's try a year-end summary of the wheel world.
Lots of news swirled in the bike industry and sport this year. Fallout continued from political and doping issues. We also enjoyed technical splashes: GPS, wattage metering, electronic shifting, LED's, road disk brakes, more aero focus. But splashes aren't necessarily progress.
We have a healthy scene on hold. Nothing fundamentally new was commercialized. No worry, the world has an excess of rushing.
However, in the world of wheels, something is really HAPPENING. Naturally, I'm biased, but a quiet scene we have no longer. Sure, some are stuck in the past but in and around the bike industry creative stuff is being dreamt and made.
Let's look at some of the wheels of 2013 that break the mold, that show what a dynamic category wheels are becoming. Not just elegant and proud but probing deeper into engineering essence and vehicle function with an intensity becoming more and more fun to watch.
Check how clever designers found a way to hack a child's bike out of an IKEA stool kit! Behold, the Frosta bike:
Of course, it's all about those great wheels. Seats for your butt or magic wheels for big imaginations?
Next on the list are ebikes that focus on the wheel. Where wheel = motor + battery + logic, here's the Vanmoof.
This electric bike takes intelligence a step further. Check it out. Wheels contain the brains and brawn.
May I shout out for www.designboom.com? For those of you unaware, this is a fabulous, huge, and well-edited stream of design news: architectural, furniture, mechanisms, graphic, no limit. Subscribe if you want to be regularly stimulated.
Next is another electrified idea, the Copenhagen Wheel.
Here is a review of the wheel created at MIT, commercialized successfully this year. Hats off to Gizmag. Like Designboom, an eclectic survey of the world's more entertaining technology. It should be one of your bookmarks. They pay extra attention to bicycles as, you may know, most designers do.
Here is another wheel concept, Flykly.
A nice review appears in Gizmag once again. Motor, battery, logic: options for the future.
A local Seattle company is doing a cheaper, simpler version, the Hill Topper by Clean Republic. A front wheel that makes a bike electric without interfering with the transmission. No wonder it's named "Hill Topper." Flat land is a rarity in Seattle.
Even more to my liking is the fundamental wheel structure. A tough model to improve but from England comes a clever use of composites allowing a small wheel to be the suspension system. This is the loop wheel I referenced earlier this year.
Can you see the massive potential influence of this concept? Composite bands can be designed to have zero side flex but any vertical flex. Stable cycling of all kinds could be tuned from such ideas.
Last is the ill-fated Mad Fiber wheel.
The concept aimed to create a singular structure rather than an assembly. Here was the equivalent of an actual unitary composite structure as might be possible by weaving a single uninterrupted fiber.
The simplicity conceals complex fiber placement, a different, perhaps more advanced way to address the internal and the external loads with which our classic wire wheel so well contends.
Alas, the product and company are not to be, just 3,000 sets made. Perhaps others will try this approach. Maybe we've had a glimpse of the future.
Last on this curious list is a great concept bike by BASF and design organization DING3000; driven equally by aesthetics (the proportions of bicycles in 1865) and by technology (BASF, the materials specialist, employed 24 different polymer applications in the structure).
Here's to a continuation of bold trends that wheels are showing. Electric power, disk brakes, greater stability, better pneumatic systems, regenerative braking, night time visibility, compactness, shock absorption, exotic materials...what a rich set of elements for clever engineering.
Happy New Year to all our readers and supporters. May 2014 bring you insights and rewards!
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