Product Design is all about positively modernizing the things we use. It addresses the way we envision what we use and how we use it, how we transport ourselves, how we get our stuff from point a to point b, improving objects we use everyday, and pushing the limits with pioneering yet always better and more useful products. This summer a group of UO product design students, all with diverse and fascinating backgrounds, gathered under the direction and guidance of instructors Christian Freissler and James Molyneux to produce this year’s standout success story: an entry in the 2011 Oregon Manifest bike design challenge. Their creative vision, their months of dialogue and discovery, and their research delving into the history and function of bike design and production has yielded something truly remarkable: The Campus Bike. Read on for the whole story……
24 September 2011
by sabina samiee
In a city that is already teetering on the verge of velophilia, things escalated this weekend with a special competition of innovation and spirit to find a modern utility bike. Bike designers nationwide converged at Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland’s Pearl District for the annual 2011 Oregon Manifest. Sponsored by Levi’s this was no ordinary fete. Designers, craftspeople, and students have been working since February 2011 to create a new bike for the modern daily urban bike rider. The goal was to develop an integrated Tool for Living and “ a bike not yet seen on the retail floor.” You can get the full scoop on Oregon Manifest from their website.
So it was that on the morning of September 23, 2011, the PNCA Commons became a seafull of the big, the bold and the beautiful: gleaming bikes corralled for photo ops and public scrutiny. It was a plethora of colorful sparkling metal, and black polished circumferences of tires, sparkling roulette-like spokes of wheels, pristine components and parts soon to be sullied by September 24’s planned 50+ mile Challenge Ride. Not to mention droves of hipster bike people….everywhere.
The order of the day was predominantly large-scale, prodigious-looking and commanding, chockfull of features and accessories enough to fascinate and amaze even the most jaded bike enthusiast. Bikes with side carts and extra wheels, bikes with clunky wooden shelves, bikes with grand metal frame baskets, bikes with briefcases, bottles, and contraptions to carry everything from a child, to a pizza to a chicken to an endless supply of tools and instruments and gadgets: it seemed nothing had been forgotten or overlooked. The PNCA Commons had been transformed into a bike lover’s dream—a candy store of velo delights.
But in the midst this beautiful and bright bicyclette cacophony of metals and rubber, wood and plastic, there stood, very upright, casual yet dignified, something neat, sweet and petite. If good things come in small packages, the brilliance of the UO Product Design team is not to be underestimated. Their Campus Mini Velo Bike, a model of efficiency, simplicity and diminutive structure, stood out not because it overwhelmed the competition but because its design was so refreshingly….pure, well-thought out, and crafted to satisfy the “Everyman” (let’s just say, every person). This bike’s bantam-like frame did not lack a sense of strength and fortitude—and, indeed, the steel frame painted a sprightly white and keen green, had been welded to produce a structure able to withstand height, weight and duration of any user perched atop two 20” tires. Even the bike’s tires presented a model of consideration: they are airless, utilizing a technology whereby tire inflation becomes an unnecessary inconvenience and thing of the past. The small nature of the tires (at a significant 7” below customary bike wheel diameter), allows greater use of the storage space incorporated into the velo’s frame. From the top of the tires to the handle bars, it is roomy, with space available to tote pretty much anything one would want to take on a bike. This bike is all about the convenience of attachments (such as rear and front lights) and the conspicuous absence of obvious gadgets.
Subtle in stature but powerful in concept, the Campus Bike was rolled before the panel of judges who were already emitting quiet ooo’s and ah’s at its neon green and white frame and its curious seemingly absent extraneous add-ons. What ensued in front of judges, Tinker Hatfield (famed NIKE designer chosen by TIME magazine as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century), Rob Forbes (PUBLIC BIKES), Joe Breeze (Breezer Bikes) and Bill Strickland (Bicycling) could only have been described as a clever, humorous, and quite entertaining presentation designed to instruct as well as demonstrate.
As one student narrated, others approached the bike, in turn, and made use of its different very well-integrated features. The students effectively used the bike as it remained stationary with the intriguing spring-loaded, fully retractable kickstand making it entirely upright and solid on three weight-bearing points. Six-packs of beer, books, groceries, locked compartments, and the rear-carrying device were secured by an internally retracting zig-zaging bungee system that can, apparently, also securely carry something odd-shaped like a soccer ball. The team silently made use of all these features even securing a latte paper cup while the judges looked on amused….and impressed. This was a clear demonstration of practicality and utility.
It bears mentioning that the Campus Bike has features that are the culmination of months of brainstorming by the UO team. Everything on this bike from the 3 speeds, hub gearing, belt drive, and disc brakes to the concept of low maintenance (no lube necessary, hence no visits to the bike maintenance shop) to the disappearing internal chain system (no more oil marks on pants or pants’ fabric caught up in a messy chain) to the moisture-sealed frame and components (no rust or corrosion) make this bike shine. And while there is a great diversity to the backgrounds that this team shares, (one student came with absolutely no previous knowledge of bikes, some are seasoned and experienced bike riders, and some work, study and play in creative fields such as photography, videography and woodworking) one feature they have in common is an interest in and passion for product design and the innovative pursuit of things that make life better and that can make living and transportation a viable, accessible, pleasurable, and sustainable concept.
The Campus Bike was designed with the consummate University of Oregon student in mind: a person who needs to travel relatively short distances, be comfortable even in a rainy downpour, have cargo options, and exist as a “microcosm” of the real world. Practicality and the “campus story” (deemed a life of study, books, visiting friends, transporting food and drink, being mobile, and being happily on-the-go) was of tantamount consideration. But by designing for this ubiquitous student, the UO team hopes they have made something “small, approachable, and friendly” says student|designer, Teressa Hamje. The Campus Bike is something that has the realistic potential to prevail and provide a snappy comeback to the bikes we know and use today.
This is the little bike that could….and, if the bike design community has anything to do with it….would and should be carrying its vision and the practice of simple, efficient, accessible bike design well into the future. The Campus Bike will perhaps influence bike design and the formulation of more practical, usable bikes for a brave new world of eco-minded, efficiency-concerned, regular folk. Maybe the Campus Bike just goes to show, small is the new big.
[Winners of the Oregon Manifest 2011 will be announced today, the 24th of September at 6pm (PST). This blog post will be updated to announce the results. We wish our UO team the best!]
The UO team is comprised of students Jeremy Androschuk, Teressa Hamje, Adam Horbinski, Ian Kenny, Heath Korvola, Matt Raphael, and Scott Warneke under the instruction and guidance of Christian Freissler and James Molyneux and with direction from Kiersten Muenchinger, Program Director and Associate Professor for the UO Product Design program in both Portland at the White Stag and in Eugene on the main UO campus. The UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts in Portland is led by Administrative Director, Kate Wagle who is instrumental in bringing courses such as Manifest Oregon to the University of Oregon in Portland. The Oregon Manifest project was a part of The Summer in the City program.
The UO team is indebted to the assistance and hands-on fabrication expertise of Dave Levy, owner of TiCycles Fabrication.