Posted by Jason on 7/29/2014 to Bicycle Trends
I recently ran across a competition called The Bike Design Project, where the Oregon Manifest organized a duel between 5 teams (is it a duel if there are 5 teams? Perhaps a Pentel, or fivel...). The goal of the competition is to pit 5 different cities against each other to create the ultimate urban utility bicycle. The 5 cities that are competing are Chicago, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle. Now just based off of the city I am cheering for Seattle, even though they embarrassed us Coloradans so badly in the super bowl this year, but of course it isn't just based on the city so let us take a look at the bikes.
Chicago "The Blackline"
Chicago fielded a bike called "The Blackline" which is a minimalist design with an integrated headlight and tail light as well as turn signals which tell you where to go through an integrated GPS rather than the more standard you telling them where you are going. The bicycle uses a belt drive (might it be Colorado's own Gates drive?) and has a configurable modular cargo system that allows you to click in a cargo rack, panniers, and apparently the bike has a hidden u-lock, but I couldn't tell you for the life of me where that is on the bike. Perhaps they hid it to well.
NY brought a bicycle that they named the "Merge" to the field. The bike is designed to be more compact than most other bikes out there in order to better handle heavy traffic. The bike integrates a headlight, a tail light, a fender, cable lock, and back rack all of which slide neatly away when they are un-needed. Of course the downside of this is that you are always carrying them. The bike even includes an integrated USB port, which I assume is driven by a dynamo hub such as the Biologic Joule 3, but the designer does not specify. The bicycle seat does not look height adjustable which is an issue for my Goliath frame.
Portland designed a bicycle that looks-wise is my favorite. The bike is made entirely of Titanium and is 3-D printed. The bicycle integrates a Biologic dynamo hub and an embedded GPS module to help you locate your bicycle if it is stolen, as well as an Abus frame lock to conveniently lock your bike when it is not in use. This beauty also comes with integrated headlights and tail lights, a Gates Carbon drive, a kick stand, a modular rack (detachable as opposed to the New York's hideable solution) and finally the ability to get GPS directions through haptic handlebar feedback (no I don't think this is a good idea, but maybe it works better than I am imagining).
San Francisco "Evo"
San Francisco created a utility bike called the "Evo" that is probably the most "utility" of these utility bikes and less lifestyle. The bike uses a modular rack that allows for modular accessories(panniers, basket, child seat) and has an integrated lock, lights, and fenders. In the front there is a front basket for carrying goods as well. In addition they thought to add a front fork lockout to stabilize the bike when loading. It also sounds like the most practical of the group to manufacture, but again, doesn't appear to have an adjustable seat height. I would be curious to know how they handle that.
The final contestant is Seattle with "Denny." Denny includes the contestant standard integrated head and tail lights, but also throws in brake light functionality, turn signals, and flood lights. This bike does not include a rear rack (water is more or less wiped off of the tire with a brush) instead a battery in the front acts as a front rack. Yes, this is the only e-bike of the group. The handlebar detaches and can be used as a lock. Hopefully not while I am riding the bike.
Go vote for your favorite here so we can see it get manufactured.
Update - August 7, 2014: Turns out that the Denny by the Seattle team wins!! I can not wait to see it in production.