Technology

Bicycle of the Future

Early bicycle (1869)

A “velocipede,” circa 1869

Last week I looked at why bicycles should have a privileged place in future planning.  Today I take the other angle:  What’s the future of bicycles themselves?

Curious, I dug around a bit looking for current trends in bicycle design, as well as new innovations that might take off.  I found quite a few, and present you here with six, hoping to offer some clues to the bicycle of the future.  To be perfectly honest, history suggests that this particular device isn’t very prone to change – just take a look at the picture above, which predates modern bikes by 140 years.  But another century from now, who knows?  Maybe we’ll have something crazy that no one’s ever thought of.  Or maybe we’ll have a single bike featuring all 6 of these great trends…

1. Ultra customization.  Bicycling Magazine has a roundup of bicycle trends, one of which is extreme levels of customization.  Apparently frames, seats, suspensions, pedals and even shoes are now being offered in many specific variations, so as to suit any shape or style.  If implemented affordably, future bikes might fit everyone perfectly.

2. Thin is in.  Public transportation and bicycles are both integral parts of a sustainable infrastructure.  But the two of them don’t mix well, at least right now.  Many subways and buses don’t carry bikes at all, and those that do have very limited space to do so.  The ThinBike does its part for low-profile biking by folding flat for storage, reducing its width by 71%.

3. The backpack bicycle.  Bike manufacturer Koga takes the portability concept even further with this incredible design, a bicycle that stows itself into a self-contained backpack.  Mountain biker/hikers will love it, though its broader appeal might be a bit limited by the lack of a seat.  Still, there’s no question the Bergmoench is the most carry-friendly bike I’ve ever seen.

Black bike leaning against a tree

courtesy Bev Sykes

4. Mind control.  Okay, so this one’s more of a novelty than anything, but come on.  Mind control is awesome.  And now someone’s made a bike that shifts gears by reading your brainwaves through the helmet!

5. Hybrid bike.  Turns out, you don’t need to be a gas guzzler to benefit from hybrid technology.  Check out the Mando Footloose.  Like a hybrid car, this sweet ride has an electric motor that boosts your power when you need it, or in this case whenever you feel like taking a break.  The motor doubles as a generator, recharging the battery as you pedal.   I imagine the extended range and/or laziness potential of a hybrid bike would draw in lots of new users.

6. Elegant refinements.  I saved my favorite for last.  Portland’s Oregon Manifest held a bicycle design challenge last year, inviting people to submit custom bikes.  The whole winners’ page is worth checking out, but I wanted to single out the 2nd place winners, who offered an awesome interpretation of the traditional bike. The cargo flaps, U-lock integration, reflective frame, and simple timeless design would all serve a future bike well.  Other entrants offered modular designs, cargo bicycles and more.  If nothing else, the creative potential revealed by the contest suggests a thriving trend of bicycle innovation.

Okay, your turn!  Think any of these will catch on?  Seen any other great trends?  Let us know in the comment box, and ask your friends using the sharing buttons.

Many thanks to Brain Pickings and The Independent for two interesting lists that I used as a jumping-off point.  For further reading, check out this thoughtful wishlist or these biking statistics.

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4 thoughts on “Bicycle of the Future

  1. I think the hybrid bike will be a big winner–a little electricity-generated boost for the hills would make a big difference!

    I also think the back pack bike will be a winner–so can take public transit for long distances and then bike to the final destination.

    Lots of bike riders here in northern New England, using this form of transportation for remarkably long distances. Still, very difficult when the wintry weather comes. What would be a remedy for that?

    • Good question. Bicycles are pretty season-dependent around here… winter makes for some chilly riders, and needless to say 4-wheel drive is out of the question. Anyone have any ideas?

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