Bike of the future

In October 1979, the British Cycling Bureau promoted a competition to develop new ideas for bicycle design, the results of which, republished today, are still surprisingly contemporary.

 

From the archive

In October 1979, the British Cycling Bureau promoted a competition to develop new ideas for bicycle design, which was by then already considered a valid alternative to motor vehicles. The three winning projects, which we republish below, are surprisingly contemporary.

This article was originally published in Domus 599 / October 1979

Bike of the future
A competition sponsored by the British Cycling Bureau in London

These pages illustrate the three winning projects in the "Bike of the future" competition, sponsored by the British Cycling Bureau in London. The object was to encourage research work on the possibilities of using the bicycle as a vehicle for individual transport and leisure. Chosen from more than four hundred entries, these models have in common an attention to the problems of bicycling in urban traffic; hence the smaller wheels and the maximum of collapsibility.

Top and above: The first prize winner, a foldable bike by architect Juan Szumowski. When folded it occupies only 43 cm

The second prize winner, entered by the WW Group, is characterized by sophisticated ideas and elegant design. Its technology is aimed to rid the bicycle of its typical inconveniences and to make it into a real alternative form of transport. Spokes have gone and the wheels are made in two halves which lock the tyres into place when assembled. The tyres are moulded in expanded polyurethane in a single, puncture proof and valve less unit. The drive is enclosed in its own container and uses a rubber belt instead of the traditional chain; electricity is supplied by a set of dynamo-activated rechargeable batteries.

First prize winner, a foldable bike by architect Juan Szumowski. Prototype sketches

A model still linked in its basic form to the traditional image of the bicycle was awarded third prize. The ideas employed in it by designer Graham Herbert are particularly interesting, and include rapid folding which entails no adjustment of handlebar or saddle. Another feature is the "sprung" riding position, thanks to the mobility of the saddle support column which slides into the head frame and rests on a compression spring housed between the saddle and the head itself.

 
Chosen from more than four hundred entries, these models have in common an attention to the problems of bicycling in urban traffic; hence the smaller wheels and the maximum of collapsibility
 

The VW Group project, awarded second prize. Technical drawings

The first prize was won by Juan Szumowski, the London architect who created this remarkable prototype, where the mudguards in reinforced resin act as a container for the whole bike. When folded it occupies only 43 cm. The folding mechanism is enlarged and vividly coloured to underline its purpose. For example, the front and rear lights themselves are folded to lock the handlebar and saddle into the closed position.

VW Group's design, winner of the second prize, was an electrical bike "aimed to rid the bicycle of its typical inconveniences and to make it into a real alternative form of transport"

Third prize winner, designed by Graham Herbert, was a model still linked in its basic form to the traditional image of the bicycle

Graham Herbert's design, winner of the third prize, featured rapid folding with no adjustment of handlebar or saddle