15th International Bicycle Design Competition-Preliminary Look

by Sabinna on March 4, 2011

The results of the 15th IBDC will be announced in a ceremony in the morning of the first day of Taipei Cycle 2011, March 16. Here is a brief look at some of the finalists giving an indication of what to expect this year.


Out of the 863 entries it comes as no surprise, since the IBDC is a home-grown event, that Taiwan contributed 26% of the total entries. The PRC (China) contributed 16%, with S.Korea in third place at 8%.

There is big gap in the field down to the 4th, 5th, and 6th places. The USA along with India has contributed 4.4 and 4.2% respectively, the UK on 3.5%, with Hong Kong on 3.1% in 7th position. Japan and Austria come in very close after this.

From a regional viewpoint the order of international dominance is repeated within the Asia grouping.  For Europe the UK top the order (17%), followed by Austria (13%). There is then a bit of a jump down the order to Italy and the Netherlands (8%).  Yugoslavia comes in ahead of France, Germany, and Belgium just behind this group.

In relation to N/S America, the USA dominate on 40%. Then Argentina, Columbia, Costa-Rica, Puerto-Rico and Brazil are grouped in a range from 7-9%.

It will be interesting to take a look at these numbers again once the winners and merit awards are made known. You would expect the main award winners to be represented in these proportions. But that would assume that quality design is more a matter of quantity. I’m not sure that is supported by the evidence of previous years. Let’s wait and see.

Foldability is a key theme, perhaps more than last year where folding models were well-represented to say the least.

Of the three main judging criteria innovationmanufacturability, and marketability a (see this recent post on the IBDC judging criteria and also here)  it is the manufacturability subcategory mass-production feasibility that would appear to be a dominating value.

Marketability is also a  relevant criterion here particularly its third subcategory possibility of being well liked.

Select Entries

The Power is an electric assisted folding bike with a unique folding mechanism. It’s actually interesting year-on-year observing the various solutions to this technical challenge. Creating a strong point of articulation that looks like anything but what it is would be an important focus area for innovation.

It would have been good for a little more thought to have gone into the name. Still, the look is cool. This could have wide appeal, although for a younger demographic, particularly male, I’m not sure that electric assisted cycling rates very highly on the cool scale.

The Thin(k)er is conceived with, particularly, Taiwan’s crowded campuses — crowded with thinkers I guess — in mind. It is designed to fit into tight spaces with a stem that swivels and pedals that fold up. As a technical solution to the social “problem” — I’ll say more about this at the end — of masses of bikes jammed together in limited spaces, it’s pretty neat.

The Running Sports Vehicle seems to be some sort of return to cycling’s roots in Baron von Drais’ original “running machine” (Laufmaschine). When you don’t have pedals, a cyclist’s weight distribution, normally spread amongst the saddle, handlebars and pedals is significantly altered.

The original velocipede had a balance board that helped distribute weight away from the seat. That disappeared with the later Scottish treadle versions, which turned the seat more into a saddle, since weight could be transferred to a consistent pressure on the treadle boards.

The RSV would certainly not be a  boneshaker. But it would be very much a niche machine as was the velocipede in the very beginning.

Of course success within one niche always carries the possibility that one design may go on to capture a broad appeal across a number of niches which is what eventually happened to the vélocipéde de pédale. If this particular model is available for viewing as a prototype it will be worth a close look. You’d have to worry about the saddle vs seat issue though.

Described has having urban commuting in mind, the Pedal Squared seems to suggest more of a recreational use. More socially oriented – for a couple – with portability and storability.

When in Rome a few years ago, in the Villa Borghese gardens if I remember  rightly, you could cruise about in a variety of 2-or 4-person cycles. This would be just the thing for that sort of experience. It might even be conceivable to take it along on an international vacation to similar sorts of locations depending on how it folds and its weight.

What is “good” design?

Just from this sample, I’m not sure that bicycle design in terms of the big picture is being greatly advanced here. But maybe this is to approach it the wrong way. We cant be looking for any breakthrough to an optimal design because we are already there. Expecting some awesome leap into the future similar to the arrival of the Starley’s Rover is probably not the way to go.

Although having said that I think the greatest advance may well come out of improvements in lithium-ion battery technology.

Electrification also seems to be the main direction for the automobile in the future. Perhaps we will see a coming together of bikes and cars with in an overall category of LEVs which consist of 2 and 4 wheel versions for those cities that choose to re-design urban space away from cars as we know them today.

The modern world’s love affair with the car is not likely to see the triumph of bicycles over motor vehicles any time soon, if ever. However if the terms are redefined alongside redefined urban spaces, then the problem may just go away.

A possible way to approach this is from a definition of “good” design as, very very fundamentally, a technical solution to a social situation or “problem” — not really the right word.

If the mass market is long gone and we are left with the long tail of niches as the social reality of the economy, then these designs would appear to be well aimed at niches, or particular social circumstances for which they offer a solution. Viewing the technical through the zoom lens of the social is surely the correct starting point for thinking through design possibilities.

Anyhow, lets wait and see what eventuates a bit over a week from now.

The "Extra" from 2010 looks very comfortable

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