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Aria by Marco Mainardi – Somerset by Chen-Wei Chang & Chai-Chi Chang: Taipei International Cycle Show

Glenn Reeves

Today’s post continues this initial post from the first day of the show.

Marco Mainardi’s Aria is certainly interesting. Whether it’s a winner though, depends on your perspective.

Taipei International Cycle Show

Taipei International Cycle Show

This is the scale model that was on display outlining the fundamentals of the original concept. There have been compromises in the translation to a working prototype, however, that take the design in a whole different direction.

The shape is an abstraction of a cyclist in the sprint position. The seat is mounted on the cyclist’s lower back region. The curve of the spine arcs down to the inverted elbows. The support is the the massively OS downtube, which is still relatively unobtrusive.

If you are bored by the standard double-triangle characterizing roadbike design, then this does represent a departure. The triangles are now configured vertically. A cyclist riding this would assume a shape that reflects the shape of the frame.

It’s cool, but in what ways would performance be improved? What would be the handling dynamics of a prototype true to the original be like? The spacey look is certainly promoted by the wheelset. Actually, without a cool wheelset, the design loses quite a bit of its appeal.

A close comparison of the scale model with the working prototype seem to show a major departure from the original concept. The effective HT angle on the prototype appears to be close to 90° with minimal to no mechanical trail. This would be a flighty twitchy ride to say the least.

The working prototypes below incorporate a standard steering axis angle. But accommodating the stem has broken the curve of the the top tube.

Over on my company’s Facebook page one observer rightly wondered about the BB’s lateral stiffness. The minimal tech specs for this design mention the frame is magnesium and carbon that is “rigid, springy and light”. That would have to be substantiated moving forward.

Taipei International Cycle Show

In this prototype, the integrated seatpost is elevated in its presentation as a TT bike. The deep section carbon rims certainly help to highlight the frame. The downtube is more prominent here highlighted by the gap between the front wheel and the DT. This version would have looked better with straight blades on the forks.

Taipei International Cycle Show

The model cranks are gone and overall it begins to look much more conventional.

Taipei International Cycle Show

This version connects directly to the scale model but is not a working prototype.

Taipei International Cycle Show

With a shallower profile rim the effect is watered down quite a lot.

Taipei International Cycle Show

One way of looking at this is as a “Red” ocean design rather than a Blue Ocean design (check out PtII and III in Mark Sanders‘ “Blue Ocean Chronicles: series). Taking this perspective means moving beyond the boundaries created for evaluating design in this competition.

If the Aria is aimed at any target group in particular, then it would be the minority of racing bike enthusiasts who are currently more than catered for in a crowded marketplace. Either that or it was designed for the whiz bang effect, which probably does not advance effective design very much. Compare the Infinity, a Merit award winner from IBDC 2010 on this:

"Infinity" from the 14th IBDC

A good definition of progressive design would be an orientation towards addressing unmet needs in this much broader population. I think you can say that is very much in the minds of most of the other designers whose designs achieved a degree of recognition. Such designs may not have the whiz bang effect. But they take us perhaps where we need to be going.

Taipei International Cycle Show

The Silver medal winner, Somerset, is a good example of this idea of what progressive design could be. Whether, again, this particular design is the best in this trend is quite debatable although it is the majority. I have personal favorites that come from who I am as a consumer who sees potential solutions to transportation situations in those designs (Guluxuan 2010 is one of them).

Velouria over at Lovely Bicycle has recently commented on an interesting dimension to how the bicycle industry view consumers. She suggest the bicycle industry places too much importance on miles ridden in coming up with an idea of how cyclists see themselves. This yardstick then influences industry estimates of market demand for particular kinds of bikes.

The ways in which industry and designers come to make decisions about the nature of their markets is the big issue. How big is the gulf between industry and consumers? A Blue Ocean perspective suggests it may be enormous.

Andrew Kerslake — a keen cyclist, observer and analyst of all things relating to bicycles — over at Taiwan in Cycles had this to say in recent post:

. . . bicycles are fun. They are also a multi-billion dollar industry. They are tools. They are recreational. They are utilitarian and political in how they are used by political actors and activists to promote change. Bicycles, at their most basic, allow for all types of physical and social mobility to occur. They are transformative.

Bikes can be a lot of things . . .

They are and more. Is it this “more”, this ocean of possibilities that design needs to be looking towards?

Taipei International Cycle Show

The Somerset folded up. Handy, but other designs have arguably done a neater job.

Taipei International Cycle Show

Taipei International Cycle Show

Taipei International Cycle Show

Taipei International Cycle Show

Taipei International Cycle Show

somerset folding bike

You would certainly turn some heads at the local shopping mall. Somerset Chic could be be very fashionable.

Having said that last year’s Gold medal winner, the Shopping Bike, is certainly a tidier design and simply looks less like a standard (rather than standout) innovative folding bike. But context is everything and you would have to be quite creative to look as fashionable on this more austerely presented steed.

Posts in process: Innovative Products revisited and then an account of two industry veterans’ attempt on Taiwan’s great mountain cycling challenge, Mt. He Huan.

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