Saturday, February 19, 2011

Bike Prototypes: It's a Minimalist 36er!

Our mustachioed, bowler-wearing forefathers straddled some hilarious bikes in their time. You've probably seen the classic gigantic front wheel, tiny back wheel version pictured here from the turn of the (last century). This was called an "ordinary bicycle" or a "penny-farthing". Penny and farthing were British comparisons of the wheels to the coins used in that era - larger to smaller. The term ordinary came later as a way to describe this older bicycle compared to the new "safety bikes". I've never ridden a penny-farthing, but I've seen some local folk in our annual 4th of July parade and it's a precarious but fascinating venture. Imagine just the challenge of mounting this thing without breaking your teeth! That said, there was some good design in this bike. Obviously, it's a single speed direct drive so the larger front wheel allows for a higher speed. Once you got rolling, I can imagine that your could get a pretty good clip going. Also, the large size of the wheel smooths out the ride on bumpy road surfaces.

In the last decade there has been a trend toward mountain bikes with larger wheels, these are known as 29ers as opposed to the standard 26" wheel of a let's say "ordinary" mountain bikes. Road bikes have not featured new tire sizes in a long time. Today's standard road bike wheel is a usually 26" or 27" (650c or 700c). The gas price crunch over the past 5 years has really re-kindled American's interest in bicycles, and I love the fact that designers are now taking some chances with new ideas and prototypes.

A great example of this trend comes from Grand Rapids, Michigan industrial design house JRuiter. Designer Joey Ruiter and staff have come up with a cool, minimalist design that incorporates many aspects of early and modern bikes. Behold! I give you the Inner City Bike 36er! Check this thing out, it is a direct drive road monster!

It looks a bit precarious, and those tires are really close together, but you've got to love the forward thinking design. I am also psyched that this came out of the state of Michigan, where so much engineering and manufacturing innovation has occurred in this country. When I look at this prototype, I see a nod to the basic black simplicity and function of Henry Ford's Model T. His famous quote from 1909 applies here, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so as long as it is black." Nice work Joey and company, I hope to see your design available in bike stores all over the country very soon!

Monday, February 14, 2011

It's Funny Because It's True!

Juliet and I made Christy a funny valentine card. Does anybody get the reference?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Valentines: Jilted by PDX

First off, happy Valentines Day to my beautiful wife and kids or "Valen-Times" as Hank used to call it. Valentines Day has its roots in a seemingly unrelated act by Christian martyr Saint Valentine. According to accounts, Valentine refused to follow Roman law stating that soldiers should not be married and he secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. Roman Emperor Claudius II jailed him for these acts. Apparently, Valentine and Claudius tried to convert each other to their own beliefs (Paganism and Christianity), but natch the Emperor prevailed and Valentine was executed (Special Christian Miracle Bonus Round: Before his death, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer - hence his sainthood). Based on this story it's perfectly clear why we give candy, flowers, and cards to our loved ones to honor Saint Valentine. You gotta love modern interpretations of weird holidays!!!

{start rant} Recently I spent the weekend in Portland for the 17th annual RecRoomRomp, where 16 brave middle-aged men compete in pool, ping-pong, and bowling for fame and fortune. I spent the weekend having a great time with some of my best friends in downtown PDX - my home town. I grew up in this area and lived in several houses all over the Portland area from the early seventies to the late eighties. Usually I like to visit Rip City, but this stay was alarmingly annoying. Portland is being taken over by hipsters!

Don't get me wrong, Portland has always seen itself as unique and different from other cities. It's rightfully known for many civic innovations - city planning, architecture, mass transit, and more than its share of great restaurants and businesses. I also have lots of friends and family in the area that haven't changed one iota. My issue is with the new "cooler than thou" attitude that is permeating downtown. During our stay there were several instances where my friends and I got the cold shoulder from local merchants and downtown residents overcome by hipsterism. Particularly at one of my favorite coffee spots, Stumptown. Agreed that I'm in my mid-forties and lack a certain youthful appeal, but Portland has always been a friendly town (with the exception of visits from Californians in the seventies and eighties).

This diagram captures it perfectly. In my last visit, I saw several "Mountain Men" and "Williamsburg" folk, and plenty of "Fauxhemians". Maybe I'm finally too old to understand their scene, but I've never seen that kind of attitude in my home town. The recent comedy Portlandia is a sign that the city is taking itself to seriously and I hope Portland turns the corner on this one! {end rant}