Custom Bicycle Concepts: 10 Amazing Bikes of the Future bills itself as a list of ten possible directions bicycle design may go in the future.
Well, no. Several of these are already available now and several others (notably the hubless styles) aren't really practical in the real world though they do look bitchin' in a design program, that's for sure. Why are hubless wheels impractical? Here, read the Wikipedia entry. Basically, they look cool but are expensive as hell to make and would require lots of maintenance to keep in good working order and don't really provide any huge advantage over regular hubbed wheels (yes, they can be more aerodynamic but they can also have a way higher rolling resistance which would negate the aero savings).
So let's take a gander at the gallery assembled and purported to represent the possible future of bicycling.
The Artikar - There's nothing groundbreaking at all about the non-bicycle Artikar, its a four wheel recumbent with a neon bubble frame thing going on. Its neat but it ain't no future bike.
The Cube Urban Streetbike concept looks pretty fast and has the practical side of foldability but it loses the practical war in how the seat set up works. If you don't fit this bike then you are out of luck, the seat cannot go higher or lower, just further forward or backward. That pretty much eliminates it from any practical consideration.
The forkless cruiser is cool but totally impractical for anything but Burning Man and parades.
The Intelligent Bike Concept is neat but will never see the light of the day in any practical way. It would be way too expensive, it has a solar powered electric motor back up but no place for solar panels and more of the cool looking but not gonna happen anytime soon hubless wheels. Intelligent? Nah, I'm think more like flight of fancy.
The Simplicity bike is absolutely worthless for any kind of distance travelling. Cramped, no gearing, flexy frame and almost certainly super twitchy handling because of that super short wheelbase. Its also kind of silly looking, no?
The ECO 07 is a neat idea in that the whole bike can be broken down and stored in a briefcase (including the modular wheels). It looks cool too but I don't need a bike I can store in a briefcase, I need a bike I can ride hard.
The Peugot B1k gets the lists nod as the sexiest bike of the bunch but it looks uncomfortable to ride, has a hubless rear wheel, joystick handlebars and an odd drivetrain system. Regular handlebars work well, I'm not sure if the joystick bars are more aerodynamic or just neat and the short wheelbase would again be scary at speed. It looks cool, sure, but how cool would it look stacked up off a hard turn?
The last in the list, the Plus Bike Concept is interesting. I'd worry about frame flex but otherwise it seems like a reasonably usable design. It doesn't evoke anything in me though.
My favorites of the bunch are the Wire Bike Concept (reminiscent of the Slingshot) which is pictured at the very top and the Furious Sports Bike pictured on the right. I'd prefer a wider set of handlebars and a more recognizable seat but it looks pretty cool even if the drivetrain is on the wrong side (unless I'm totally misinterpreting the design).
If I were a betting man then I'd probably put my money on the bike of the future being some sort of plastic design for cheap production, use and recycling. It would have to be accessible by all strata of person (some of these concept bikes would elicit questions about how to ride them or just outright WTF?s) and would utilize tried and true technology like hubbed wheels and regular bar handlebars.
Don't get me wrong, I love checking out bicycle designs, I love seeing what people can dream up but the reality is that nearly all of these bikes can be safely eliminated from the running for Bike of the Future consideration.
For a great place to read about bicycle design, check out the Bicycle Design blog. Always interesting content and James, the writer, has a great handle on the practicality or lack thereof of concepts.