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Designing a Bike for the Perfect Commute

Tomorrow is National Bike to Work Day, and legions (hopefully) of cyclists will take to the street who might not otherwise. But this begs the question; Why don’t they bike to work every day? That was the impetus for Denny the bike, and indeed, all of the bikes entered in the Bike Design Project. But Denny won.

Denny is powered by Intel Edison, a SRAM E-Matic electric assist hub, and you. Two of Denny’s designers, Matt Schoenholz and John Mabry, walked us through the latest version at MakerCon 2015.

The first thing you notice about Denny will likely depend on whether Denny is locked up or not. A crucial part of the design was the integration of the lock into the handlebars. Arrive at your destination, release the lock via your mobile or a key, and the handlebars come off completely, forming a U-lock long enough to secure both wheels and the frame.

With the bars securely back on the bike, integrated lights respond to a turn signal or the squeeze of the brakes, and an automatic electric shifter in the hub means you don’t have to worry about changing gears. A torque sensor in the bottom bracket reads when you’re having a tough time pedaling, and engages the electric assist.

Denny, surrounded by MakerCon attendees
Denny, surrounded by MakerCon attendees

Controlling all this is an Intel Edison microcontroller, housed alongside a lithium ion battery in the front rack. All the cursory electronics run off of a generator in the front hub, but the electric assist needs that bigger battery.

The frame incorporates laser sintered junctions to enable the flowing, organic shape, but Fuji Bikes, which is currently working on a production run of a simpler, non-electric assist version of Denny, is exploring other ways to build the frame.

Other features designed to enable easy urban use include the belt drive (never get oil on your pants again) and the lightweight, single point of contact fenders. But, disappointingly, Denny was not equipped with pedals at MakerCon.

See the rest of the entrants in The Bike Design Project here.

8 thoughts on “Designing a Bike for the Perfect Commute

  1. All the superfluous, expensive, fragile technology, and no rear fender. I’m not sure why the simple, ultra-efficient, and cheap bicycle is always looking to be ‘improved’ by bolting on tech, but it always ends up a hot mess.

    1. They have an neat little device that scrapes both tires with little silicone “fingers”, but I am indeed waiting to see that in action before I say they work.

  2. If you are going to commute, you will need strong wheels.
    If you can afford it, these ones are super durable: handsonwheels.com

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Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

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