A couple of readers passed on a story to me detailing how some engineering students at Yale devised a spokeless bicycle wheel. Take a look for yourself and feel free to read more and see other pictures via this Web site.
I really hope the students got an “A” in the class, but this is not something that I found myself excited about. Rather than excitement, I found myself scratching my head and asking the simple question, “Why?” After all, with a spokeless wheel, how am I going to rock my Monkey Light? And where are hipsters going to put their spoke cards?
Hipster bashing aside, I am all for bicycle innovation, but I am also about practicality. In all of the years I have inhabited this planet, I have never heard a bicycle enthusiast ask, “How cool would it be to have a wheel with no spokes?” Just because I have never heard the question does not mean it has not been asked, but projects like this one make me think about engineers who embark on projects that take up time and money and are of no use to the end user.
It’s not the best example, but every time I dim the lights to watch a movie with my wife, I have to slant our remote toward the light the TV is emitting because I cannot see the buttons on the remote. I know some remotes have lights built into them, but didn't it take like a decade for this innovation to appear? Engineers are smart folks for sure and pull off feats I could never dream of, but the simplest feat would be to meet with the end user to figure out how to make their experience with a product better.
A more meaningful example that relates to bicycling was pointed out in a recent entry on bike racks. Some cities spend money on bike racks that are poorly designed and do not allow cyclists to secure their steed in an effective manner. Why are cities dumping money into bike racks obviously designed by people that don’t ride bikes? And did the city actually consult with a cyclist before buying these ill designed racks? Not likely.
So, in an attempt to inspire future engineers, I am going to start a list of things I have thought about regarding cycling, and I welcome readers to chime in with comments or ideas of their own. Let’s call it our BikeHacks wish list. Maybe this way some engineer will run into the list and actually come up with something I can get excited about. If the list grows maybe I will take the proactive step of emailing it to colleges and universities so perhaps some engineering students can both get an “A” on a class project and actually produce something useful for all of us end users.
Reflective Rubber: Many tires come with reflective strips built into the side walls, but how about developing an entire tire composed of reflective material? Reflective rubber would be a great safety addition.
Cost Efficient Reflective Paint: Why bicycle manufacturers do not coat every single bike frame made with a coat of reflective paint is a mystery to me. If it is expensive, find a way to make it cheaper.
Easy to Clean Fenders: Fenders get all sorts of gunk plastered in the insides and you have to take off your wheels and make your bike do gymnastics (if you don’t have a bike stand) to clean them. How about some fenders that slide out or something of that nature that are easy to clean?
Security Bike Frames: I have seen a few bike designs out there try to incorporate a lock into the frame. There has got to be a way to incorporate a lock into the frame that basically ruins the bike if someone tries to steal it. This would be a theft deterrent in my eyes.
Lightweight Thief Thwarting Bike Security Chains: I love the security my 10 pound Beast
Security Chain offers, I don’t like the weight.
How about a lightweight equivalent?
An Ink Infused Bike Lock or Chain: You know how some security tags on clothing spit out ink if broken? How about a chain or lock that spits permanent ink out in every direction if broken?
An easy to use bike battery charger: Smart bike commuters plaster their bike with safety lights. How about building a battery charger that works off of the motion of the wheel spinning, or better yet, charges the batteries while they are in the light itself? Why use the grid when my legs are a powerhouse of their own?
An all wheel drive bicycle: There might be some hacked versions out there, but how about a mass manufactured bike with all wheel drive? This would be great for those who don’t want to let snow stop them from riding.
Heated hand grips: These would be nice for long, cold rides.
Multidirectional lights: I have thought about this one for a long time. The front and rear lights I own point in one direction which is fine, but how about developing lights that are capable of pointing in multiple directions? So for example, my front light illuminates the ground in front of me, but how about adding a light on each side that I can turn on at will for side visibility? This seems like a no brainer to me and I’m stunned that I have never seen a light like this – front or rear.
Do you have any ideas you would like to pass on to young engineers? Chime in with comments.