All images courtesy Graham Hill.
Graham Hill, founder of TreeHugger.com, is an insatiable tinkerer/designer who strives for elegant design solutions. His latest foray into problem-solving, a collaboration with bike manufacturer Schindelhauer bikes, has resulted in what he calls the ThinBike -- a full-sized urban bicycle that all but disappears when brought indoors.
Graham shares with us some of the thinking behind his idea in an interview after the fold; for a slideshow of the bike design, click the link below. Love it? Pick up your own via special order through Schindelhauer.
Graham Hill: Space comes at a premium in cities like New York and given that over 50 percent of the population lives in cities, a number that is rising, it's important that we develop small space solutions of all kinds. I like small bikes as they take up little space in my apartment and are also easier to take on the subway, in a cab, into other buildings etc.
TH: Why the change from your Strida 5?
GH: I am sleeping around on my Strida 5DX, I'll come clean. I choose one of them depending on the situation. The Strida still is pretty tiny overall so easier on the subway. But riding the ThinBike is faster, more fun, and frankly, looks cooler.
TH: Was your experience with the Strida's carbon drive and folding pedals a positive one, given that your new bike also has these attributes?
TH: What attracted you to Schindelhauer bikes in the first place?
GH: The thing about carbon belt drives is that they need a frame that has a rear triangle that can be opened on the chain side. Chains go through the rear triangle but have the advantage of coming apart where carbon belt drives don't. So..there are limited frame options to choose from. And I really liked the Schindelhauer bikes and they were very amenable to working with me to put together a bike fitting my desires.
TH: Did you need to import the Schindelhauer directly from Germany, or have you found a North American distributor?
GH: I worked directly with them.
TH: How have you found the Gates Carbon Drive "chain" in actual use? Is it is cleaner than a traditional metal chain that requires gooey lubrication? Do you feel as though you have forfeited any drive power in opting for a textile based mechanism over metal?
GH: No grease! Which, if you are hauling a bike up and down a 6 floor walkup and on the subway etc.. is pretty key. It's also silent. And I don't feel like I'm losing any power whatsoever.
TH: And once making those choices, what impulse spurred you to further spec your bike with folding handle bars and pedals?
GH: The genesis of this project was to create a really thin bike. I noticed that bikes are awkward due to their wide handlebars and pedals. I figured that if you could have a system whereby you could fold the bars and pedals then you'd have a much more storable, luggable bike and therefore could more easily incorporate it into a small apartment lifestyle. I also knew that I wanted a carbon belt drive hence the Schindelhauer choice.
TH: Did you later retrofit the Speedlifter Twist system to the handlebar headset yourself? Or was this done at the time of purchasing the bike?
GH: This was truly the most important part of the overall concept. Jorg at Schindelhauer tracked it down for me. I had been talking to bike shops and sketching ideas for folding handlebar solutions but this was a great, pre-existing solution.
TH: What brand of folding pedals have you gone for? Are they MKS?
GH: They are MKS pedals. There are various types out there to choose from. I would like to experiment with the removable ones that MKS makes. I believe they would cut the width of the bike by an inch or so, but the only downside I wonder about is where you would put them (and whether you might forget them!).
TH: What was the total price of the bike complete with the Speedlifter Twist and folding pedals?
GH: It was quite an expensive bike but probably reasonable considering Jorg spent a bunch of time working with me on the design and that it was truly custom. It was about $1,800. The concept could be largely achieved with inexpensive folding pedals, the Speedlifter and a cheaper bike (no carbon belt drive though).
TH: Are you happy with how the whole package has come together? Any finessing you'd still like to work on?
GH: I love it. As a designer, of course there are things I'd like to change:
- The coaster brake isn't safe enough. While I love the clean look of no cables, I am going to put an all white front brake on the bike so I can stop more quickly.
- I love the simple, metal handlebar but I am going to add some white grips as when my hands are sweaty, it's a big dangerous. In the future, I'd love to get a knurled bar so that you didn't need grips and can maintain the simplicity of the bar.
- I'd like to try the removable pedals.
- I'd like to get the shortest stem possible such that when the bars are "folded," the bike is as thin as possible.
- Would love it if Speedlifter made an all white version.
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