Posts on cycling have slipped from this writers agenda of late. We apologise and return with one of favourites - folding bikes.
Earlier this year University student Robert Dumaresq won the 2009 gold Australian Design Award / James Dyson Award (and $4,000 AUD) for his full sized folding commuter bike -- the Switch. He and his bike have since been selected for consideration in the global James Dyson Awards. This international competition honours industrial design across 21 countries and is worth another £10,000. However, if we read the Dyson Awards website correctly, the Switch did not make the list of 20 finalists. But let's not cry in our beer too soon as the Contortionist folding bike from Dominic Hargreaves looks like its in with a chance, when the winner is announced next month.
And although the actual folding of that British designed bike is very spectacular, questions remain as to how a drive train (apparently hydraulic) and brakes are fitted to the design.
The Australian conceived Switch (above), on the other hand, seems to be a fully working prototype. "The design innovation is the bike's ability to fold in one move, making it a fast, user-friendly folding bike. It doesn't rely on any structural locking mechanisms to fold; the weight of the rider keeps the frame open and rigid. A spring loaded ball bearing stops the rear section of the frame from unfolding prematurely when manoeuvring/handling the bike."
We're not entirely sure why it needed to be made from a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium though. Carbon fibre does offer reasonable strength for weight, but its not renown for it recyclability. And we wonder how carbon fibre will survive the inevitable bump-and-grind of cycle commuting. For all its attributes, it can be rather a delicate, often brittle, material that snaps under load, instead of bending.
That caveat aside, it does appear to otherwise be a well realised concept and having full size 26" wheels is always beneficial for negotiating potholes, and the tram tracks of its native city, Melbourne. According to The Age newspaper, Robert is on the lookout for an investor to help bring his switch to market. Hopefully an Australian one, for as the Folding Cyclists' list of nearly 140 folding bikes shows only one of those is currently Australian.
::Australian Design Award - James Dyson Award
More Australian Student EcoDesigns
• PakNgo: Bicycle Pannier Makes it Easy to Pack, Go
• We have Shared Bikes, Why Not Scooters?
• Solar and Wind Clothes Dryer
• Julie Frost's 'Mvura' Water Purifier Wins Design Award