Exclusive! Matt Clark Design Plastic Bike IV-1 Prototype

Today I met with Matt Clark, he is a young industrial designer from Southern California. He showed me his bicycle creation, the IV-1 (for Innervision 1) :

Here is the description of this unique bike:

This bicycle prototype is aimed at improving and solving multiple issues involved in production. Particular attention was paid to maximize the potential utilization of automated processes and more cost efficient materials (IE: plastics).

The bicycle consists entirely of reinforced and unreinforced recyclable polypropylene. The patent-pending bicycle features a two component
frame: the plastic INNERFRAME and the plastic outer structure, both (in this iteration) dual components sets. Ideally, the material would be sourced from recycled plastic sources (IE: previously used consumer products such as bottles, containers, etc) to reduce environmental impact and to reduce material costs.

The INNERFRAME, which gives the bicycle it’s rigidity, is most easily described as an innovative internal spaceframe-like structure that features triangulation and molded “beams” to increase it’s strength and strategically distribute weight. Additionally, this prototype, utilizes reinforced polypropylene for the inner chainstays. Recycle-ability, a significant objective, was met by utilizing polypropylene throughout the entire frame structure to ensure it is fully recyclable.

The process of assembly using mostly automated processes would streamline bicycle production by providing pre-molded halves that could joined using many different options (For example, but not limited to: linear vibration or hot air welding). These processes could be accomplished without the need to notch and individually weld each tube together, align the frame, and also eliminates the heat treatments required for aluminum frames. This reduces the cost of production by reducing labor intensive processes while simultaneously utilizing a more affordable material.

Another objective was to make the bicycle even more customizable to further increase enthusiasm. This is an age in product design that emphasizes individuality and customization. Similar to the way people customize a skateboard or surfboard; this new bicycle provides a blank canvas to the rider.

One look at this bicycle and you may think that this thing is heavy as heck, not so. When I lifted the IV-1, I was surprised how light it was. So now, you may be thinking, is this thing rideable? Check it out:

Matt’s vision is to mass produce this bike as cheaply as possible using recycled materials. He presented the bicycle to “prominent members of the educational and design community of Pasadena California. Attendees at the meeting included staff members of the Pasadena Public Libraries, Art Center College of Design, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratories) and California Institute of Technology” which were very excited about his project.

I want to thank Matt Clark for giving BikeCommuters.com this exclusive test ride and taking his time to answer all my questions. If you want to contact Matt to ask additional questions, or if you happen to be a bike company that may be interested in evolving his idea and bringing it to the masses, email him at matthewclarkdesign@yahoo.com

Beautifully designed, affordably priced canvas and leather bicycle bags.


  1. Ghost Rider July 18, 2008 3:32 am 

    Very interesting — I like that it could be made of recycled plastic and then recycled AGAIN once it has reached the end of its service life.

    What about the BB shell and head tube? In the photos, it looks like a metal BB shell, but the head tube doesn’t look like there are internal cups. I wonder if using an integrated (cupless) headset and something like the new “BB30” bottom bracket standard could eliminate any co-molded metal bits to hold the bearings?

    Moe, how did it ride? I know you didn’t really get to take it for a long spin, but tell us about vibration dampening and stiffness — were you able to get any impressions of those attributes?

  2. SteveS July 18, 2008 5:22 am 

    Interesting concept.

    Any word on the “lateral stiffness/vertical compliance” stuff the cycling world is so gaga about? Polypropylene doesn’t have near the rigidity of aluminum, titanium, or carbon fiber.

    And what of the weight? “When I lifted the IV-1, I was surprised how light it was” doesn’t really say much. Is the bike light in the 15-20 lb. road bike sense, or 25-35 lb. commuter/hybrid bike sense?

    Finally, how well do you think the plastic would hold up to lube and grease and dirt and stuff? Will those oils come off easily, or will they seep into the plastic and stain it?

  3. cafn8 July 18, 2008 6:15 am 

    I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Yes, sir.
    Are you listening?
    Yes, I am.

    “The Graduate” (1967)

    Looks like an interesting use of alternative materials and manufacturing processes. I’d definitely give something like that a look. Rigidity and weight aside, I’d expect polypropylene to make a cheap rugged frame. As a “Big Guy” I am generally a little skeptical of new and unproven bike technologies, but as a designer, I’d really like to see some of these in the wild. Maybe with an enclosed shaft drive and an 8-speed hub. Why not? Molded plastic can be any shape you want it to be.

  4. DEMax July 18, 2008 6:18 am 

    I’d buy one.

  5. Ghost Rider July 18, 2008 6:28 am 

    I forgot to ask….was the bike inspired by that System of a Down song, or was it just a happy coincidence?

  6. Moe July 18, 2008 6:56 am 

    The bike rode like a regular bicycle, there was no flex under my weight. I can’t really say much regarding lateral rigidity and ride compliance since my ride was really short, it was just to show that this bike is real and that it could be ridden. I would guesstimate the weight of this bike to be between 25-30lbs, but then again, the bike had cheap heavy components.

    When I asked Matt about the bike’s name, he did mention that the System of a Down song was the reason why it was named “Innervision 1”.

  7. Ghost Rider July 18, 2008 7:05 am 

    “It’s never too late to reinvent the bicycle.”

  8. Will July 18, 2008 10:07 am 

    I think this bike is a pretty cool concept. The only thing that kind of worries me about it is that it seems like one of those things I would buy just to have as another interesting bike in my collection. I can’t afford to keep spending money on crazy bikes!

  9. Garrett July 18, 2008 10:37 am 

    The bottom bracket looks way too high to me. Other than that I think it’s great.

  10. tadster July 18, 2008 11:10 am 

    I don’t like the looks of it at all but it would be neat if it glowed in the dark or had embedded leds to make it flash or something. Other than that, yuck!!

  11. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 18, 2008 3:28 pm 

    Maybe I’m just stuck-up but the first, last and only plastic transport I’m ever gonna ride is the classic Big WheelTM.

    Eat my dust, plastic bicycle.


  12. Colin July 18, 2008 3:35 pm 

    If people paid good money for ugly this thing would sell like hotcakes!

  13. Marrock July 18, 2008 3:39 pm 

    Looks like you’re riding a big ol’ plastic milk jug.

  14. Moe July 18, 2008 3:41 pm 

    Colin, people do…

    it’s called a Toyota Prius !

  15. DEMax July 18, 2008 4:33 pm 

    I think this bike opens the door and the mind to a lot of possibilities for recycled materials as bikes. Like it or not the materials that we currently use for bikes are becoming more and more expensive. The scrap value of a steel frame bike is more that the resale value. If your Surly gets stolen don’t count on seeing it on the road, it my be crushed into a ball already! A plastic bike with some fiber reinforcement to strengthen it and reduce bulk, some modular components, and you could really have a multi-sport/commute bike. People scoffed at aluminum, titanium, and carbon-fiber.

  16. Ghost Rider July 18, 2008 4:55 pm 

    Amen, DEMax…sometimes folks have to think outside of the box and there will always be naysayers at new technology. But as a design and product use evolves, the ugliness goes away (most of the time) and the product gets more streamlined.

  17. tadster July 18, 2008 6:39 pm 

    yeah Ghost Rider, just like that one!! That’s great, hah! It’s so 1980s dream bike :)

  18. Marrock July 18, 2008 7:39 pm 

    I see gears but nothing like a dérailleur.

    How does one shift it?

  19. Moe July 18, 2008 7:53 pm 

    Since this is his first prototype, Matt basically slapped this bike together with whatever he could find, the rear rim happened to have a cogset.

  20. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 19, 2008 7:08 am 

    The top two materials for making bikes — aluminium and steel — are already in the top five of recycled materials. Unless the plastic bike replaces carbon fiber, the net gain on recycled bikes or recycled materials used to make bikes will be next to nothing.

    What is revolutionary about this bike is its ease of production. As production is automated, price should fall. So, the big questions are:

    * How much will a plastic bike cost?
    * How will it compare to similarly priced bikes?

    There are already plenty of low-end $99-$120 bikes on the market. If the plastic bike sells for less, has similar performance and never rusts out, it could sell.

    On the other hand, if it is priced above entry level, weighs more and the hollow plastic frame collects water, it is a non-starter.

    The project’s goals were ‘improving and solving multiple issues involved in production’. I’m sure the project met those goals. But, does it ride as well as a similarly priced bike?


  21. Palm Beach Bike Tours July 19, 2008 7:13 am 

    Here’s an idea… build an insulated water reservoir into the plastic frame. Instead of having that non-aero opening in the front of the frame, build in either something to hold water or a something to hold stuff.

    Since it doesn’t look as though a bottle cage will fit on the frame, you’re going to need to be able to carry water and the insulated built-in reservoir would be spiffy. Just drop a straw and you’ll be good to go!


  22. Jon July 19, 2008 7:29 am 

    Interesting idea, but the frame is only a part of the cost of the bike. Until I see cheap, recycled plastic wheels, I don’t really see the point. And parts like the BB and wheel hubs aren’t ever likely to be made of recycled material (unless we’re talking about re-cast high-grade steel or aluminum) – the fine tolerances and material strengths just aren’t there.

  23. Christopher July 24, 2008 11:26 am 

    The only reason there are cheep steel/alloy frames is that the cost of labor in China is so low. Once that rises, and it will, then prices will rise until the next pool of cheap labor shows up. The only way out of this cycle is to automate the process. I was experimenting with stamped steel for a bicycle frame, but molded plastic works to, and once the molds are made, stamping out thousands of these becomes kids play.

    Historically speaking it is like the VW Beetle vs. American cars, stamped steel frame vs. welded steel frame. Sure it was ugly, and slow, and very different, but they sold millions of them and they were modified in thousands of ways. I am looking forward to a similar revolution in bicycles.

  24. Peter Hall August 8, 2008 9:01 am 

    It would be a great bike for the cities like Paris that have locations scatterred about where you can grab a bicycle for a few hours for a modest deposit. Terrific innovation.

  25. Marcus Twain August 8, 2008 9:24 am 

    Great, more junk bikes to be thrown away after a year of use.

    Seriously, how about fixing issues like heavy, unwieldy, locks, instead?

  26. Fritz August 8, 2008 10:52 am 

    I kind of like the idea. People are thinking about these things, which is good. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I suspect we’ll see all kinds of unique bike designs over the next couple of years.

  27. Halloween Jack August 8, 2008 1:58 pm 

    Interesting design, but overall this still looks like a solution in search of a problem.

  28. james August 26, 2008 3:30 am 

    good bike

  29. Crankzone » A recycled plastic bike September 8, 2008 4:31 am 

    […] to both Adam and Matt for letting me know about it. Another reader, Brian, just let me know that Bike Commuters has already posted about this design, so you can read more about it there. If any of you have questions or want more information about […]

  30. T October 8, 2008 11:11 am 

    Would work great for kids bikes since they are heavy and over built already.

  31. Andrea December 11, 2008 5:29 pm 

    Who cares if a bike is recycleable- real diehards never throw their old bikes away-too much sentimentality!

  32. Bicicletta fatta di plastica riciclabile | Roma Biologica March 19, 2009 3:02 am 

    […] E’ vero e funziona. Il corpo di questa bicicletta è fatto di polipropilene riciclabile, ed è leggerissima. La stabilità della bicicletta è data dal design del corpo, basato su una serie di strati interni disegnati come triangoli aggregati per scaricare meglio il peso. Insomma non si piega sotto il vostro fondoschiena. per i dettagli tecnici vi rimando al blog di Bike Commuters. […]

  33. Dan April 7, 2009 3:49 am 

    I’m quite surprised no one’s mentioned it more, but why design a bike to be thrown away instead of passed down or reUSED?

    Regarding actual production of a new bicycle, this is a good idea (less energy to produce). However, I like the fact that you can still ride bicycles which are 50 years old. How long would this bicycle last? The fact it is designed to ultimately be disposed of surely goes against the three ‘R’s of recycling – Reduce, Re-use, Recycle (no pun intended!). I’d like to see bicycles designed to last many years (like they used to!).

    Design a bike re-use system. Old bikes are donated or collected, fixed and then pooled for re-use.

    I do like the project though. A good experiment into alternative materials.

  34. Gainesville Bike Shop September 4, 2009 12:44 pm 

    You guys see the new folding commuter electric bike? Yike Bike? It looks killer sweet, and a bit embarrassing at the same time.

  35. Twenty Six Inches, The Endless Ride: aka 26inches.com September 17, 2009 3:17 am 

    […] Interesting way to start the week. Spotted over at Bike Commuters is a feature on a bike frame designed by Matt Clark in Southern California made from recycled plastics. While it won’t win over the purists out there, it is a great look at developing a low cost bike from recycled materials. Fantastic to make bikes for commuting and poorer countries and an interesting step towards looking at new ways to make what many consider as something’s that is already perfected. [Read all about it here […]

  36. Nick Taylor May 31, 2010 3:35 am 

    As a Lecturer in Design I applaud innovative use of materials, and thinking out of the box.
    However, bikes (as we know them) have been around for a century, and doing very well using steel and aluminium which are 100% recyclable. Then in the 70’s came along the Volvo joint venture plastic bike which was a disaster both commercially and in terms of styling.As for the Matt Clark plastic bike, considering tooling costs, investment, and the use of environmentally unfriendly material – i.e. plastic!I do not see any eco-advantages, nor to be honest, in my opinion, any aesthetic advantages, as the bicycle is not elegant, does not “shout” quality, and uses a huge amount of material where steel, or aluminium would suffice.
    Nick Taylor
    Technical Director Xylonbikes

  37. Arias Roberto December 5, 2010 7:29 am 

    I want to constructively give my oppinion: You can´t go plastic in a bike keeping the PIPE LIKE structure. Id like´you to see: BICASE tango 2×4, BICASE Milonguita, BICASE zamba 2×2 , and BICASE shop, working prototypes build with only 3 mm MDF.

  38. Arias Roberto December 5, 2010 3:44 pm 

    The plastic bicycle is possible but never trying to copy a pipe frame.

    This is the design that makes it possible including a plastic fork:

    google: Coroflot invent arias bicase

  39. Sandino Moeniralam June 15, 2011 2:34 pm 

    I am interested in buying a prototype, but can’t get into contact with Matt Clark. Can anybody help me finding him? His email adres shown is an old one.
    thanks for any answer in advance

  40. alejandro December 11, 2012 12:47 pm 

    me podrias ayudar a saber como fabricar una bicicleta como esa es que me parece muy interesante es proyecto

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