Tag Archive: bicycle design

Book Review: Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History fills in the gaps on how the awesomeness that is the bicycle came to be.

Up-front confession: this book was not featured (so far as we know) at Interbike!

However, it DOES chronicle pretty much all the innovations throughout bicycling history, so rest assured that the predecessors to many of the “new” things there are mentioned in it!

Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History is by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing, and in the authors’ words seeks to fill the neglected gap addressing the technical aspects of the history of the bicycle. It starts out with… well, actually it starts out with ice skating and wheelbarrows… but it quickly moves on to velocipedes and draisines, the predecessors of the bicycle.

Another confession: I haven’t read the whole thing. I did read all the bits about velocipedes and high-wheel bikes and wire wheels and the development of the safety bicycle (aka a bike having 2 wheels of the same size), but after that concluded that this wasn’t really meant to be read straight through – and yeah, it took me a bit longer to figure that out than it might take most people, but what can I say… I’m a bit of a bike nerd!


Apparently we should call these draisines!

So after some deliberation, I’d consider this more of a reference book: the next time you wonder, “when WAS the first bamboo frame made?” rest assured that this is the place you can find that answer! (page 178: 1890’s, patented in 1896. Calfee wasn’t exactly the first!).

The first 5 chapters of the book detail the history up to the invention of the diamond-frame steel bicycle. After that point, it diverges into chapters on different aspects of bikes, such as transmission, braking, and lighting. It also – at the end – includes specific sections on “racing” bicycles and mountain bikes, folding bikes, and military bikes (an interesting chapter!).

Overall this is a very informative book, and I say kudos should go to the authors for assembling all of the information in a scholarly fashion, complete with TONS of references at the back (if anyone out there needs to write a term paper on anything about bicycles, this should be your starting point!).

My one minor (major?) complaint about it is that it reminds me of several of my history classes in high school. How so? No, not because I fell asleep… I like history, and this book is written pretty well, so I didn’t do that during either high school or while reading this! It’s because in high school I had several years of history classes where we spent a ton of time on something early in the semester… and then gradually less and less time per topic, until by the end we rushed through the 1960’s on in only a couple weeks (I don’t think I had a history class that ever made it to the decade we were in!). Bicycle Design reminds me of this: it spends a lot of time on early development, but we get to the end and there are a scant 10 pages on mountain bikes. Two paragraphs on disc brakes. Two pages on suspension. Etc. etc. Yes, these are relatively recent in the scheme of things – but they’re BIG things right now, they involve some pretty neat increases in bicycle capabilities, and they deserve to be included… not lumped together in a hash that includes everything from the 1970’s til now in a handful of paragraphs.

Gripes regarding recent history aside, this is something every serious bicyclist should at least flip through sooner or later. I highly doubt many people (apart from the authors) have a good grip on all of the developments mentioned in its pages, so you’re guaranteed to learn something (and probably something interesting!). At $20-something on Amazon (for a nice hardcover), it’s definitely worth picking up for the coffee table, or for the bike-themed coffee shop, or for the bike shop, or for a stocking stuffer, if Santa’s real nice and someone you know has a stocking that can accommodate a 564-page volume.

Please click here to read our review disclaimer as required by the Federal Trade Commission.


More on the “LightLane” Concept

Many of you have probably read about the “LightLane” concept dreamed up by the fertile minds at Altitude, Inc. of Somerville, Massachusetts. The concept has been covered on a wide variety of cycling and design blogs, but there wasn’t a whole lot of information included.


As a professional librarian, the quest for more information is near and dear to my heart, so I sent the designers, Evan Gant and Alex Tee, an email. Here’s what Evan had to say about the concept:

Thank you for showing interest in our LightLane concept. We are extremely excited about the response it has been receiving, which has spurred us to continue down the development path. The origin of the idea was purely conceptual, as Alex and I had entered a design competition to promote commuting by bicycle (editor’s note: the design competition was Bicycle Design’s excellent “Commuter Bike for the Masses” contest). Having witnessed several friends be hit by cars while in traffic, we felt the intimidation of sharing the road was one of the bigger barriers to commuting by bicycle.

However, we also noticed that our personal comfort on roads with bicycle lanes was much improved so we set out to understand what the differences were between these two situations. Clearly one of the biggest benefits of bicycle lanes is that there is an established common boundary that both drivers and riders respect and must stay within. However, this requires a great deal of resources and planning to implement, so we decided to focus on the fact that the bicycle lane establishes a safety buffer outside of the bicycle’s footprint.

After experimenting with physical ways of increasing the perceived size of the bicycle, we quickly realized all of these would compromise the rider’s safety by increasing the probability of accidental clipping. It was at this point that we decided to project a visual boundary onto the adjacent pavement using a laser. Although it doesn’t establish a clear and predictable path for a rider to follow, it does encourage a driver to provide the rider with a wider berth by capturing their attention in a different way.

Currently we are building a beta prototype where we will be experimenting with different laser colors and orientations. Once the optimal laser configuration has been established and validated, we will quickly develop a fully functional unit where we will focus our efforts on several aspects of usability including theft prevention, cleanability and corrosion resistance. Concurrently we will be looking for manufacturing and distribution partners.

It’s been truly remarkable to see the excitement that this concept has generated, especially considering it was just a fun quirky idea to begin with. What’s been equally interesting in my opinion is to see how the product has pushed the debate of who owns the roads. This well established debate has been a common point of discussion within my own family, and clearly the LightLane, nor any product, will solve it. Instead we hope that it connects with people in a new and fun way.

Thanks, Evan, for responding — there have been lots of great comments on the various sites that covered this concept, including different laser colors (green lasers for more daytime visibility) and even aiming the lasers into following motorists’ eyes (not such a good idea). Let’s hope this concept reaches a prototype soon, as the idea behind it is full of possibility!

“Bicycle Design” Contest Finalists Posted

James over at the excellent Bicycle Design blog has posted the six finalists (out of over 60 entries) to his “commuter bikes for the masses” design contest.

Check out the finalists by visiting this link. There are some VERY intriguing concepts over there…but like one of the commenters, I’d love to see the rest of the designs as well.

Head on over and check it out…and when you do, is there anything that catches your eye? Do any of these solutions help encourage non-cyclists to swing a leg over and starting riding to work?