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Industrial Design

Green eggs and electric ham

September 10, 2018

As far as I can remember cycling has always been a part of my life in some form or another.

As a kid, my brother and I would ride down the hill trying to lay down the longest skids in the gravel road. In high school, I raced mountain bikes on the weekends with friends. When I went to college for design I managed to design a b bicycle for my senior project. Outside of college, I eventually worked for a few bicycle companies designing bikes as a profession.

I now have three kids who have all started riding bikes as early as they could walk. We moved to Madison knowing it was one of the better cycling cities in the U.S. We purchased our home because it was in a city that allows us to live a car-free lifestyle. We even purchased a large cargo bike so we can haul the kids along with groceries or whatever we need. It’s safe to say that bicycles have been a large part of my life. However, for a large majority of people within the U.S. bicycles are simply an exercise tool or extracurricular sport.

I recently took an E-cycling tour through Switzerland’s Alps. I rode with a group of five guys and rode a total of five days, covering over 233 miles and roughly 23,000 feet of climbing.

I used a Trek Crossrip+, which is their latest Drop Bar Road E-bike (Electric Bicycle). The bike comes with the Bosch Gen2 speed motor, a 500wh battery which is good for about 45 miles in the lowest assistance level, or 25 miles on the fast setting. It has integrated lights that are built into the frame, a rear built-in rack, disc brakes and fenders. I had two rear fully packed panniers on the back rack, and two smaller add-on bags that hang off the front fork. I pretty much purchased this bike for the ride and can’t think of a better product for this type of riding.

Each day was a fun adventure that usually involved a lunch break where we could recharge batteries, which Switzerland is pretty used to by now. Most places we stopped at would ask if we needed an outlet for recharging. The ability to ride up some of the mountain passes side by side, talking and soaking up the view all while not popping a blood vessel was the most enjoyable part. I have done some of these climbs on my road bike years before and now doing it with friends on E-bikes was something completely different. (Just so we’re clear, the E-bikes I am referring to are pedal-assist E-bikes, which means the power is integrated into the pedaling of the bicycle. Not to be confused with a bike with a throttle like a scooter.)

This trip really would not be what it was if it hadn’t been for this product. Could I have done it without an E-bike? Sure, but it would be much more preparation and planning. It for sure would not be as fun, and we probably would not have gone the route we did. We intentionally picked a route with a lot of climbing with one day ending at a 28 percent grade for six kilometers. If we were on normal bikes, it would have taken a whole lot longer, with a lot more pain.

Revolution, not evolution

Most innovations within the Industry have been incremental changes. I like to say more evolution than revolution. A new rear cassette range here or new tire size there. You typically must know a lot about bicycles before you can understand the differences between year-to-year improvements.

If you’re not an enthusiast, you could miss a lot. So how do you make cycling appeal to a crowd of people who don’t really pay attention to bicycles in the first place? Furthermore, how do you make a product that attracts non-cyclists?

Flash back to 2007, when I was working in the bicycle industry with Cannondale in Europe. I worked with some influential people at the time and one in particular led me on to something called an E-bike (or electric bike). At first, I was a little hesitant because I (along with most people) thought this was only for elderly or people with disabilities. What value would I personally have for something like this?

I immediately changed my mind once I went on my first test ride. It was amazing! Little did I know that this product would change my life.

I quickly became an advocate and began telling everyone I knew that this is the new thing that will change the industry. It’s the one thing needed to bring the average “non-bike” person to consider riding a bike. I remember there being a lot of push-back, but within our group we had enough ammo to start making one of our own.

Being early to the game is not always easy but having the right product at the right time is the important part

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