Top designer highlights need for an 'iBike'

Cycle industry too focussed on high-end products, says Mark Sanders

A top UK designer says the cycle industry is too focused on high-end models when there's a huge market for a bike that, like the Apple iPod, offers user-friendly, innovative and desirable features at an attractive price.

Speaking at the Taipei bike show conference in Taiwan, Mark Sanders, creator of the pioneering Strida belt drive folding bike, said industry movers and shakers are overlooking a "potentially unlimited market" – good quality, well-priced bikes for the mass market.

"Imagine, just for a moment, that the bicycle had not been invented," he said. "Imagine no mountain bikes, no racing bikes and no bicycle industry. Imagine no UCI; it’s easy if you try. Now imagine that a global consumer product brand, such as Samsung, Ford, Philips or even Apple, introduced a new ‘product for personal transport’ ... This 'must have' product has a potentially unlimited market, alongside mobile phones and microwave ovens."

The bicycle industry, said Sanders, concentrates too much on existing cyclists at the premium end of the market and should learn a thing or two from the wider consumer product industry. He quoted laptops and mobiles as a case in point – even those at the budget end of the market are easy to use, look good and are quite technologically advanced.

According to Sanders, 'transport products' can appeal to the mass market if designed and priced correctly – hence the huge success of the Ford Model 'T' and the Vespa scooter, which opened up the car and motorcycle world to the other 80 percent of the population, for whom cars and bikes had previously been seen, for one reason or another, as not for them.

By contrast, he picks out Trek's Lime bike as a promising model for the mass market – it had automatic gear shifting and the seat acted as a storage area – that wasn't priced properly, or perhaps fully committed to by the company and the industry.

What does Sanders think an 'iBike', which might look very different from current bicycles, would mean for the cycle industry? "Real user-focused improvements; innovations such as clean, enclosed transmissions; weather protection; easy-clean wheels and frame; simple low cost gears; zero maintenance."

And where should such a mass market bike be sold? "This market is too important for the industry to leave to supermarket buyers to design, specify and ‘badge engineer’," he said. "This is where real user-focused innovations should be. Even Apple have beautifully designed entry-level iPods for sale in supermarkets."

Sanders' own designs include this bike with thin carbon rods that act as a roll cage/roof

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