BikeRadar website of the week: Bicycle Design

By Matt Pacocha, US editor in Boulder, USA | Friday, February 18, 2011 4.00pm

The Bicycle Design blog started with a simple sketch and now dedicates its posts to innovative and often offbeat concepts for human-powered two-wheelers. Entries are inspired by provoking design concepts, and most swing wide of the beaten path.

The site is filled with concept designs – some digital and others built in carbon fiber, plastics, natural materials like wood and bamboo, and, of course, metal – and most have a common theme: unique lines that eschew the traditional diamond frame. The designers range from student engineers to ‘mad’ hobbyists to major manufacturers and just about everything in between.

The purpose of the blog is to foster conversation about bicycle design between James Thomas – the site’s founder, who's a senior industrial designer at a light fixture brand – and his readers. There's a dialogue that happens too, as his posts get plenty of comments – many in the double digits. For example, Thomas recently asked his readers: "Does the bicycle industry need new ideas?" He received 72 responses, and the amazing thing is the civility and general productive manner that the comments section fosters.

“Interaction with readers is what keeps me interested in the blog,” Thomas told BikeRadar. “I love being able to share ideas with people all over the world who are just as passionate about bikes and cycling as I am. The contacts I've made through the website are pretty incredible. It really is pretty cool to be able to discuss and share ideas on a global scale.”

An impulsive decision fostered a 5 year — and counting — dialogue on design: an impulsive decision fostered a 5 year — and counting — dialogue on design

James Thomas (right) with Gary Fisher at Interbike; an impulsive decision fostered a five-year and counting dialogue on design

Thomas also interjects his own opinions readily, which range from thought provoking questions and analysis of 19th and 20th century bike design to reviews of everything from hard goods to books. Over the years, Thomas has also reported from Interbike and a few other events, all with design in mind, of course.

Bicycle Design started in 2005 on a free blog template with the first content being some of Thomas’s old designs from college. Basically, he found a CD containing some old bike renderings and decided to share them. The first dates back 20 years and was chosen for its "convenience".

“I decided to quickly set up a blog and post one of those renderings to the web,” said Thomas. “That was the beginning, really – just a spur-of-the-moment decision one afternoon. Over the last five years, the blog's evolved quite a bit – at least I hope it has – but my posts are usually still fairly impulsive. I think that keeps the content interesting and authentic.”

Thomas’s interest in the bicycle follows the same road that many passionate lifelong cyclists follow. He was a shop wrench in the ’80s and ’90s, his college years, and he also spent time racing both road and mountain bikes. “Once I graduated and started working full-time, I had a hard time getting in the training miles that I wanted, so I started bike commuting,” said Thomas.

Bicycle design creator, james thomas, practicing the craft: bicycle design creator, james thomas, practicing the craft

Bicycle Design creator, James Thomas, practicing the craft

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“That’s when I really started to get interested in transportation [based] cycling. I haven’t held a USCF license for about 10 years, but I still enjoy all types of cycling. Whether it is fast recreational riding, commuting, touring, or just riding around the block with my kids, I love getting out on a bike every chance I get.”

The readership steadily grew to a point where Thomas felt he couldn’t stop. “I always have ideas for new content,” he said. “But it isn't always easy to find a free hour during the day to sit at the computer and write it out. Work, family, volunteer activities [Thomas is also an active bike advocate], and of course riding make it difficult to keep the blog going, but it's something that I really enjoy so I make time for it."

We enjoy it too, James, keep it up.

BikeRadar readers: If you visit or own a cycling website that you feel is worthy of mention in BikeRadar’s website of the week, email a link to bikeradar@bikeradar.com or post it in the comments section below and we'll follow up with them for a possible profile in our latest column.

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