Have bicycles remained substantially the same since the early 1900s? Not even close. Their design has kept up with the use of new materials and changes in technology. Only ten years ago, steel bicycles were still common; now, they are on the endangered-species list. Frame geometry has evolved with a better understanding of biomechanics. The size of the frame’s components have changed: we have now tubes of varying sizes and shapes, corresponding to the increasing need for stiffness and efficiency. Since carbon fiber has become the material of choice, frames have changed as a result of improved manufacturing techniques—monocoque, instead of lug and tube assembly. On top of all that, bicycles follow fashion; we see different design trends, depending on the country of origin. European designs, especially in Italy, tend to be flashier and curvier that Asian ones. American designers continue along more classic lines.
And yet, at some fundamental level, when we think of bicycle forms we all conjure up an archetypal frame, some timeless design. For example, I’d like bikes—I’m just talking road bikes, here—to express the material of which they are made, rather than camouflaging it with decals. I understand that carbon-fiber frames are antithetical to sharply defined lines and crisp angles. Still, I like to see them clearly rather than morphing into a curvilinear mess that looks as if it were about to melt. Carbon fiber is charcoal grey, after all, and I prefer to keep everything that way, something understated that does not shout for attention. Needless to add, I wasn’t a fan of chrome moldings on cars, either. I prefer the same color not only on the frame but also on drivetrain components, brakes, and, naturally, handlebar tape. Finally, as a strict disciple of the form-follows-function cult, anything that does not add to the performance should go. For me, a timeless bicycle design is simple, its lines are essential, its proportions are pleasing, and each part illustrates its use and function. I shouldn’t tire of looking at it. But that’s just me. If you have a different opinion and would care to explain why, please let me know.
Which brings me to the BikeNüt bike. I already wrote about that earlier this month. The shop has already assigned several to customers, not one of them exactly alike. The one above is the very first that came out of the shop, as straightforward as it could be. That’s the way its proud new owner wanted it.
This is another bike prepared for another customer. As I wrote above, I prefer all one color, but I can take a sharp contrast, black and white. Everything seems to fall into place on this bike, from the saddle to the bottle cages. White spokes? Not so sure.
Could we call this design timeless? Perhaps, but it’s too soon to tell.