Wed, Nov 19, 2014 - Page 11 News List

The next big bike

Gearlab, winner of a Golden Pin Design Award, is backing the commuter bike as the next star of Taiwan’s bicycle industry

By Enru Lin  /  Staff reporter

Unlike a mountain bike, the Espresso permits pedaling in an upright position for a better view of traffic. It also comes with a large kit of accessories tailored for the urbanite: a kickstand, chain guard, LED lights, bike lock, a cargo rack that doesn’t move with the handlebar and a bell with a jaunty two-tone ring so “pedestrians will think you’re funny instead of getting mad when you use it,” Chang says.

THE ROAD AHEAD

Chang and Sun say that for Taiwan’s bicycle manufacturing industry, the commuter bike is a very promising product that needs more development. Giant currently makes some of the best road bikes in the world, but its city-friendly bikes are far less competitive because in-house designers are hired for their background in high-performance engineering.

“Giant finds it hard to extricate itself from the [road] bike mindset. For example, in one lifestyle bike we were designing for them, we suggested adding a chain guard to prevent pant stains … Giant thought it didn’t look sporty or it would add too much weight,” Sun says.

A large company like Giant needs a fundamental shift in approach before it will be able to develop a superb commuter bike. And for a smaller design studio, the task is even tougher, Chang says.

After two years of accepting bicycle design contracts, Dem Inc wanted to move on. That’s because in the design industry, much of the money is elsewhere — for instance in gifts for exhibitions, where contracts are generous and frequent. Designing one bike, in comparison, is time-consuming and rarely cost-effective.

“It’s hard to earn money developing bike concepts,” he says. “As a result, while Taiwan manufactures many bikes, very few people are designing them.”

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