Interview: David Hotard, maker of Transport bike
Making travelling a tad easier while carrying your backpack or any other kind of bagged luggage with the Transport Bike, David Hotard has a vision for urban commuting needs. The bicycle has a section in the front wheel that functions as a compartment for storage of backpack or any other bag that you want to carry along with you. Specially designed for urban commuting needs the Transport Bike is an intuitive design and did very well in SRAM sponsored Fall Studio project. So it was high time we got one-on-one with one of the makers of Transport Bike, David Hotard and this is how the interview went.
DamnGeeky: What made you conceptualize Transport Bike?
David Hotard: Given the prompt of our project, which was primarily on understanding product systems design and exploring opportunities for innovation in commuter bike design, our focus quickly gravitated to the storage component. We observed a large number of commuters wearing backpacks and found that keeping their belongings in the particular bag that suits their needs is important to them. After exploring several areas for bag placement, we chose to pursue storing it in a hubless/spokeless wheel because of the available space and low center of gravity.
DamnGeeky: Isn’t a saddle bag a reasonable option? Why would a cyclist prefer your design over wearing a backpack?
David Hotard: A saddle bag is a reasonable solution for many commuters, but no reason to quit analyzing the user’s needs and challenging the way we address the problem. At one time, a candle or a lantern was a reasonable option for providing light, but yet we still continue to redefine lighting. I am aware that some panniers are large enough to hold a backpack, but do so to one side of the bike or the other. By placing the bag in the wheel, we can center the weight in line with the bike, as well as lower the center of gravity.
A cyclist may prefer our design over wearing a backpack if they commute with a bag that is uncomfortable or awkward to carry. If the bag works perfectly in every other context, the cyclist is likely to bear the discomfort rather than seek an alternative.
DamnGeeky: What if tire gets punctured?
David Hotard: There are a couple of ways to approach this problem. One that we considered was have two quick release skewers attaching the fork to the stationary part of the wheel. One person suggested something similar to the Cannondale Lefty fork. Either of these could easily expose the wheel for a tube change.
DamnGeeky: How easy will it be to access the valve to pump the tire?
David Hotard: Accessing the valve in our prototype could be difficult with the hand pumps that many cyclists carry. CO2 cartridges or a floor pump would be easier and accessed through the opening in the trunk. In a redesign, this will be addressed in greater detail.
DamnGeeky: Putting cargo inside the front wheel is a great way to skip a backpack but how would you convince a regular biker to use Transport Bike as it might ruin the handling and make the bike far harder to control?
David Hotard: I think it is difficult to predict how much harder it would be to control; there are front panniers in use that provide a similar experience to our design. With that being said, there is definitely plenty of room for exploration. The prototype we presented was a PET-G trunk mounted to the front wheel, but the idea we presented is not limited to just that. If you pull the rear wheel back some so the rider’s foot doesn’t overlap the wheel so much and create a way to drive the hubless wheel, you may be able to create a trunk in the rear that provides nearly the same capacity for storage.
To get back to your question, I think the trunk area could also provide some additional uses such as storing a U-lock, mounting a headlight, storing a flat kit, or containing a lock box. There are a lot of unique features that could attract a regular biker to the design. It is possible that the actual trunk could detach when not needed, exposing the hubless wheel. Another idea we played with is being able to lock the entire trunk; imagine stopping during your commute to run into the store and not having to worry about what’s on your bike.
DamnGeeky: As the bike boasts a hubless front wheel, how do we keep the front wheel from being pushed around by strong crosswind?
David Hotard: That’s simple, reconsider the material used for the trunk. Perhaps some sort of cage or even a porous, elastic fabric could hold the bag instead of the PET-G. I do think it may be worth doing a CFD analysis on a few trunk designs though to understand just how crosswinds actually affect it; the design cannot be directly compared to a disc wheel as many people have assumed.
DamnGeeky: As weight is far below the centre of gravity of the bike, your cargo could shift dramatically to one side while cornering at high speed. In that case won’t it affect balance?
David Hotard: Define dramatically. Although the trunk space does provide ample room for storage, there is not an absurd amount of room for the cargo to shift. Even still, we have considered ways to secure the cargo in place to address that problem. The center of gravity of the entire system is also pushed further forward and downward which actually makes it easier to maintain balance. Balance and handling differ though and adding weight in the front wheel will cause handling to suffer at low speeds, but have less of an impact at high speeds. Touring cyclists generally say they distribute the weight of their cargo by racking 40% on the rear and 60% on low-riding front panniers. They also say that learning to maneuver with the additional weight on the front is a fairly quick and painless process.
DamnGeeky: Will it be ideal to ride it in traffic?
David Hotard: When is it ever ideal to ride in traffic? Realistically, I think there would be some initial learning curve that could be awkward, but over a short period of time could become second nature. To quote Mike Burrows, “There are no good bikes, just good riders.” I’ve seen people bike into parked cars on fine road bikes with no distractions and I’ve also seen people bike through intersections eating a sandwich with both hands. It’s silly to believe that it would be impossible to control a bike that has some extra weight in the front wheel. Humans are quite capable beings.
DamnGeeky: How is it going to be on a rainy day?
David Hotard: Of course the drainage issue has been raised. We never really planned on leaving our prototype out in the rain so it wasn’t properly addressed. There is enough separation where the bearings are located that I believe it would drain, but I do agree that it is a valid concern. Like I mentioned earlier, the material could be reconsidered; some type of cage would not require drainage and the cyclist would just have to take precautions to protect their bag. It would be nice to incorporate a waterproof design though.
DamnGeeky: The material used is high-quality and strong; it certainly provides ample space for advertisement. Any comment?
David Hotard: I think that is a funny idea, but not odd at all. It could be that you have a bike sharing service in cities and advertisements are placed on the bike similar to ads we see on public transit. It is definitely a canvas for customization.
DamnGeeky: Cargo might vibrate and pushed around on a rough track. Throwing your notebook or any other valuable gadgetry in there wouldn’t be a wise move. Do you agree?
David Hotard: I agree that this is a legitimate concern. It would be ideal to suspend the storage compartment within the wheel in some way so that it does not receive all of the abuse that the front wheel does.
DamnGeeky: As the front wheel is loaded with cargo, won’t every bump be felt more strongly as it’s transmitted directly to the rider’s hands via rigid fork?
David Hotard: If the cargo was suspended as I mentioned above, that may help. I think the form and material of the fork is worth exploring further; I’d like run an FEA on a couple different options to make that decision. Also, the prototype has a pretty slim tire (700c x 23), but in reality something a little wider (700c x 35) would help and is closer to a touring or cyclocross setup.
DamnGeeky: How much will this cost when it hits production line?
David Hotard: Haha, it is difficult to say right now. I’d love to see it hit the production line, but as you’ve probably gathered, I’m looking forward to a redesign for now. I think it would most likely be sold as a ~$250-500, fork/wheel subsystem that could be installed at your local bike shop.
Guys, so this is how the interview went and we think that most of our queries were very well answered by David Hotard. If you too have any questions taking high tides in your mind regarding the Transport Bike design and its implications in real life situation, then do share your queries with us in the comment section below. BTW, we wish him luck and success for his innovative projects and do look forward to many more such innovation too. We hope to see his design in market soon.