Building the Perfect Cargo Bike


Better late than not...I suppose. Finally, got an up-close look at some of the Oregon Manifest Bikes at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. Seeing these bikes in a museum setting with fine crafts and a Nikki McClure exhibit in the same venue emphasized these bikes more as finely crafted art than highly functional transport vehicles. That's not a bad thing but the utilitarian aspects of these bikes is worth appreciating too. Granted, it was still nice to inspect them in that setting and ponder the controversial judging away from the masses that attended the Manifest.

No one bike met my ultimate ideal for a truly functional, versatile, and capable cargo-carrier. However, I absolutely appreciated seeing many of the innovative details incorporated into the bikes, the artistry and craftsmanship, and collaboration that went into building the entrants.  So, rather than re-hash the results of the competition, I thought I'd focus on features and not the whole bikes in my brief review of the Oregon Manifest 2011 Design Challenge.

Here, in no particular order are some of the eye-catching features:

This bike, honored with a second-place ribbon, by Tsunehiro Cycles and Silas Beebe, features a leather cockpit for a passenger. Style and comfort in an integrated passenger seat is oddly lacking in other long-tail bikes.  This design makes them a priority and not an add-on.


Ok, it's a little bit crude and its' not waterproof but, the integrated clipboard  on Frances' bike is a brilliant idea. Sure, you all use your Smart Phones to navigate but I really like that this bike accommodates a paper map.



Two things I especially like about Tony Pereira's winning bike: the waterproof lockable box and the BionX electric assist. Don't know if you can tell from previous posts but Splendid Cycles thinks most any utility bike can benefit from those two features.



I think the rack/convertible side car of the Signal Cycles/Ziba Design's Fremont is one of the most overlooked features of the whole show. Truly innovative in the modern bike world. I don't know if it's for everyone, but no doubt very interesting.



The Quixote Cycles cargo bike caught my eye with its low stand-over height and ability to carry kids and cargo concurrently...and electric assist. This bike gets the One-bike-does-it-all Award.




While I'd need to investigate the weight limit for this removable front rack on Folk Engineered/Discovery Charter School's  entry, I like that it's one of the first front racks I've seen that looks inviting for both passengers or cargo alike.




Bamboo. That says it all but I'll add a bit more.

Combine a master shipwright's talents  with a bike industry veteran's expertise and the result is Art and Industry's long john.  Just lovely!

It's unfortunate that only one bike could walk away a winner. I don't think I would have been comfortable judging and anointing one bike better than the others. Lots of  innovation and creative designs emerged as a result of this event and perhaps that's the real benefit of the competition.

It's also noteworthy that thirty-four teams labored for many hours each on the entries. That means that each team that entered a bike was inspired enough by the challenge of building the ultimate utility bike  that they invested their own resources  (aka $) and time (perhaps time that would have been given to paying customers) in order to participate in this year's event.

Since I was out of town at the Marin Biketoberfest and not able to observe the event in person, I'll refrain from passing judgement on the judging. The critics and advocates of the rules/results of this competition all have valid perspectives. But, having had the opportunity to look at the bikes and study some of the entries I will say that some of the best ideas were over-looked because of the structure of the competition. No one bike had it all, but collectively this competition did advance the definition of utility bicycle.

Congratulations to all who participated.