Hussain Almossawi & Marin Myftiu
University of Alberta & Polytechnic University of Tirana
The nCycle was an interesting exercise in combining a number of functional elements in one package to create an e-bike for the 21st century.
nCycle is the innovative bicycle designed around functionality. Its sandwich frame is not only a puristic reduction, it is also conceived to natively house all the extra functionality needed by the busy riders of the 21st century. While it's secure self locking handlebar system, retractable pocket, built in lighting and phone dock, optional folding and electric power assist make life so much easier for every user, the seamless integration of all these elements complete at best the e-bike of a new era.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
With today’s urge to bring down our energy and monetary consumption, e-bike prices of $4000+, effectively in small car territory, face a substantial drawback when it comes to marketing strategies and sales. The main objective is to come up with an overall cheaper design that can possibly be developed into different options at different price points. Many current e-bikes like the Smart Bike or Mercedes Bike do offer extras like electronic gear control or electric drive. These functions are however all tied around a legacy tubular structure which makes them more vulnerable to theft and/or damage as well as complicates the build increasing costs: Our goal here is to improve this situation on all fronts and natively include such extra functionalities. A thorough redesign of the structure is needed in order to provide both frame strength and integration/protection for the added elements. Distinctive Look: Despite their simplicity, bicycles look and feel complicated and e-bikes even more so. To set apart all the revolutionary approach, a new look becomes obligatory, both in terms of technological statement and marketing strategy, to make this vehicle feel friendlier. Carrying objects: Most bicycles do away with any means to transport even the smallest object that can’t fit your pocket. Again a built in solution is needed rather than having extra parts suck as a basket hanging on the bike and distracting the aesthetics of the bike.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The vast majority of current e-bikes are still 100+ year old designs converted somehow to electric, and you can tell it just by looking at them; to most people they still are almost the same, odd mix of tubes and wires and the extra electric hardware adds up in quite a clumsy way. Even the sleekest looking ones, are mainly traditional designs dressed up in iRobot clothes. Our lifestyles and needs have dramatically changed since the late 19th century and these structures today are unnecessarily complicated and not really up to the task of offering the simplified looks and most importantly the extra functionality required in our digital age. nCycle is a new, radical design to meet added functionality and optional electric power requirements, all in one, all in a totally new way of rethinking the bicycle around two main concepts: 1- Problem solving from ground up and 2- Integrating it into the aesthetics. Crucially, the nCycle is totally a new innovative way from the ground up and its body was especially thought for housing new functions while at the same time being fully structural. A pair of metallic sheet attached parallel to each other in several points attaches to all the main mechanics and also houses the vital electronic and electrical systems. These characteristics make the nCycle cheaper, sturdier, more flexible, easier to build and maintain.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Traditionally, the process of building bicycles and e-bikes has been pretty much the same: building a tubular frame and then wrapping it with all the electric equipment like you would do with a Christmas tree. Taking advantage of today’s technologies like blown aluminum or composite molding however, enabled us to take a radical approach not only towards aesthetics, but the whole way of thinking of an e-bike. With this project, we also made a thorough cultural, technical and practical study of the bicycle and tried to address some of the yet-unsolved shortcomings it shows in the modern ociety also perfecting existing solutions. By asking several regular bike users, in different scenarios, we derived a list of missing, BUILT IN functionality in a bicycle, as a result functions and features responding to these requests were housed into the appropriately designed structure. One of the main guiding criteria was to design around problem solving, the innovative nCycle frame is a set of parallel composite sheets molded and spaced to serve the traditional structural purpose but also to house a set of accessories that will make a rider’s life much easier. We addressed first the burden of carrying books, small packs or notebooks while riding your sleek, sporty bike; a hidden, folding pocket housed within the body sandwich will drop down automatically when you put weight on it and return perfectly invisible when it’s not in use. Building on the decade-old idea of integrated locking, the “C”-shaped handle bar was carefully designed to offer the best built-in locking options and security while saving the weight and nerve-breaking stress of using a portable chain/cable. It also offers two handle positions, 360° rotating and ultimately integrates a set of LED headlights and Bluetooth speakers. Also housed within the body structure, a small lithium battery/phone dock supplies the phone, lighting and speakers while also controlling an optional holographic display. Also aiming for the best manufacturing conditions, we used the nCycle innovative setup to derive different models for different potential price points. The parallel sheet structure gave us a way to reinvent the folding bike too, by designing a totally hidden hinge that would only slide out to fold the bicycle after being unlocked. Aside from the folding option, a high capacity lithium battery will naturally fit inside the lower part of the frame and combined with an electric hub motor in the rear wheel and adequate controls will make the electric powered nCycle.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The nCycle is the study and a look on what the bicycle should be, it’s the missing link towards the future. Basically all the process of designing and shaping it is connecting all the dots of problems and needs, extras and necessities that bicycle riders have. Reshaping and reinventing basically all the bicycle except its very essential geometry, the nCycle changes pretty much everything the user experiences in a bicycle, except for the proven way he/she rides it. The simplistic and ephemeral structure makes it more appealing and friendly while the add-ons and extras all contribute to make owning and using this vehicle the pleasure that it should be riding the most efficient and eco-friendly vehicle ever. In the end, this all-new functional-aesthetic approach is potentially a huge game changer for all potential users in the society but especially for that part of the society that for one reason or another never used a traditional bicycle/e-bike or has not been satisfied by what this product has had to offer in terms of both looks and comfort. Wrapping everything up in a minimal package that allows you to travel through every cityscape with confidence, the nCycle takes away all the oddness, dangers and worries of owning a bicycle, leaving you only the pleasure to ride it.