If you had asked Rob Forbes a few years ago to recommend a good city bike, he would have said, "Get a used bike from the 1960s." Today, Forbes, who founded furniture retailer Design Within Reach and now heads the design shop Studio Forbes, would reply: Buy mine.
Forbes's Public D is less revolutionary than evolutionary. U.S. bicycles are mostly based on racing and mountain bikes. But Forbes drew on Britain's 19th-century "double diamond," the ancestor of the modern European city bike. He tweaked the classic, reducing the tire size and turning the handlebars up for a more ergonomically friendly ride.
The biggest change was the frame's material. "In Holland, bikes are big old lunkers. They're, like, 45 pounds," Forbes says. "We had to bring that down. Our topography tends to be more varied than their flatlands, and bikers here often have to carry their bikes upstairs." The solution: lightweight steel that saves nearly 20 pounds. (The $690 3-speed D weighs just over 27 pounds.)
Then there's the color, which also has Euro roots: It's borrowed from a 1968 Vespa. Forbes calls it "mandarino," as in mandarin orange, and says it's "lickable." To which we can only say, "Yum." publicbikes.com
A version of this article appeared in the July/August 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.