The Quest To Design The Perfect Urban Bicycle

This spring, five design teams will compete in the Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Challenge to innovate on what two-wheeled transportation can be. We’ll be bringing you inside looks at their process.


Since the bicycle was invented in 1817, it’s gone through a speedy evolution, from the velocipede to the penny-farthing to the BMX to the glow-in-the-dark Lumen. Now, with more major cities adopting public bike programs as a cheaper, healthier, and greener forms of transportation, the urban cycling craze is at an all-time high, leaving industrial designers with a challenge: to design a better urban bike.


This spring, Co.Exist and Co.Design are partnering with Oregon Manifest’s Bike Design Project, which has tapped teams of top designers and bicycle craftsmen in five major cities to create the Ultimate Urban Utility Bike. Starting on March 24, we’ll be publishing the designers’ monthly process diaries to give you a look at how they turn a kernel of an idea into an amazing product.

Portland Team. Courtesy of Bike Design Project

The five participating teams of design firms and bicycle craftsmen are MNML x Method Bicycle in Chicago; Pensa x Horse Cycles in NYC; Industry x TiCycles in Portland; Huge Design x 4130 Cycle Works in San Francisco; and Teague x Sizemore Bicycles in Seattle. Each will compete to create a pair of wheels that’s safer and sleeker than anything that’s come before, prepared to weather the grittiest of urban commutes.

Chicago Team. Courtesy of Bike Design Project

On July 25, the team’s final bike designs will be unveiled to the public at celebratory events in each of the five cities. You’ll get to vote for your favorite bike on the Oregon Manifest website, and the winner will be deemed Ultimate Urban Utility Bike. These wheels of glory will go into mass production with 111-year-old cycling brand Fuji Bikes and hit Fuji retail floors in 2015.

“Our goal is to not only spark new thinking around the urban bicycling experience, but to redefine the category itself,” Shannon Holt, Oregon Manifest co-founder, says in a statement. It’s the first time a bike building contest has moved beyond creating mere prototypes into actually producing a commercial product based on consumers’ votes. So for insight into how a bike evolves from an idea to a pile of metal to a glorious way to defy the limits of your two legs, look for the designers’ process diaries on Co.Design starting next week.

About the author

Carey Dunne is a Brooklyn-based writer covering art and design. Follow her on Twitter.