Bringing New Perspectives To The 100-Year-Old Problem Of Bike Design

As Pensa nears the end of the process of designing a bike, the question is how much to preserve and how much to innovate.

We are now finalizing the design of our Pensa + Horse Cycles collaboration for the Bike Design Project and the intensity is rising. We spent time investigating the needs of the urban cyclist, including the variety of riding styles and preferred functionality. We sketched in 2D to illustrate and iterate on our visions. We sketched in 3D using found objects and our own bikes to quickly test our ideas.


In our concept exploration, New York City was a great inspiration to us. Our design had to be compact, nimble, and maneuverable, inspiring its rider to feel confident in often congested streets. People carry different kinds of cargo when cycling and those needs change on a day to day basis. We needed a cargo solution that was flexible and simple, available at a moment’s notice. Lighting and security were also top considerations. Above all though, we aimed to create a cohesive and integrated statement with all elements supporting a simple and focused vision.

Throughout our process, we leaned heavily on Thomas Callahan, our partner from Horse Cycles, to understand his view on what makes a beautiful and functional urban bike. As a team of industrial designers, engineers and inventors at Pensa, we lean towards the mindset that “there must be a better way.” Often times there is. We love it when we can bring a new perspective to an old problem and create a new way to solve it, opening eyes to new possibilities.

There are objects though that are steeped in history. The modern bicycle has been developed and iterated upon for hundreds of years. There is a beautiful simplicity and balance of form and function in a well-proportioned, welded, tubular steel frame. In developing our story and concept for our urban utility bike, we were very conscious not to make change for change’s sake. We had no shortage of ideas and ways to completely redefine the way a bike frame is constructed, but we always had to ask, “is this truly better?”

As we finalize our design, we are extremely excited about where this collaborative process has led us. Our design has its roots in the rich history of bicycle design and development, yet it is a strikingly new take on form and functionality.


About the author

Mark is a partner and the design director at Pensa where he leads and mentors a diverse group of multi-faceted designers. Throughout his 15+ years in the product design industry, Mark has received numerous design awards and is an inventor on dozens of design and utility patents.