If A Bike Can Make It Here, It Can Make It Anywhere

Merge is the entry from New York’s Pensa in the Urban Utility Bike design contest. What does a bike designed for the Big Apple’s streets (and traffic) look like?


Merge is the result of Pensa’s seven-month collaboration with Horse Cycles for The Bike Design Project. It has been an intense effort, and we are very proud of the result. In the diaries we have written here, we have been sharing the process of developing an urban bike that is inspired by the needs of cyclists in our home of New York City.

As we began our process, our discussions were centered on our densely populated city with its extreme conditions. These conditions very much inspired our early thinking about the bike. We felt that if we could create a cycling experience responding to these needs, the solution would carry over and have appeal in other less dense urban settings. Essentially, if our bike could make it here, it could make it anywhere.

Our solution needed to be first a foremost a bike that is built to be ridden hard. This was a characteristic of Horse Cycles bikes that we loved: They are classic, pure forms with gorgeous details, but also built to perform. We conceived of Merge as a stripped down, nimble, urban ride. Nothing extraneous attached to get in the way when you’re dodging potholes or squeezing past the delivery truck double parked in the bike lane. We thought for some time about modular solutions. Attach the utility you want when you need it, and take it off when you don’t. But we kept rejecting these concepts. How am I supposed to know when I will need certain features on my day-to-day rides? When and how do I decide to attach them or leave them home?

Our solution had to be integrated. We needed functionality ready to snap into action at a moment’s notice, but also able to disappear in an instant so you could return to your minimal and maneuverable ride.

We started with the frame. Our goal was not to come in and throw away the 100+ year history of development that has led to the modern bicycle, but rather to build upon it. The Merge frame is made from bent, cut, and welded tubes, and its geometry is at its core a diamond frame. Then by placing large radius bends at the tops of the seat and down tubes and then passing those tubes, along with the top tube, through their normal termination points, we were able to create four functional access points to the interior of the frame. Within the front two ports we integrated lighting and a USB charging port, both powered by an integrated Shimano Alfine Dynamo hub. The front and rear lights can also be seen from the side of the bike as they glow through an intricate laser-cut pattern in the frame.

In the rear two ports, we also have lighting, but that lighting is integrated into an aluminum, spring-loaded, fully retractable rack. This rack can pull out and snap open in an instant and, along with the integrated bungee loop from the lower port, is ready to carry a variety of loads. When you’re done with it, it disappears into the frame with the touch of a button.


We have also incorporated a pull-out structural fender with a spring steel spine and a spare wheel locking cable in the lower port. The one detachable accessory is a custom, water-resistant smartphone and U-lock holster which hugs securely to the front of the frame, near the USB charger. We are pleased to have developed this holster with MER bags, also of Brooklyn.

In listing all these features of the design, in the end we are most proud of the overall simplicity with which they are presented. They are right there at the rider’s fingertips when needed, but never in the way when squeezing through the tight spaces, or carrying the bike up the narrow stairs of a fifth-floor walk-up. Merge transforms at a moment’s notice, and allows you to truly ride your way.

Like this bike? Vote for it at the Oregon Manifest site and if it wins, they’ll make more of them!

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.