June 5, 2009 Using pedal-power to get to work makes sense - get fit, reduce your carbon footprint, save money and probably time too - but for many cyclists, negotiating the urban sprawl often means using other forms of transport like trains for part of the journey. That's where the folding bike comes in. We've seen some cracking designs in recent times that incorporate large wheels and make the bike easier to handle when folded, and this award winning example from student designer Robert Dumaresq ticks all the boxes. Called the Switch Commuter Bike, Dumaresq's lightweight, fast-folding design takes up only the footprint of one wheel when collapsed so it can easily be maneuvered in crowded environments.
Taking the Gold prize at the Australian Design Award - James Dyson Award announced last week, the Switch Commuter Bike consists of a carbon fiber upper frame with aluminum used for the rest. This combination lends itself to a lightweight but strong design - the carbon fiber provides shock absorbing ability while the aluminum ensures ease of manufacture and provides abrasion resistance where the two parts of the frame lock together.
The Switch is designed to collapse in "one smooth motion", folding at the rear stays and head-stem so the main section of the frame remains intact. When unfolded, the weight of the rider keeps the frame open and rigid rather than relying on a structural locking mechanism. A spring loaded ball bearing also stops the rear section of the frame from unfolding prematurely when boarding a train or stowing the bike in a car trunk.
And the attraction of the design also goes beyond convenience and clever engineering - it looks great. In fact, when unfolded, it's difficult to pick its sleek form as anything but a high-end two-wheeler of the non-folding variety.