More and more city dwellers are taking to the streets on bicycles these days, but many of them run into the problem of how to carry things while riding. Most people will wear a backpack or attach saddle bags to their ride, but wouldn't it be easier if a bicycle had a built-in trunk instead? That's what three industrial design students wanted to find out when they made the Transport, a bicycle that replaces the spokes in the front wheel with a handy storage compartment.
David Hotard, Matthew Campbell and Edwin Collier developed the Transport for a studio course in bike design at Georgia Tech, which was sponsored by bicycle component maker SRAM. The group's goal was to produce a new take on the common bicycle that would appeal explicitly to urban commuters, with the inclusion of a trunk like you'd find in most other vehicles.
The hubless front wheel of the Transport consists of a large, round frame with a standard bicycle rim and six bearing fitted over it. As the bike moves, the wheel's frame stays in place while the tire rotates around it on the bearings, essentially using the frame as an over-sized axle and leaving the center of the wheel empty. Meanwhile, the back wheel has a standard gear system that provides motion when the cyclist pedals.
Where most hubless wheels tend to leave the center space open, though, the Transport's front wheel is fitted with an open compartment made from lightweight PET-G plastic that's large enough to hold most backpacks. The hubless design also keeps the center area stationary, so the tire can turn without spinning the trunk's contents around like a washing machine.
Unfortunately, while it may look nice, the current prototype isn't actually rideable. Since they didn't have much of a budget for their project, the designers were forced to build the bike mainly from plywood and glue, with only a handful of steel supports in particularly breakable areas. The most recent model is mainly for proof-of-concept purposes, though the group has stated plans to make one out of stronger materials in the future.
It's hard to imagine that a few books or a laptop sitting inside a wheel wouldn't affect the bike's handling, but the designers say they tested a regular bike with additional weight on the front and found it didn't hinder its performance too much. The group admits that even a fully functional hubless bike might not be as stable or cost-effective as a regular one with spokes, but they believe it could still appeal to commuters who value the extra storage space. They've also mentioned possibly remaking the compartment out of a wire mesh, to cut down on crosswind resistance and allow rainwater to drain from it.