From the very start of the Bike Design Project we wanted DENNY to look and feel like an everyday bike--we designed with production in mind, but not for production specifically--that was never part of Oregon Manifest’s criteria. After winning the competition, the road to production turned out to be a bit longer and a bit bumpier than we could’ve ever imagined!
Looking back on the original build of DENNY it’s fair to say we took significant liberties with the design and engineering of the bike. It’s common for designers to work this way on a prototype--if you only have to make one thing, you focus on making that one thing work. In the production world, making something work is just the first step. The next step is figuring out how to make it work within the standards of a production line. DENNY’s locking handlebar design is a prime example of what happens when a concept design is introduced to the real world.
The concept handlebar worked because it was bespoke--it was a custom-machined creation that was incompatible with any standards, meaning it didn’t work with any off-the-shelf brake levers, gear shifters, bike lights, or any other handlebar mounted accoutrements. This handlebar solution worked perfectly for the DENNY prototype, but as a production product it was difficult to service and ridiculously expensive to produce. It had to be completely rethought.
To make the bar a success in production it needed to use a standard stem and accept standard brake levers. Using standard brake levers meant we had to have a short section of tubing for them to clamp onto which wasn’t too big of a deal. The stem on the other hand was a engineering hurtle. The concept DENNY Bar used the stem as the lock and established the pitch of the bar on the steering tube. We had to engineer an entirely new locking mechanism that fit inside the handle bar itself and then find a way to have the two halves of the handlebar interlock with a round tube that was holding the brake levers.
In May of 2015 we had solved the engineering problems and created the second generation of the DENNY Bar that was displayed at MakerFaire San Francisco. After sketching new concepts, playing in CAD and printing numerous 3D models, we had a new and promising direction for the u-lock handlebar that was stronger and much more production friendly; the new design works with standard components. Success! We were so excited that our legal team marked the occasion by filing for patents on this creation. Consumer feedback at MakerFair and in private showings at InterBike later that year provided great feedback:
The bar is too heavy
The bar is not very comfortable
It would be great if standard grips could be used instead of bar tape
Being designers, this feedback inspired us to create a third prototype! We’ll tell you all about that in our next post.
The handlebar was one of the most popular features of the DENNY concept, and one of our personal favorites. It was important to us when designing for production that we maintained the original spirit of the handlebar: a fully removable handlebar lock that could also be used as a lock while still attached to the bike stem.
Stay tuned for our next post where we take you further down our journey to bring these goals to production.