Monday, May 20, 2013

Minimalist BMX Concept Bike

Here we have a a Spanish language photo compilation of the new minimalist BMX concept bike by Nikolay Boltachev.  I think I got that name right, I couldn't find the original web post I saw for the bike this morning.   Anyhow, he's a Russian designer looking to take the ol' double diamond hardtail BMX bike down to its most basic form.  I can't say I'd want to ride one of these things, but it would look cool hanging on the wall as some kind of BMX chic art piece in a super trick garage/man cave next to my bar, pool table and Lamborghini.  Yeah, I'm dreamin'.  And so was Nikolay.

Personally, I've seen "the bike of the future" show up every year or so for 30 years now.  Guess what?  BMX bikes, the real BMX bikes used by real riders look nearly the same as they did when I got seriously into riding in 1982.  The seats are lower, bikes are stronger, and there have been a lot of functional changes.  But the old basic "double diamond hardtail" frame design, as Chris Moeller and McGoo once called it in a zine, is still with us.  Does that mean all these crazy future designs are stupid?  No.  Designs like this hubless art project aren't going to revolutionize BMX, most likely, but thinking outside the box by people outside the industry helps shake things up a bit.  Linn Kastan of Redline put out a bike with a one blade fork in about 1989.  Some kids actually raced them.  But the idea didn't stick because BMXers like to jump and do tricks, and that fork couldn't handle sketchy landings by bigger riders.

So while I'm pretty darn sure this IS NOT the bike of the future, I figured it was worth a blog post because designers and engineers are needed to dream up new ideas, most of which don't work.  A perfect is example is what happened the first time my dad went to a BMX race with me at the sketchy Fort Boise BMX track, which was built in a drained sewer pond.  My dad was a design engineer and mechanical genius.  After watching a pretty typical local race for an afternoon, my dad said, "They need to build these bikes out of carbon fiber."  His engineer brain went wild designing "the bike of the future."  It was exactly what I'd seen in BMX Plus! not long before.  By then I knew those bikes were ridiculous.  I burst my dad's bubble.  "Dad, what would one of those futuristic carbon fiber BMX bikes cost?"  His brain did some figuring.  "About $5,000," he answered.  "No BMXer can afford that," I replied, rather cruelly, I might add.  My engineer dad was bummed.  The rest of the ride home was silent.

Later, we started talking about what BMX bikes really did need.  My dad's design engineer brain sparred with my BMX rider brain about the state of BMX bikes in 1983. A couple years later, my dad and I really got into brainstorming about the future of BMX bikes.  I was a hardcore, if if not great rider, and I knew what most of the problems were.  In about 1985,  I described problems, and my dad came up with reasonable engineering solutions. Together we thought up stronger dropouts, larger axles, redesigned seat guts, a bash guard, and stronger head tubes.  In short, my dad and I in 1983 came up with every idea that has actually happened since to actual bikes.  I'm not saying we were brilliant, I'm just saying that's what happens when you put a good engineer and a decent rider together.  You start with airy fairy ideas like the concept above, and you reel it back into the practical realm.  Then real, practical design ideas come.

So why didn't we start a bike company if we designed the real, practical bike of the future in 1983?  Becasue neither of us was an entrepreneur.  If I had had a brother who was a serious entrepreneur back then, maybe the company would have been started.  But it wasn't.  I wound up the brainiac sidekick to Chris Moeller in some of the early years of S&M Bikes, and helped design the epic BS-20 Neon, among other great things.  There's a serious inside joke for ya.  Come to think of it, before that I helped redesign the Raleigh Ultra Shock, which had the best geometry I've ever ridden, and the Auburn freestyle bike which never got made.  Then I wound up helping Moeller hawk Holmeses, Dirtbikes, and Slam Bars.

My point to all of this?  As crazy as that bike above looks, it's good to get outsiders to throw some fresh ideas into the mox now and then to see what happens.

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