written by:
April 11, 2014
A design competition with five teams, fives cities, and one urban utility bike for the masses.
MNML Team During Design Meeting for The Bike Design Project
The MNML team during a design meeting for the Bike Design Project. A collaboration between the MNML design studio and Garry Alderman of Method Bicycle, the Chicago team is working to create the next great leap in urban cycling. Photo courtesy of MNML.
1 / 3
Early Sketch Concepts
MNML sought out to create an all-season ride that exemplified the idea of rugged refinement, as Watson put it, reflecting the studio’s usual philosophy of reduction and purity. The team tackled the problem by doing exhaustive field research and then building a story—a day in the life of a cyclist that would serve as the litmus test for whether the final design really works. Chicago shapes the narrative—dealing with inclement weather, hauling a ride up to a walkup apartment ,and navigating potholes. Photo courtesy of MNML.
2 / 3
MNMLxMethod Team
The MNMLxMethod team. One of five teams from five cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle), each composed of a design studio and bike manufacturer, MNMLxMethod has been developing concepts, collaborating, and field-testing since the beginning of the year. They’re working off a brief that asks for a truly functional, all-terrain urban bike with a lighting and anti-theft system, among other features, with the winning design going into production with Fuji Bikes. Photo courtesy of MNML.
3 / 3
MNML Team During Design Meeting for The Bike Design Project
The MNML team during a design meeting for the Bike Design Project. A collaboration between the MNML design studio and Garry Alderman of Method Bicycle, the Chicago team is working to create the next great leap in urban cycling. Photo courtesy of MNML.

As the current wave of city bike-sharing programs suggests, urban environments continue to drive cycling’s evolution. In a bid to spark the next great leap in two-wheeled transport, the Bike Design Project, organized by Oregon Manifest, has combined a bit of natural selection with a collaborative design approach. A competitive platform pitting city against city, it seeks to develop a radically new bike by August.

Five teams from five cities (New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle), each composed of a design studio and bike manufacturer, have been concepting, collaborating, and field-testing in their hometowns since the beginning of the year. They’re working off a brief that asks for a truly functional, all-terrain urban bike with a lighting and anti-theft system, among other features, with the winning design going into production with Fuji Bikes. By placing craftsmen and designers on one team, and focusing on city-specific research, the process is more hands-on and, according to the Chicago team, results in a more integrated and creative approach.

The Chicago team, representing a collaboration between the MNML design studio and Garry Alderman of Method Bicycle, immediately felt they’d be at a disadvantage, with sub-zero “Chiberia”-like temperatures inhibiting outdoor research in January. While MNML has a 15,000-square-foot studio with a 5,000-square-foot enclosed garage to play around in, project lead Chris Watson, an engineering and program manager, said they still found numerous bikers braving the snow and windchill. Capturing their experiences helped inform the team’s truly all-terrain design.

“We were surprised when we went out there,” he says. “ We deliberately did research when it was snowing badly, but still found people riding around the city when it was freezing, in horribly nasty conditions.”

MNML sought out to create an all-season ride that exemplified the idea of rugged refinement, as Watson puts it, which pairs with the studio’s standard philosophy of reduction and purity. The team tackled the problem by doing exhaustive field research and then building a story—a day in the life of a cyclist that would serve as the litmus test for whether the final design really worked. Chicago shaped the narrative—dealing with inclement weather, hauling your ride up to a walkup apartment, and navigating potholes. Watson said one of the most exciting and rewarding parts of the process was collaborating with Alderman, who builds cycles by hand, and getting on-the-fly feedback as the prototype comes together. (He says he can’t discuss final details until the big reveal on July 25.) Alderman’s deep knowledge of craft and the cycling community created a great flow of ideas between the builder and the design team, an aspect that suggests this competition may have the right formula to improve urban cycling.

“He provided a different perspective that was super grounded,” Watson says. “He’s part of the community in a way we’re not and can provide guidance. It would be great if life always worked this way, being able to prototype in real time in the factory.”

All five teams will be premiering their designs at reveal parties on July 25, and voting begins a few days later.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

in the mix antwerp belgium warehouse renovation live work space lounge area cushions dining table kitchenette borge mogensen cabinets
An artist and an architect build their home, studios, and an exhibition space inside an Antwerp warehouse.
February 13, 2016
senses sight products kinetic wire sculpture alexander calder mobile
A phenomenon of light and visual perception, colors signal a language of their own.
February 13, 2016
beach weathered seaside retreat sagaponack new york pine walls aluminum furniture
Balancing texture, proportion, and found objects lends unexpected sophistication to a seaside retreat.
February 13, 2016
Concrete floor, white walls, Bend sectional sofa, Metropolitan chair by B&B Italia, and Arper pouf in living room of Rhode Island family vacation home by Bernheimer Architecture.
Create comfortable areas to lounge, sit, eat, and entertain with these designs.
February 12, 2016
São Paulo apartment dining room with local wood floors and HAY chairs
From concrete to wood, these South American homes enjoy nature inside and out.
February 12, 2016
Custom cabinetry and trim in Chicago apartment renovation.
The Second City is second to none when it comes to inventive modern architecture, from Louis Sullivan to the present day.
February 12, 2016
Kitchen of 1956 midcentury modern Palm Springs home.
Celebrate Palm Springs Modernism Week, which runs from February 11–21, with a look at some of our favorite modern desert oases.
February 12, 2016
Gustav bicycle by Coh&Co
Designmuseum Danmark unveils a permanent collection highlighting new developments in Danish design.
February 12, 2016
A Seattle studio's courtyard
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 12, 2016
Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016