I love the bike industry. I grew up around bikes—my aunt and uncle(s) own a bike shop in the town where I grew up—and I continue to love them to this day. But as someone who tinkers with marketing, I have to say the leaders in the industry (small and large companies alike) really understand how to use their resources to make an impact.
Case in point: the Specialized Shiv Tandem concept, pictured above and below. It’s like someone took a time-trial bike and a Ferrari F1 car and mashed them together.
Check out that fairing over the head tube – it normally provides an aero shroud for the front brakes, but in this case, they’re discs.
It’s a work of really, really fast art. Hydraulic disc brakes, shaft drive connecting the stoker and the pilot (not that I’ve had good experiences with shaft drives before), and amazing aerodynamics. Clearly this thing is for show—concept bikes are rarely rideable—but at least it’s a good show.
And then there’s the belt-drive single-speed Corvid that Independent Fabrication brought to the National American Handmade Bike Show (NAHBS) this weekend, which is gorgeous in a different way.
See how the wheel paint matches up with the paint on the fork? Rad.
That’s a Gates Belt Drive, which requires no lubrication, is reportedly silent, and will last for 10,000 miles without maintenance. You can see that the seatstay is bolted to the dropout. So…don’t get a rear flat. According to IF, Chris King supplied a set of one-off hubs just for this application. Pretty dope.
Zero-Gravity brakes actuated by SRAM carbon-fiber levers made specifically for single-speeds. Hot.
But if you’re not into bikes, you’re probably missing out on some of the subtle things that make this bike so sexy. For me, it’s all in the construction: it’s lugged carbon fiber, meaning that the tubes are bonded to lugs (bike jargon for “joints”), rather than the bike being made in one piece. That gives the bike builder more flexibility to do fun things, or to customize a bike to a particular rider by changing the geometry of the bike. And in handmade bicycle culture, the lugs are where the art happens, and are an important call back to the older ways of making a bike.
So look again at the picture above, at the lugs: IF has used their logo—a crown—to bring some style to what is ostensibly a functional piece of the bike. So cool.
Just in case you’re curious, these are lugs. Portland-based bike-builder Jordan Hufnagel posts pictures of his lugs on Flickr, and I’m always stupefied by their beauty.
In the opinion of this writer, the coolest thing a company can do is to share of itself, to let people see how things are made and to use products to put the culture of the company on display. Both of these examples—Specialized’s crazy tandem and IF’s gorgeous single speed—are extreme, conceptual artifacts that help me understand what each of the companies are about.
Both bikes tell me that the companies are willing to spend time and money on things that have no use in the real world. Both tell me that the companies care about the spirit of bicycling. The tandem is a ridiculous foray into technology; the Shiv single-person bike is purpose-built for winning Tour de France time-trial stages, with a design that’s been honed in a wind tunnel, and the tandem incorporates bleeding-edge bike tech into the mix, including shaft drives, disc brakes, integrated electronics, and star-flange hubs. And the IF bike is a seamless blend of old-timey craftsmanship and philosophy with newfangled materials and tech. It clearly articulates that IF knows what the f*ck they’re doing when it comes to making bikes by hand.
If you’re reading this and have a company that makes things, do this for me: spend some time making things that show me how you think. I’d much rather figure out your positioning for myself than hear about it from an ad.