Project: Julie Lasky
Faraday Utility Bike
IDEO and Rock Lobster Custom Cycles produce a prototype that's easy on the legs and the eyes.
Nothing on the road is more prosaic than a vehicle designed for hauling loads. Unless, of course, the vehicle has been imagined by a leading industrial design firm working in partnership with an innovative American bicycle manufacturer. In which case you have Faraday, one of three utility bike prototypes to emerge out of a competition sponsored by the nonprofit Oregon Manifest
, and the only model to earn not just the unanimous plaudits of a jury of hardcore bike nuts but also a People’s Choice Award.
Designed by the team of IDEO
and Santa Cruz, California–based Rock Lobster Custom Cycles
, Faraday is practical yet visually suave. Its front-positioned rack can be swapped out with other modular components for carting different kinds of loads. Lights are discreetly tucked into the tubing; sensors switch them on automatically at dusk. A leather saddle and grips, and ash-wood fenders add touches of non-utilitarian luxury. And when the rider gets weary of peddling, a hidden motor kicks in, having ascertained the exact amount of assistance required.
Ross Evans, the activist founder of the cargo bike company Xtracycle, who was part of the four-member jury, said that the jolt of juice in a utility bike was like the delectable addition of peanut butter to chocolate — “better when they work together. ... I believe that the only way that the masses will ever ride daily for transportation is with the ability to carry cargo and a simple, elegant electric boost.” Fellow juror Jeff Menown, a faculty member at the United Bicycle Institute in Ashland, Oregon, took this appreciation a step further by applauding “what’s missing … a big, ugly, heavy battery that seems to be on every other electric-assisted bike I’ve seen.”
Jeremy Spencer, a former senior editor at Outside
magazine, who writes extensively about bicycles, conceded a prejudice against motor-assisted bikes, “otherwise, it’s a motorcycle, right?” But even he had a change of religion. “Well, dammit, this isn’t a motorcycle,” Spencer said of Faraday. “It’s a brilliant update of the French porteur
with a little lightning up its butt, and I love it.”
In winning the challenge, Faraday edged out LOCAL, the prototype for a cheerful, orange-accented utility tricycle designed by Fuseproject with SyCip Design. It also beat Fremont, a bicycle with an attached, convertible sidecar built by Ziba Design with Signal Cycles. More on all three designs here
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Julie Lasky is editor of Change Observer. She was previously editor-in-chief of I.D. and Interiors, and managing editor of Print. Lasky has contributed to The New York Times, Metropolis, Dwell, Eye, Slate and NPR.