For decades, the design of the bicycle has stayed relatively the same: two wheels, a mechanism to propel said wheels and a steering column to navigate its path. While this description is very vague, the design and refinement of the bicycle has become very specialized over time. Road bikes, cross bikes and touring bikes all have specific design qualities: nuances that make them different. So where do you start when you’re working on a project with Toyota Prius Projects and Parlee Cycles? Both are known for their use of proprietary technology and innovation but how does that that translate into a frame design? Much less, an entire bicycle? Two weeks ago, I visited Parlee Cycles to document the design process of the concept bike build inspired by Prius innovations.
Check out more below!
When Parlee began designing the concept bike, they started with a blank slate. Without holding onto any specific precedents, the team was looking towards a more utilitarian model due to the nature of the Prius itself. City bikes are more popular now than ever and with gas prices on the rise again it’s only logical that Parlee would be considering a commuter design for the concept bike. But that didn’t stop the design team from looking into all the possibilities before refining the concept bike’s intent.
From the language of the commuter bike, arose the dialog about a more aerodynamic bicycle. Something that would be efficient, much like the Prius.
Various other automotive influences began to pop up in the design dialog like integrated lighting. All while looking to the Prius design language for inspiration. At this point, Parlee and Toyota Prius Projects both felt like the bike was too ambiguous. After all, bicycle design has taught us one thing over the years: form follows function and a carbon fiber commuter might not make the most sense for a number of reasons. You’re a lot less likely to want to lock up a carbon bike and the shear essence of carbon fiber lies in its ability to be very aerodynamic and even conceptual. They needed to refine their design problem and look to a sportier, faster bike.
So when does carbon fiber make sense? Obviously the benefits of carbon are noted in the racing environment. Cyclocross, mountain, track, road and time trail bikes all use carbon fiber as a means to obtain a desired result in competition. While all of these bicycles posses certain aerodynamic possibilities, they are still far from the same formal languages of an automobile, most specifically, the Prius. But the Prius isn’t a racing vehicle…
The Prius is a car for the road and its lines fit this language. Parlee chose to pull from the forthcoming Prius line to influence the form and function of the Toyota Prius Projects concept bike. What you’re seeing here is one of the working designs: what they’re calling aero road bike. The design language is still there, just refined. Details such as fenders became fairings and aero features, all while adhering to a traditional road bike geometry. As further refinement takes place, the team will be developing proprietary carbon fiber molds to sculpt this unique bicycle and some other technological advancements.
Expect more coverage on the Toyota Prius Projects next week!
Last but not least, I’d like to thank the Toyota Prius Projects for sponsoring these posts and the opportunity to exclusively cover this project.