The Bike Design Project – Ultimate Urban Utility Bikes Revealed

In five cities, Chicago, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, design firms and bike builders were paired together and given the task of innovating bikes designed for daily use.

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The Bike Design Project from Oregon Manifest and Levi’s launched earlier this year with five teams competing to create the ultimate utility bike. In five cities, Chicago, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, design firms and bike builders were paired together and given the task of innovating bikes designed for daily use.

The competition aims to draw attention to a seemingly ignored part of the bicycle industry when it comes to innovation and design, city bikes. With a focus on the latest technologies including 3D printing and the pursuit of attractive yet functional designs, the five resulting utility bikes could provide a glimpse into the future of daily travel.

On Friday, July 25, 2014, the five bicycles were revealed and voting began the following Monday at The winning design will become a production bicycle from Fuji Bikes with a retail debut in 2015.

From Chicago, MINIMAL and Method Bicycle have created the BLACKLINE – a bike for cruising during the summer months and still able to contend with the rugged Windy City winters. The stealthy design, the only one to feature a step-through frame, features integrated LED headlight and side blinkers that utilize GPS enabled turn-by-turn navigation. The steel frame is able to support a multi-configured cargo system and there is a double leg kickstand for loading groceries and gear.

In New York City, Pensa and Horse Cycles built MERGE – an update on the popular urban bicycle inspired by track racing, yet with an integrated USB phone charging station and a built-in retractable rear rack with advanced lighting.

On the West Coast, from Portland is the INDUSTRY and Ti Cycles SOLID. The frame is tig welded, 3D-printed Titanium and features integrated lighting and a Gates Carbon Drive. The handlebars feature electronic shifters and haptic GPS navigation that works in coordination with a DISCOVER MY CITY smartphone app with a Biologic dynamo supplying power.

EVO, from San Francisco’s Huge Design and 4130 Cycle Works, starts with a symmetrical frame that features multiple front and rear quick-connection accessories. There is a front wheel lockout system for loading and unloading and an integrated cable lock in the frame.

DENNY is the fifth and final design from Seattle’s TEAGUE and Sizemore Bicycle. The only bike in the competition to include electric-assist also features an onboard computer to smartly shift gears based on the ride conditions. Sensors provide always on lights that vary their brightness intensity based on natural light conditions.

Working prototypes of all five designs were revealed at parties hosted in each of the represented cities and are shown in the slideshow above along with videos explaining the features unique to each design. To vote in The Bike Design Project visit until August 3, 2015 when voting concludes.


  • Jeff Perry

    Most of them look like the bicycle equivalent of the Pontiac Aztek. Good ideas, poor execution.

  • Emilio

    These designers/bike builders got all their priorities wrong! These bikes may look nice but definitely there is nothing utilitarian in them. A bike with a USB? You know how many times I have left my Kronan outside in the rain? If I had a USB port in it, it would be ruined by now. A GPS on the handlebar? I got a pretty good phone for that. You just buy a good handlebar mount for it and you have the perfect GPS. Some of them don’t even have chainguards or fenders!!! I can keep going for days about all the things wrong with these bikes.

    Very dumb designs, really. They need to start looking at the things done by the good brands like Workcycles, Gazelle, Velorbis…

    • Mathme

      That kind of makes the chainguard moot. The designs are awful, no question. They look like they’re designed to be “cool” to people who don’t actually know anything about bikes. These are awful. I can’t imagine what the Blackline would be like in a mass-produced version. They’ll either have to add a downtube or overbuild the top tube so that the bike is way heavier than it would be if built more traditionally. Maybe not, but it just doesn’t look very stable.

  • Snowy

    None of these is a true utility bike. Just go to Workcycles and buy the real deal – low maintenance, solid, practical workhorses.

  • Aaron Goss

    Man, all I can say, is those cats don’t know NOTHIN’ ’bout bike design. The designs are “ipad” eye-catching, but SO MANY PROBLEMS! The lock/handlebar was cute, but will fail and it was loose! The frames all had stress risers. There is a REASON the double diamond frame has prevailed. Seat stays go to the seat cluster because otherwise the frame fails. Full suspension bikes fail there often.

  • Robin

    Not one of them has FULL fenders or a chain guard- I would think these would be no-brainers, especially on the West Coast. And we’re supposed to vote one into production without an even estimated retail cost? Cannot endorse any of them.

    We don’t need more new/different bikes: that’s not the obstacle to getting more people riding.

  • Stephanie Allen

    Wow, completely underwhelmed. These are the best of a city bike design challenge? Only one is a step through and all have bent forward riding and terrible handlebars. No thanks. I commute year round in Toronto with my Batavus Personal Bike and doubt highly that one of these would ever replace it. I love the step through and especially the upright riding position. These city streets are full of potholes and my wrists would take too much of a pounding with those designs. Plus I’m in my 40s and find upright riding causes no back issues while offering better visibility all around.
    Maybe I need to be convinced but I am seriously skeptical that any of these could rival my current city ride.

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