Commuter Bike for the Masses

Image © Bicycle Design

Torkel Dohmer’s recumbent design took top honors in Bicycle Design’s “Commuter Bike for the Masses” design competition. I was pleasantly surprised to see a recumbent chosen as the winner since they typically don’t garner much respect within the mainstream cycling community.

Torkel will receive a Cannondale Bad Boy 700 for his efforts.

Read about it here

27 Responses to “Commuter Bike for the Masses”

  • Joe says:

    Overall I was really disappointed with the offerings for this design competition. Doesn’t seem to be much imagination out there as to the possiblities for bike design. Hopefully 2009 will bring ‘hope’ to bike design as with everything else.

  • Opus the Poet says:

    This is the problem when you try to improve something that has been in existence since 1885 and under continual development ever since. That’s almost 125 years to find and fix any shortcomings, so aside from changing the basic layout to a recumbent and improve the aero a bit, and then totally wiping that out with the windshield and roof, there are not many things you can do to improve the DF bike.

  • Larey says:

    Hmm… I rode a bent for a couple of years and never did feel confident in my stability so I can’t quite see one ever becoming popular as a bike commuter for the masses. After spending a few minutes thinking about this design, if you added an electric motor and two more wheels you’d have a cool looking golf cart.

  • RJ says:

    I’m actually optimistic about this design! When crummy weather threatens or I’m just feeling plain lazy, I often wish I had something just like this to sit back and relax in– while protected from the ‘elements’.

    This design was my favorite! I would add rear view mirrors closer to the field of vision, though. Also, a medium load carrying capacity.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    The design is a bit odd. If going to go recumbent, I would have gone with a velomobile. Such as the quest velomobile
    From RandomPictures

  • Duncan Watson says:

    hmm, post went missing. Ah well, I think if going with a recumbent design it would be better to go with a velomobile such as the quest ( ).

  • Ows says:

    Very cool, in a kind of ‘Gattaca’-esque way.
    I don’t see myself ever giving recumbents a go though, they scare me a little!

    Having said that, I never thought I’d buy a bike with a kickstand…

  • Duncan Watson says:

    For those afraid of recumbents check out the various velomobiles and recumbent trikes. Zero stability issues and unmatched ability to pull cargo. Though for a 2 wheel commuter machine, I always wanted to build or make a John Tetz streamliner

  • Ows says:

    Thanks Duncan… but given the helmet damage
    I doubt I’ll be laying down any serious cash anytime soon!! :-D

  • Alan says:

    It looks top heavy to me. All that effort for a roof, but with the sides open the rider is still exposed to the elements; even a slight crosswind would require rain gear, pretty much defeating the point. If you’re going to go as far as building in a roof, I have to a agree with Duncan, a Quest or a Go-One would be more practical and aerodynamically more efficient.

  • Duncan Watson says:

    I think that helmet damage you see in the picture you linked from John Tetz is from a 40 mph crash he had. The damage was all to the fairing and he sprained or bent his pinkey on one hand. If I crashed my unfaired bike at 40mph and slid 75 feet I would expect more than cosmetic damage to my helmet and a sprained pinkey.

    Though you may be referring to the duct tape and visor he crafted, I can understand disliking the ugliness of that unfinished project helmet.

  • Ows says:

    @ Duncan & Alan
    I dunno. I’m not sold on these enclosed recumbents.
    Part of the charm… nay, fun… of cycling, is being up high, feeling the wind on my cheeks, able to skip a curb at a moment’s notice, or turn on a hairpin – I can’t imagine that sensation on a recumbent – even less so in one of John Tetz’ Velomobiles!

    That said, I’m not a man who tends to knock things too hard before trying… I guess in this instance, trying is believing!

  • Duncan Watson says:

    The existence of recumbents, velomobiles and streamliners are no threat to the normal bicycle. All are part of a continuum of experience and all have their place.

    For a commuter vehicle the high speed, dedicated lights, storage and weather protection are highly valued. There is a cost and you give up certain experiences. Because of that all of these creations including regular bicycles have their place. I love all of my bikes and trikes.

  • Alan says:


    They all have their unique charms, and contrary to what some might lead one to believe, it’s perfectly fine to ride both uprights and ‘bents. At the present moment I prefer uprights for city/utility riding (for the reasons you describe), and recumbents for open road, long distance riding/touring. I just happen to be doing mostly city riding right now, hence the uprights taking prominence in the stable. We have a beautiful RANS Screamer recumbent tandem that we take out now and again; we plan on keeping it around for if/when we retire to the country.

    I have to admit, in my heart of hearts I still harbor lust for a bright yellow Quest… :-) Be careful though, if you try one, you may have to have one.

  • Wayne says:

    I like the design. Anybody know what kind of wheels those are?

  • Alan says:


    “hmm, post went missing.”

    I just found your post in the spam queue – must have been the link. I went ahead and posted it.


  • andy parmentier says:

    folks i sold my tour easy. i am getting a rans CF. also got a nice osprey backpack and hiked hawaii.
    o-sprey..ocean spray.
    met a few people with the exact same pack. did’nt see a lot of bicycles, but there’s a free bus on big
    island. too hot for me, but portland for now too cold. i feel like goldilocks, and am thinking of a place
    that’s just right.
    that’s how it is with recumbents and DF’s. the first one was too laid back, the second one was too
    upright, the third one (CF) was just right!

  • Duncan Watson says:

    @Alan, no worries about the post. All the details were covered here and it just inspired me to make a blog post of my own on the subject. Much easier to put up pictures and control the look that way.

    @Andy – I do agree, CFs are nice bikes. My wife rides a CF and loves it. Crank Forward’s are very cool, I was thinking about getting a CF as a cargo bike.

  • jamesmallon says:

    What a stupid design for what it’s suposed to achieve: a mass commuter bike. A few objections:
    – most people want an easily portable bike, so weather protection is unfortunately out
    – this thing wouldn’t even protect from weather much
    – recumbents will never have mass appeal, for various reasons good and bad
    – I cannot see how this is easily adjustable for various body types
    – I cannot see how anything is easily carried, pannier or backpack
    This is a solution worse than the problems it does not solve.

    The perfect bike for most people, though they don’t realize it, is a steel frame with touring or ‘cross geometry (maybe mixte, but you won’t sell that to men), an internal hub, fenders and chain guard, 32mm tires, and a choice of different handlebars. I have this bike with drops, but other bars would suit less aggressive riding. In other words, the perfect commuter already exists because the bicycle is a perfected design, as wing-nut designs like this prove. When you try to ‘solve’ the weaknesses of the perfected design (weather, etc.) you end up multiplying the problems, or expense. The problem is not bikes, but crappy urban design, traffic policing, and N.American sloth.

  • Audeamus says:

    Gee, it’s a CONCEPT, not a finished project. Think of the folks who are nicely dressed for work (something I have to do more often than not), and who don’t want or don’t have the time to futz around helmets, special shoes, gloves, etc. Something like this might work pretty well for them.

    You’re never going to get the masses to ride if you raise the bar too high. That’s why the automobile, as expensive and polluting as it is, has been so successful. You wear what you want, you get in, you drive. Easy, comfortable, quick. Make commuting by bicycle almost as easy, comfortable, and relatively safe, and I would think that many people would choose to do so.

    I used to put on the full kit when I first started bicycle commuting, and now I’ve tried to come full circle. All I do in the mornings is strap on a helmet, put my messenger bag around my shoulder, and ride. Easy and quick. The ride there is good by most standards, but there are still no dedicated bicycle lanes, paths, or other facilities. Except for the occasional student, contruction worker who can’t afford a truck, or bum, there are no other bicycle commuters.

  • Ron says:

    “It looks top heavy to me. All that effort for a roof, but with the sides open the rider is still exposed to the elements; even a slight crosswind would require rain gear, pretty much defeating the point. If you’re going to go as far as building in a roof, I have to a agree with Duncan, a Quest or a Go-One would be more practical and aerodynamically more efficient.”

    @ Alan : Practical, maybe. But the price of the Go-One is astronomical. Have you asked them for a quote lately?

  • Badial says:

    Excelent example of piece of art. Great picture, prize winning nonpractical thing appealing for those who never tried it. Roof is nice but the problem on bike ussually does not head but knees. And these are uncovered. Not concept but perfect bike you can find on lower pictures here :

  • Alan says:


    Yes, the Go-One is expensive (far too expensive), as is the Quest, but we don’t know what it would cost to Mfr the concept bike either. My guess is that it would be more expensive than most traditional bicycles, but less expensive than most velomobiles. The $1000 retail estimate seems overly optimistic.

    I don’t think the concept bike or the velomobiles we’re discussing show much potential as “commuter bikes for the masses” due to their cost, complexity, and sheer strangeness – the cost alone is probably a deal killer for many people. In any case, as you alluded to in the analysis on your blog, we already know how to build a commuter bike; the problem is not so much the bike, but how to get people riding them.


    PS – The competition was a fun exercise nonetheless…

  • Roland Smith says:

    I really like this design. As a concept bike it is very nice, as these things usually are (look e.g. at some of the concepts I saw at an exhibition last year). Most concept bikes aren’t ready for production anyway, and the gorgeous sleek look is hard to obtain, especially in production bikes.

    However the opening at the back of the canopy is perfectly positioned to let the water and muck coming off a wet road coat your head. :-)

    So I’d agree that the canopy looks more of a gimmick than really usefull, and the bike would be just as beautiful without it. In fact the chain line is almost straight and could easily be completely enclosed, which is a plus. The wheelbase is quite long. I would wonder how that plays out in traffic?

    The lack of luggage capacity is a critical deficiency for me as well.

  • Roland Smith says:

    Ok, I just found the designer’s website. The larger picture on his site looks much better.

    I have to retract some of my comments. The two points behind the seat are actually luggage connectors, which is pretty clever. And it has a belt drive. I would replace the two-speed hub gear with a hub with more gears, but it is pretty nice as it is.

    I want one! :-)

  • Duncan Watson says:

    This concept bike is very optimistic as it quotes a $1000 price and composite materials giving it a weight of 25lbs. A carbon fiber frame of its size, solar panels, composite wheels that are similar to hed wheels, a belt drive, and an internal hub certainly doesn’t strike me as costing $1000 USD. Oh I forgot the lighting system. I think a Canadian made quest (bluevelo now has the molds) would be in the same range cost wise in low volume. The quest costs $6000-$7000 and has more storage, more weather protection, and will be faster and easier to ride in urban traffic.

    I do think the concept bike is very interesting as the weather issue is real. I see a lot of value dealing with the weather issue. In my office we have a group of people who signed up for the STP this year, a 204 mile ride over two days. Many of them are training by commuting to work. Yet this last week my bike was alone on the covered rack outside. It was foggy, cold (20-30sF), and there is a lot of gravel on the roads so no-one but myself commuted in. The fog was dense enough and the temperature cold enough that the bike rack at work was covered with a layer of condensed ice. We have lockers and showers at work for commuters, and our bike rack is in full view of a full time receptionist as well as visible from the windows of one side of the building. The issue isn’t security or facilities, it was weather and conditions.

    I suspect that if my co-workers had a velomobile to ride that the stability, comfort and storage would have made the decision to drive a lot harder.

  • James says:

    Thanks for the link to the winner of my design competition. It is great to see the discussion here.

    To a point, I agree with the above statement that “the problem is not so much the bike, but how to get people riding them.” I mentioned in my original post about the competition that infrastructure and general advocacy issues are by far the biggest obstacles to the goal of getting the masses to ride. I do a lot of bicycle advocacy work in my local community and I strongly encourage others to do the same.

    That said, the question of whether a wider variety of “non-enthusiast” bikes on the market could appeal to people who do not currently ride was one that I considered worth asking. I didn’t really expect a definitive solution in a 5 week competition on my blog, but I did want people to at least consider the question. Anyway, I am glad to see that is happening- keep it up.

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