In my copy of The Design Encyclopedia – a hefty and exhaustive listing of influential designers and their creations – there is no space between Thomas Meyerhoffer (industrial designer responsible for the interior of the Porsche Boxter) and Eugéne Michel (an influential French glassmaker). Pierre Michaux (inventor of the modern bicycle) is absent.

It was Michaux who first attached pedals to what was called a ‘dandy horse’, and so creating the bicycle – a form recognisable as one not much changed from the modern bicycles of today. The addition of the pedals and cranks was his masterstroke. A novelty contraption was transformed into something that suddenly enabled man to propel himself forward, twice as fast, twice as far, with half the effort. Cyclists would still be going nowhere without Michaux and his rudimentary machines of the 1860s.

Over time the idea has evolved, but there’s still not much to separate a racing bicycle of today with one built fifty or sixty years ago. That basic diamond shape remains, the geometry has been refined, iron swapped for steel swapped for aluminium swapped for carbon fibre, the wheelspan lengthened, then shortened, more and more gears added. Electronic gear shifting has only just arrived, and this latest fad doesn’t seem like the vital technological advancement its manufacturers would like us to believe. The pace of the bicycles’ evolution has been a slow one; the original design has proved resilient to improvements.

Yet that hasn’t stopped designers trying. As cycling becomes a ‘culture’ and a totem for a new utopian way of living, so it has been deemed necessary to tinker with an invention almost perfected from its inception. It’s tough trying to re-invent the wheel, as these efforts below prove. Any designer aspiring to cement their legacy through bicycle design would do well to note the absence of Pierre Michaux’s name from the history books.


Inner City Bike

Designed by JRuiter + studio
You know how children draw people – stick figures, with one line for the body, one each for the limbs, and a big crooked circle for the head? Well, this is its bicycle equivalent. Designed in crayon, to be ridden by some sort of PowerRanger with improbable shaped legs. View awkward attempts by a non-superhero at riding this contraption on their website.


A.N. Design

Designed by a.n.designworks
Created using the motto ‘why use one piece of tubing when you could use two. Or three’, this ingenious concept fails to improve either function or aesthetics over existing bicycle designs. If every other terrible detail of this bike doesn’t deter you, then other less offensive colour ways may be available.


Pulse

Designed by Teague
Clipping lights onto your bike can be a real chore. They’re literally seconds of your life you’ll never get back. So why not build lights into the frame itself? Still lifting your arms to make turning signals? That’s so 2010. The future looks like Tron and its here already. In the form of a complex, ineffective and entirely unnecessary lighting system.


Vuelo Velo 1

Designed by Vuelo Velo
To the untrained eye this may look like a simple case of a bog standard bicycle bestowed an aesthetic idiosyncrasy through the means of a pointless design affectation (finding a replacement for that seat post may be a tricky proposition) that has no performance gains to speak of. And if you think that then shame on you for being so joylessly cynical. And so, being joylessly cynical myself, I dread to think what this titanium monstrosity retails for.


Puma ‘Funk’

Designed by Biomega for Puma
I’m sure the intention is some sort of beautiful duet – a collaboration between a cutting edge design studio and a trendy sportswear label. It makes perfect sense on paper, and then you realise that one is good at making fashion trainers, the other believes bamboo to be a suitable material for bicycle construction. And behold! The bastard child of statement design and of footwear made to look like a purpose it’s ill fitted to perform (such as like, actually playing sports), and we have a machine befitting of cycling’s current dalliance with youth and trendiness. I bet this rides like a sack of potatoes.
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