200 Years of Bike Design

200 years of the bike
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What has changed - we speak to our cycling customer Islabikes.

In 1817, a German inventor named Baron Karl Drais patented the first ever two-wheeled bicycle. It consisted of a wooden frame, which the rider would straddle and then propel themselves along on by pushing their feet against the ground.  

In the subsequent 200 years, the ‘dandy horse’ as it was nicknamed has evolved many times - from gimmick (the bone shaking ‘Penny Farthing’) to a household favourite. Cycling is now the most energy-efficient and pollution-free means of transportation on the planet and was voted in 2005 by the UK public as ‘the best invention ever’. 

According to British Cycling, more than 2 million people across the country now cycle at least once a week, while sales of UK manufactured bikes rose by 69% in 2014. Some of the UK bike engineers responsible for this growth are SOLIDWORKS customers Hope Technology and Islabikes. 

Hope Technology, based in Barnoldswick, has built up a fine reputation for CNC-machined parts and has made its mark on the mountain bike industry with beautifully made aluminium hubs. It was an early adopter of hydraulic disc brakes and has now moved into carbon fibre production, launching a dedicated road bike hydraulic disc brake caliper that is compatible with SRAM and Shimano levers.

Islabikes, based in south Shropshire, is the brainchild of British cycling veteran Isla Rowntree. A 3-times winner of the British National Cyclocross championships, Isla decided to use her cycling experience to put a professional spin on children’s bikes. Fed up with cheap, heavy and poorly designed, uncomfortable bikes, Islabikes uses a holistic design approach. This is based on how all the components interact rather than relying on separate components taken from a spec sheet. The company is also part of the Imagine Project to develop a small range of sustainable bikes using circular manufacturing methods, that look at the whole lifecycle of the bike. When the bike comes to the end of its life, all of its raw materials can be separated and reused.

NT CADCAM caught up with Rob Burns, Product Manager at Islabikes to find out how SOLIDWORKS is helping the company redesign the common bicycle:

Q: What do you consider to be the best bike innovation in recent years?

Some of the biggest innovations have been around the drivetrain - in particular the development of narrow wide chainrings by SRAM and single chainrings accompanied with wide ratio cassettes. This has made bikes lighter, easier to maintain and simpler to use. We have always been a big advocate of the single front chainring (we have pushed this for many years normally opting for a double chainguard to retain the chain). The huge uptake of mountain biking and cyclocross in the last decade has pushed this technology forward. The demand for wider tyres and less maintenance has helped push the boundaries of industry and has helped to create some incredible engineering solutions.
Q: How has Islabikes evolved and what's the latest in Isla design?
Since the company began just over 10 years ago, our bikes have continually evolved. We are forever looking to improve the cycling experience for children. We have done so by making our bikes as light as possible while getting the fit and handling perfectly aligned to keep children on bikes, whether they are racing, riding to school or just cycling for leisure.
Some of our latest designs are exclusive proportionately-sized tyres and handlebars. Typically, the cycle industry is designed around adults and open source moulds, which are not suitable for children. We spend lots of time looking at what improves our bikes for children and then make products to suit. For instance, our CX/Road bike handlebars feature a narrower diameter than the industry standard, which makes it much easier for children to grip and brake. Also, our proportionally scaled tyres are fitted to our range of bikes so they are lighter, roll faster and protect against punctures.
Q: How does SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD help you? 
Working with such tight parameters on a bicycle frame, SOLIDWORKS really helps us squeeze the last few millimetres out of all our new parts or frame designs that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to do with such accuracy.

Discover how SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD is helping our customers design better products. Read our customer case studies and about the amazing ICE BIKE)

If you have a product you’d like us to write about or want to find out more about SOLIDWORKS 3D CAD call us today on 0800 018 6957.
Ro Pimlott - author


Ro Pimlott View profile

My role as Content Marketing Executive within NT CADCAM is to manage all digital content across our social media channels, email communications and the website.