Steel Tires

You can never be surprised at the endless possibilities of material innovation and disruptive technologies.  At first glance, I immediately thought this bike was just another sculpture, but it is actually functional!  Who would have thought?  Designers are always creating projects that have no functionality but create an eye-catching affect.

Ron Arad designed this “Soft-Ride Bike” using a unique method to construct the wheels instead of the classic metal rims and spokes with rubber tires.  Each wheel uses 18 strips of steel bolted at different tension points.  The design of the wheel gives it flexibility and a little bit of cushion.  The bike was constructed in less than two weeks and worked the first try.  Oddly enough, the bike testers claimed that the ride is actually smooth and it progressively gets smoother the faster you ride.

Design and material innovation is always finding ways to push the limits of different materials and see how much strength something can hold with the smallest amount of material possible.  This idea is win-win scenario, the less material needed means the cheaper the cost of construction.  Many times the strength increases with a percentage of less material using different structural systems in the material manufacturing.  In Ron Arad’s case, the lack of the material used in the wheel construction allowed for the slight cushion and the bike to work in a practical way.

Soft Ride by Ron Arad,

Soft Ride Bike


One comment

  1. This is really interesting technology. It definitely shows what steel can do as a material and follows the “what does the brick want to be” sort of mantra that Louis Kahn was such a huge proponent of. My main qualm with it is the visual solidity of it. The frame looks quite solid, while the wheels, at least from the side, are almost completely invisible. Would this have a psychological effect on the rider or on passersby? Should there be a sense of solidity to it all over? Or, on the flip-side, should the frame be pushed to use as little material as possible? It could mimic animal bones and their strong material efficiency.

    This steel bike wheel made me think of another material limit exertion in bicycle design. While this isn’t in steel, it still follows the idea of pushing a material to its limits. Izhar Gafni, an artist from Israel, has successfully created a fully functioning bike entirely out of recycled cardboard. By using various folding techniques to increase strength, Gafni produced the bike using roughly $12 worth of material. To increase its longevity and make it a viable product for the individual user, Gafni also painted a coating on the finished design to make it waterproof.

    Could each of these designs make their way into the mainstream within the next decade? It’s entirely possible. And if not these designs specifically, others that improve upon them will.

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