Difftrike Design – How it all began

Posted on November 22, 2011

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One of the things I have been too lazy to do is tell you the story of all the brainstorming and creativity that has been going on for a long time behind our virtual doors.

Well, enough procrastination, let’s publish it. 🙂

As some of you may remember, it all began with a simple enough drawing on a piece of paper back in August 2009:

Initial "paper napkin" concept for the Difftrike Project.

There are many things wrong with this drawing, but at least it was a concrete starting point. You can see how I was influenced by Jake Loniak’s excellent Silhouette, but I put in my own set of demanding requirements. It had to be foldable and fit in a small elevator along with the passenger, and also under an office desk or dining table without too much clutter. It had to fit well inside a normal bicycle lane and occupy as little space on the road as a common bicycle or motorcycle.

It had to have such a simple mechanical design that it would be at the same time cheap to manufacture and elegant (I know, the drawing is not exactly gorgeous, but then again I’m not a designer, it’s just an idea). And, of course, it had to have some other distinctive trait like the third wheel being an omni-directional sphere… 🙂

6 days after this I built a Lego concept because it was getting difficult to explain all the features in just words or pictures. So here is the result of about 9 hours of fighting against the random intricacies of Lego parts:

This looked more or less cool, but it was still just a “tadpole” trike with a crazy wheel at the back. I had to show the folding system as well…

And for some extra dose of awesomeness, it had to be super-easy to fold/unfold, in fact it had to be completely automatic…

But every idea has its problems, and the initial concept sure had a few. Right out of the bat I knew that the mechanical choices I had made were very troublesome and that this design would have to be morphed into something different in order to be safe to ride…

And this was the starting point. From here on, the cute little lego thingy got people excited about the idea. But mostly they said “it can’t be done, you’re cramming too many features into it”. Or worse, they would start making the design so complex, with robotics actuators and whatnot, that I would just give up on the whole thing.

And to make matters worse, I’ve always insisted that I’d like the whole thing to be as “cradle-to-cradle” as possible, with a preference towards the “natural nutrient” side instead of the “technical nutrient” side. Which means to me: 80% bio-degradable materials, 20% recycled (and recyclable) materials.

My mantra was, and still is to a point: “it has to be as elegantly neat as the iPhone”. Go on, roll your eyes at Yet Another Apple Plug. But that’s the truth; I’m not going to compromise on this point. It has to have a really simple and elegant frame and design, regardless of how many features it actually has. It’s like Amory Lovins says: If every component doesn’t have at least 3 different functions, your design is wrong.

We just have to keep working on it until it does what we want it to do. 😉

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Posted in: Design, DiffTrike