Decoding Design

New bike from NeilPryde, BMW DesignWorksUSA: clever design cross-pollination

Posting in Design

A sleek new bike frame is always exciting news to cycling fans. But in the case of NeilPryde's latest release, it also illustrates the beauty of applying existing design knowledge across industries.

It seemed like a curious pairing a couple of years ago: a brand known for luxury cars teaming up with a brand known for sailing and windsurfing equipment, coming together to make...bikes?

But now, two years after the first offering from BMW Group DesignworksUSA--a creative consultancy within BMW that takes on outside clients---and marine sports equipment maker NeilPryde, the collaboration continues. The two companies just announced its third line of bike frames, the Bayamo (named for a Caribbean coastal wind.) This time, the bike is aimed at time-trial cyclists.

While such an announcement is obviously exciting to bike fanatics, the details of the new product and the ongoing teamwork between the two companies also offer nice examples of how design conveys a new product's features and helps a brand (or two) stay competitive.

One challenge was to create a bike frame that would look and feel powerful yet be exceptionally lightweight. Obviously, the designers turned to a material that could provide both qualities: carbon fiber. Yet they also wanted to communicate these two aspects of the bike via its look, so they created a silhouette that "appears substantial and flat from the side yet thin and light when viewed from the front or rear," as a press release stated. Imagine viewing the bike as a competitor and realizing the advertised advantages of this frame--could such a sight be intimidating, even if it registers subconsciously?

The lines of the bike also reflect a shape that's undergone wind-tunnel testing and NeilPryde’s "computational fluid dynamic analysis," all making use of the company's historical engineering methods for windsurfing and other water- and wind-based adventure equipment, according to a press release. All gear-shifting and other cables in the Bayamo are tucked away inside the frame, to further make the cycle streamlined for good looks, yes, but more important, aerodynamic advantages. The Bayamo also includes a dropout mechanism (the slots that hold wheel axles) that lets riders position the rear wheel with very close precision.

Next year, an enhanced Bayamo+ line will be available, and will feature such additions such as what NeilPryde and BMW Group DesignworksUSA call "a proprietary QFit system." This made its debut with the earlier NeilPryde bikes and, as it has been described by cycling sites in past reviews, consists mainly of a fitted rubber clamp on the frame that helps cyclists keep track of their riding height and position easily.

The Bayamo is now available for $2,750. The Bayamo+ will be available for $5,000.

Again, while this news might seem most relevant for bike fans, for design fans it's also worth paying attention to as an example of the beauty of cross-pollination of ideas from a variety of industries. Both BMW Group DesignWorksUSA and NeilPryde benefit as brands by showing their range and ability to grow each of their businesses by branching into new, unexpected markets. Within their collaboration, they are both focusing on mining applicable, existing research in materials, industrial design experience, and testing methods, rather than invest in totally new directions. Yet they're taking design and marketing risks by doing so--calculated ones. That the partnership not only continues but also deepens is a sign that their shared approach must be paying off.

Image: BMW Group DesignWorksUSA

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Reena Jana

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Reena Jana has written for the New York Times, Wired, Harvard Business Review online, Fast Company, Architectural Record, Artforum, Time Out New York, Harper's Bazaar, and GQ. Previously, she was the innovation department editor at BusinessWeek. She holds degrees from Columbia University and Barnard College. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure