In this video, Charles Leadbeater talks at conference on collaborative creativity, in which he uses the creation of the mountain bike. Mountain bikes did not come from a big bike corporation or from a lone tinkerer, but from a community of young enthusiasts who got together to ride their “klunkers” down the hills of Marin County in California.
Consumers created a whole new category of bikes because the mainstream bike industry was not motivated to innovate and invent something that is now 65% of the bike market.
Occasionally I’ll see something truly interesting from the big bike and component companies, but usually innovation tends to be more evolutionary than revolutionary – more gears, new frame materials and geometries, lighter components and so forth, but a lot of this innovation seems to be driven more by increasing sales rather than creating something truly new, fun or useful.
Even among amatuer enthusiasts, a lot of innovation is rejected by the larger world of bike geeks because we’re all so conservative. I’m a dyed in the wool jersey roadie, and I finally got around to trying a mountain bike for the first time three years ago. There’s not a lot of cross fertilization between mountain bikers, road cyclists, and utility cyclists. My short time riding technical singletrack has improved my road and street cycling skills significantly, and I think we could see some interesting things come about if different disciplines got together.
Part of the reason I love going to events such as Maker Faire is because I can look over the fence and meet the people who don’t know the rules and see what kind of crazy stuff they come up with. Twenty years ago I might have sneered because We Just Don’t Do Things That Way, but today I try to be much more open minded and see the possibilities.
One of my favorite blogs is Bicycle Design because James tends to cover some of the far out and the impractical that design students create.
What do you think of the state of cycling? Do you see anything truly interesting and new in the near future?
Props to Paul in Denver for that interesting video.