canyon - shapING the future

designer talk

Cities are changing, that is a fact, and new visions of urban spaces are being laid out. But for real transformation to occur there needs to be a catalyst – a driving force that ensures the next few decades result in more than just a few minor tweaks. For the metropolis of the future to thrive, there must be a meaningful push to improve the daily life of urban dwellers. As one of the bike industry’s leading innovators Canyon has already had a substantial impact on the world of cycling and contributing to the idea for where the future of urban transit is heading towards and making leaps.

Canyon is working constantly on their Future Mobility Concept, that is not just a vision for the future of urban mobility, it lays the groundwork for the German brand’s path forward. The futuristic vehicle represents the potential expansion of Canyon’s new “City & Trekking” portfolio. In order to create better mobility for the world of tomorrow, Canyon wishes to create bicycles and forward-thinking concepts that enable urban dwellers to seamlessly move between roads and bike infrastructure alike. Vehicles with space to transport children or larger luggage that also offer protection from the elements. Vehicles that are - above all else - sustainable, clean and future-oriented. That is what the Canyon Future Mobility Concept represents: A vision for the city of the future.

Spotlight on PRECEDE:ON

Recently we had a chat with Alexander​ Forst and Fedja Delic, both product designers at the Canyon HQ, to get some insights on the design process and routine.

I wanted to start talking about the Precede:ON. How long did it take to design this bike and where do you actually start as a designer?

Fedja Delic: Well, it’s a bit difficult to summarize this period exactly. We started with a completely different bike. In the beginning, we were told we were doing an aluminum bike, the usual first choice of popular e-bikes. During the process, we changed the parameters quite often. But you could say that the bikes take about two years in development from the very first CAD drawing to the actual production stage.

Take integration, for example... that’s going to be our theme and we’re going to slam everything into it. And to really be able to do this full integration, carbon was actually already the answer, because in aluminum it would simply be far too complex and actually not feasible... especially if you look at the cockpit and how elaborately it is made. The cockpit was the most complex component of the entire Precede, so at some point the question of which material to use was quickly answered.

And carbon is easier to form in order to integrate all the cables, I suppose?

Fedja Delic: You simply have much more freedom. You don’t have to rely so much on molding tools. A special tool is made for each series and size. And therefore you simply have much more flexibility.

And how do you get started? You draw and then it’s probably transfered into a computer program?

Fedja Delic: Exactly. So, with us, the special thing is that the engineer and the designer sit next to each other. And that means with us there’s not really this clear demarcation. ‘We’ is actually the wholeness. It’s a ping-pong game. Of course you start with a drawing, Alex and I also really like to draw and everyone has their own preferences. We start that way because then we’re a little freer and we’re not so guided by the program. As soon as you add a program to it, you’re kind of trapped in this universe of the program that you design something in the way of the program suggests that you actually didn’t want to. We really start on paper and that’s super fun, too. And at some point you discuss the result with the engineer. Then we get the first requirements and, of course, the premisses from product management. Then we have to install the brakes and then life as a designer gets harder and harder and more and more is added. And then we start building the whole thing in CAD. Then we usually get an estimate of the technical components from the engineer, which we then get in the CAD service. And then we start to build our first CAD model and draw our surfaces...

Alexander​ Forst: I’d say the pencil still is the extended arm of the head... and therefore drawing is of course essential.

And where is the biggest attraction? Is it still possible to revolutionize a bicycle shape? It’s always this triangle that is the basis, isn’t it?

Alexander​ Forst: What we have is of course our students’ final thesis, which always gives a bit of an outlook on what you could do. And the approach is actually how the touching points between the human and the machine are occupied, i.e. the ergonomic grip points or the sitting position or the pedal position and what you do in between, is of course free in principle. You can design it however you want.  But it is of course subject to the structure, the stability. Since the structure also determines the shape, you have to find a good compromise. Nevertheless, the unbeaten stability form is the diamond (rhombus). But the geometry has changed a lot, for example, due to the compression spring, especially in mountain bikes.

There will always be deviations and approximations to old or new concepts. 

The Precede:ON already appears as a very homogeneous unit and actually is almost reminiscent of a motorcycle in terms of dimensions. Do you think it will become more and more homogeneous? Electromobility and the two-wheeler in general?

Fedja Delic: Yes, at some point it will be difficult to distinguish between them. What is the difference between an e-bike and an electric motorcycle? I believe that this whole product range is also moving in our direction and that motorcycles are becoming more and more delicate and lighter. I think we meet somewhere in the middle. But I personally don’t think that’s a bad thing, because it’s exactly the right development. Why should e-bikes look the way they do now? Well, I think the cool thing about it is that new structures are emerging. Currently, as we have all said, the frame is the constructive element of the bicycle. Unlike in automotive design, we don’t have any large surfaces where we mill and place the chassis. And that’s why I think this whole development with the e-bike is really cool, because we simply get more surface area through the larger volumes - because of the larger volumes (battery packs, motor, etc.) that are created all at once that also results in new shapes all at once. You have to deal with it differently and that’s exciting. For example, how big do you make the tires? How much comfort is useful - if now the frame looks totally fragile and then you have such thick tires, of course that also looks strange, so it should be somehow homogeneous.

Speaking for the Precede:ON it looks very successful, my compliments… and yes, one more quick question: the Pedelec also implements such a legal template by government law. What do you think of these specifications and the throttling to 25 km/h?

Fedja Delic: Well, I think you can see very well in Holland and Denmark that you can work without throttling and that it’s just evolving that way. I see it as a complete obstacle. Why should I not be allowed to ride a bicycle on all bicycle paths? And the other way around, if it is then the other way around why is it not allowed to ride the normal street? One obstructs oneself from many opportunities.

Alexander​ Forst: Agreed. There are many initiatives, also in Germany I think, there are 10 model cities that go to 30 km/h and that is actually the speed that people can handle well. But this 25 km/h doesn’t make sense to me personally. 30 km/h would be good to swim along in the car traffic to not have the high risk of getting hit. There would actually have to be an alignment and the engines can definitely do much more, the range wouldn’t drop essentially now either. So it would actually be a good way to homogenize different mobility concepts. 

I’m sure there’s a hack for your bike, right?

Alexander​ Forst: Well, in the past, in the first generation of e-bikes, that was probably no problem at all. But now I think you have to dig deeper into the software, certainly you can find someone. But I couldn’t. Tuning was really quite problem-free in the past. But it is then driving without a license. So you have to be careful.


Thank you very much for the insights.