After the mark II presentation, it was obvious that for a better product, I had to refine the handles. It was always my aim to use the design of the handles rather unrestricted of user needs. It is a risk I wanted to take to explore design as freely as possible. To achieve this, I got back to the beginning and looked at bike designs, handle designs and, of course, VW buses. The idea was to take the handles one step away from the obvious VW Bus design, but to still convey the feeling of effortless adventure. The sketches, first, were further adaptation of the prototype handles, but during the process I decided to go for something entirely new. Reason for this was also the lamination process of the handles. The idea for a better finish and stability was, to remake the wooden parts of laminated, bent wood. The process itself was difficult due to finding the right height of cut wood, where it would bend but not break. Even after milling it down to 2mm height, the ash cuts were not keeping their bent shape after one night in the jig. Only after we glued the lamination parts together and, with a lot of force, pressed them into the jig, the block of wood was keeping the curve I was aiming for. Though the complications during the process got me thinking whether the curve is really what I wanted to go for. Because of this, I went back to my sketchbook and started with a new set of ideas.
In the Mark II presentation, the vibration motor was already implemented, and therefore I knew what sizing I could play with. Still the new design had to connect to the app design in ways other than colour or icons, as the material for the handles are wood and aluminium – materials which cannot be transferred effortlessly into the digital world. Skeumorphism is of course always an option but it wouldn’t fit with the direction of friendliness, the app is going for.
Every handle sketch had their own inspiration. The sketch which I finally decided for was inspired by the CANYON bike. The line of handles like a falcon convinced me to add a little bit more adventure in the design of the handles. The material wood and aluminium will convey enough comfort, but with the new design, there is now also a new pinch of adventure. The minimalism of the design was something I was not comfortable with at first. The design and the making seemed too easy, not complex enough. The middle part was manufactured by Jason, a metal craftsman in DJCAD, while the outer wooden handles I turned with the help of Charlie Kleboe-Rogers. The more I was creating the parts, the more I started to appreciate that the dominant aspect of the handlebar is the materials. I am very proud, as this is one of the first product entirely designed by me.
The technology consists of two Arduino vibration motors, one Arduino micro, a battery and a charger. In theory, the Arduino would be powered by the bike itself. For this prototype the battery and charging element are hidden in the stem clamp itself for easy access during the degree show. I decided to leave the technology stripped down like this, to keep the focus on the vibration interaction. The GPS and the navigation parts are executed with the smartphone for now. When technology is getting even smaller, the entire calculation can be performed by the bike itself in order to save battery.