It’s the dark time of the year, and I have piles, so riding my bike(s) is out for the moment. Instead, I have been working on a design for a friend for a semi-recumbent folding trike. This is a tough one, with a lot of tinkering involved, but what struck me was the simple validity of Mike Burrows’ design philosophy when building recumbents (and any bicycle, by extension) that the best way forward was the FRT, or Fat Round Tube. His simple designs use a single large, ROUND tube as the basis of the construction. It is stiff, strong and lightweight. What made me think was the huge number of bikes you see out and about which choose not to use this design. Any other shape of tubing simply doesn’t work as well, and yet major manufacturers are constantly telling us that their new, super expensive, frame design is superior to everything else because it has non-round tubing in this section or that section. We are expected to believe that this non-round shape will give a stiffer, sharper performance, or alternatively, a smoother, more comfortable ride. This, they cannot do. Bizarre tube shapes are no more than a marketing trick. The sales people force the designers to come up with something different, so they have to tinker with the tube shapes. They can, of course, get away with it to a degree, by limiting their tinkering to the seatstays and the top tube, neither of which take a huge amount of load during normal cycling. In this way, the reduction in performance caused by the non-optimal tube shape is minimised, and the sales and marketing people can come up with some fancy name for it (like “Edge Technology”), and flog it for exuberant prices. The daft thing is we keep falling for it!
Keep it real – keep it round!