Collaboration Spotlight: Simple bicycle Company (Oscar Camarena / Kris Wehage)

What inspired you to collaborate for the Constructor’s Design Challenge competition?

Just the lack of the experience – we had joked around after the first one about “We should do it next year.” Then we found out there wasn’t going to be one last year, so we decided we really should do it this time. We’re just a small shop – we wanted to get a voice out there that we do more than just dirt jumpers. We wanted to showcase the company.

How far along are you in the design process?

We’re completely done with the design; we just finished the locking mechanism, which was the trickiest part. I’ll start the frame this week (8/8) and be ready to paint on Monday. We designed everything in Solidworks, which was pretty easy. The locking mechanism was the hardest – we didn’t want to anything off-the-shelf.

The design criteria are aimed at inspiring new solutions and flexibility – how is this influencing your thinking? Are you taking it back to square one?

We worked from the existing standard. We saw a lot of other people’s work, and – I don’t want to say we improved on their bikes… we just made them easier. We went to what we liked from a lot of different companies and collaborated to put them all into one bike.

The competition stresses fresh and modern – how will that affect aesthetic decisions?

It did for us. We know lots of what has come into the show in the past was traditional; we wanted to bring a lot of stuff into it – nothing off-the-shelf. We tried making it as modern as possible, technology-wise. And I think we did it.

What does true flexibility in a modern utility bike mean to you?

To us it mostly meant IS – international standard – so that you could take it to Mexico, or The Netherlands, and never have an issue with buying a part. And anything I need to carry should be able to be strapped onto the racks we built. And, of course, you should be able to ride this bike anywhere.

At its heart this is a competition – how do you feel about the competitive aspect? Will it drive innovation?

(Laughs) That’s the only reason we did it! Win or lose, we’re happy with what we created, but the competition is why we entered. We’re form and function guys; I see a lot of beautiful bikes, but in reality a bike is a tool, and that’s how we have to look at it.

With bikes, innovation seems to be incremental – shaving weight, finessing shifting – but this competition is asking for BIG innovation – do you think that’s possible?

Yeah, I think so. It’s like brakes – going to post-mounting is becoming a standard. But it is hard to re-invent the wheel. It comes down to the big noticeable things people are doing. There are modern things you can do to a bike, with new technology. It’s hard, though.

In a way, indie builders are the R&D lab for the cycling industry for utility bikes. Where do see yourself and Oregon Manifest fitting into this innovation?

I don’t see that very often – the last time was probably the 29er wheel, to be honest. That and sliding dropouts, maybe. I’ve seen it happen, but I don’t see it of late. I have seen some fads come and go – where indie builders have come up with a fad and the big companies jump on it.

What about collaborating on this design challenge is the most interesting/challenging/rewarding?

Just working with Kris. He’s a very bright engineer. I went to design school; I’m an industrial designer. He does function, and I make it beautiful. Both of us can work on one piece – that’s cool. We’re able to communicate well with each other; it’s easy to work together. He sees things differently than I do, and I see differently than he does – we jell when we work together. It’s pretty neat.