One-of-a-kind concept bike breaks formal design rules in favor of innovation
"FUCI" bike by Specialized has lithium battery, brake lights, windshield, smartphone sync
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Once in a while, it feels good to break a few rules.
Like when Robert Egger, creative director of bike-maker Specialized, wanted to make a faster road bike. He simply ignored the design rules of the most powerful international bicycle governing body on the planet.
Then, he not only ignored the Union Cycliste Internationale – aka UCI – Egger called his bike FUCI.
And you can probably guess what the “F” means. “FUCI … stands for f*** the UCI,” explained Chris Hu, Specialized research and development engineer, with a smile.
It’s all done with tongue placed firmly in cheek, Egger said, making the point that rules aren’t always meant to be followed.
The UCI oversees races such as the Tour de France. It has the final say in the design of bicycles allowed to compete in those races and is highly influential in the design of non-racing bikes.
“I’ve always felt we need to break out of that box in a very fun and decisive way,” said Egger.
Future of Adventure
The orange and white bike aims to push the limits of possibility – sort of like how Detroit’s concept cars developed innovations decades before they became common place in America’s automobiles.
It also may reveal glimpses of bike tech that we might enjoy in the near future.
Here are some of FUCI’s highlights:
Big wheel, small wheel
It’s the first thing you notice about this bike: The back wheel is bigger than the front wheel. That’s a big no-no. UCI rules call for both wheels of all bikes to be of equal size. FUCI’s big wheel – which measures almost 3 feet in diameter – stores energy and allows the bike to maintain speed. The big wheel takes more effort to get moving from a stop, so the bike includes a tiny motor to help the rider with that.
Atlanta amateur road bicyclist Craig Heyl took a look at CNN’s video of the bike. He said he appreciates that Specialized is pushing the limits of creative design and technology. But he wonders about the bike’s drivetrain. “The multi cog cassette and derailleur systems is 1800s bike technology,” Heyl posted on the Facebook group page named “Team Hack & Wheeze.” “Obviously it works, but there are alternatives. Why the old school drivetrain on a revolutionary bike?”
Another “Team Hack & Wheeze” member, Tom Morley, questioned how well the bike would steer. “A bike’s handling is a very sensitive function of the various angles in the frame,” Morley posted. “It looks like a really steep steering angle, which would create a ‘twitchy’ or ‘responsive’ steering that would be unappealing for many.” Not only is Morley an amateur bicyclist who rides an average of about 100 miles a week, he’s also a mathematician. “It’s a function of the steering tube angle (head tube angle) and trail,” Morley pointed out.
Headlights, brake lights
If you’re gonna ride on the road, why would the rules ban having headlights and brake lights on your bike? It’s a safety issue. This bike’s brake lights are located inside the seat. They’re visible from the rear through tiny holes in the seat’s backside.
Does this thing come with a power source? Yes. Brake lights, headlights and the other electric goodies on the bike are powered by a lightweight lithium battery charged by a bike stand. The stand has an option for a solar panel mount if you want to go off-grid.
The rider’s smartphone acts as the bike’s brain and navigation system. Plug a smartphone into the niche between the bike’s handlebars, and it operates the bike’s headlights and brake lights. It also monitors the tires for proper pressure.
The rider uses an app to program bike routes and can use real-time data to adjust his or her route to avoid traffic. Also, the phone electronically disables the bike when it’s not in use, to help prevent FUCI from being ripped off.
“I don’t want my bike connected or controlled by my phone,” Heyl wrote. “When the phone battery dies, do I just now pull over? Or when I crash, now my phone is wrecked too! Yikes.”
You need a place to put your stuff. This bike has one: a handy little compartment inside the seat. Another cool feature: The trunk door is magnetically latched.
“I might dump in there whatever was in my jersey pockets,” Morley wrote, “a mini-tool, tire levers and an extra tube.”
The UCI prohibits “Any device, added or blended into the structure … which has the effect of decreasing, resistance to air penetration … such as a protective screen,” according to its rules. So, FUCI’s super aerodynamic, streamlined windshield ain’t kosher. But it is stylish.
“Actually it would be good for sprinting,” Morley wrote. “How aero is it? A wind tunnel can tell. I can’t. But the big obstruction on a bike is the person, and you have to be quite ‘tucked in’ to be behind the windshield.”
The windshield also looks like it might help keep the bugs out of your teeth.
Egger and his team must have enjoyed the freedom of designing and building this bike. It’s proof that once in a blue moon, breaking the rules just feels like the right thing to do.