I’ve been on a frame material kick lately and came across this concept bike that is being pushed into production. As an avid rider, whenever I think of the perfect frame I think of something light, strong, slightly flexible and durable (doesn’t break easily on impact). Steel is a good fit for these qualities and has sufficed for me in many of the bikes that I have ridden over the years. Carbon has its place and aluminum has done a good job at proving that it has a (rather large) spot in the frame industry.
But what happens when something truly unique comes along? The picture that you see above is the new Clarity Bike designed by designaffairs STUDIO. It’s a bike frame made completely from plastic. The original polymer was developed for military use and has some surprisingly good specifications for a bike application. Impact strength is continually mentioned first on their blog. I find this interesting as a first mention instead of strength. They are not the same thing! This is a critical point for a frame material. In fact, reading through the post, I don’t see any mention of strength. Impact strength in bike frame materials is a good specification to have highly rated. No one wants a cracked frame.
They mention that it is ultra lightweight, but they don’t really give any hard numbers, instead merely mentioning that it has a lower density than polycarbonate or acrylic. Acrylic is less dense than polycarbonate (33 versus 34 lbs/cubic foot), so this new material is in the low thirties. Steel is around 150 which makes this material nearly 5 times less dense than steel. Not bad! Keep in mind that this frame is injection molded, however, and the volume of the material in the frame is going to be higher because the tubing will be solid compared to the hollow, extruded tubing you’re used to in bikes. If a bike were made of this material at some point in the future, you shouldn’t expect it to be 5 times less weight.
designaffairs STUDIO mentions that the material has a ‘gentle flexibility’ to it and this is something that I appreciate as a regular commuter. I need my bike frame to give a bit rolling over the road.
The cooler aspect of the potential of this material is the fact that you can just injection mold it. This opens up a surprising range of design options for frame designers. You can start integrating components into the frame or you can start adding modular systems to the bike to give it more functionality. Aerodynamics would be easy to just design into the frame and wouldn’t create a difficult manufacturing process.
I think it is cool to see companies pushing the envelope with new materials and would be excited to see something like this make it to market. If you’re still digging the idea, check out the picture below. You can see the wall cracks continue through the frame. Neat!