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Thesis Research Book: Treble

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A compilation of user and market research to direct "emotional sustainability in cycling" thesis concepts.
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Emotional Sustainability in Cycling Rebecca Goesling
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Emotional Sustainability in Cycling

Rebecca Goesling

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I will look into emotional relationships between cyclists, bikes and cycling accessories. I plan to investigate how these products can become more desirable as they age by providing greater emotional and physical value.

Research began by exploring high-end cycling culture. The users I am examining include professional cyclists, bike builders, designers, enthusiasts and cultural experts, and distributors. I initially analyzed these users’ motivations to become involved in cycling, as well as their desires to acquire and abandon certain objects within this world. This examination has encouraged me to investigate prevalent trends in purchasing, maintaining and discarding bicycles.

I will continue to research the burst of major technical innovations in the past 30 years of cycling and their effects of the culture of manufacturers and owners. I then intend to discuss specific users’ approaches to bike ownership and their emotional attachment to the objects and experiences associated with the field. From this, I hope to gain an understanding of how to shift the approach of bike ownership from a technical view to an emotional one.

In order to successfully create a product that produces a deeper relationship as it ages, I will also look into objects and processes that currently achieve this. I will then combine these design cues with emotional trends expressed by all user groups under investigation. I will take these objects or processes into their environment and view user reactions and long term effects on culture.


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Sales Distribution

Although the mass merchants claim more sales, the customer is making a greater investment in specialty store products.

Source: National Bicycle Dealers Association

Specialty Mass Outdoor Goods Sporting Goods Other

2011 Distribution in % of Market Sales 2011 Distribution in % of Money Spent

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Bicycle Distribution

Road Bike

Mountain Bike

Cross Bike

Comfort Bike

Cruiser Bike


Road and cross bikes had the greatest increase in % share of bicycle shares. Other categories stayed fairly static or declined.

Source: National Bicycle Dealers Association





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Cycling Trends

“I say their bike looks sloppy. It brings out more creativity. That’s how I like to motivate them. They want to feel like they’re a part of something.”

“The Scraper Bike Movement seeks to capture the creativity of youth living within dangerous communities. We want to ex-pand and enlighten young peoples perspective on life through fixing and painting bicycles. Our goal is to support youth entre-preneurship and cultural innovation.”

Source: originalscraperbike.blogspot.com

Scraper Bikes

Source: Scrapertown

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Experts and Enthusiasts

Garry AldermanFrame Builder, Method Bikes

Richard SachsFrame Builder, Richard Sachs Bicycles

Luke BattenEditor, Tenspeed Hero

Jeremy DunnClub Cyclist, Mudfoot

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Jeremy Dunn

“How many bikes do I have? I don’t want to say, it is probably too many. Maybe nine? I think all of my friends have at least five. Maybe more.”

I definitely need at least three: a road, cross and commuter.”

I’ll mention something about some old Merckx to a friend and week later get an email that someone in Oregon is selling theirs for cheap. And I have to get it, you know? How can I not?”


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Richard Sachs

I’ll show them - I’ll find a way to build bicycles. Not that I even had a clue what that meant - “build bi-cycles”. But to my mind, after the schlepp I made from Manhattan to Northern Vermont, if I wasn’t good enough to fix their bicycles, I’d find a way to make my own.”

I am not sure what you mean - ‘own a bike’. It’s a commodity, not unlike nearly everything we spend money on.”

They are interested in status and a quality product.”


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““ “


Luke Batten

Social media as a source is fine but content can be lacking in originality or overwhelming. I love bicycles but like any endeavor I appreciate it as a general access to life or new modes of imagining the world.”

I have no interest whatsoever in some of the snobby aspects of bike culture. I feel like it limits access. It can be a bit off putting to say the least.”

I am into a cycling world where bikes can be over the top but also function like any humble domestic object, say a toaster or a good broom.”

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“““I love building it and perfecting it. I am always trying something new.”

When I figure out the best way to construct a bike I want to move on to the next one. It isn’t that I dislike the final product, I just don’t really care about it. I finish it and want to try something new.”

Usually the client gives me some colors or a bike they saw once and fell in love with. Things like that. Then I have freedom to make anything I want out of that. I love the experimentation, I am creating something that no one has ever seen before.”


Garry Alderman

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Aimed at the novice, respected by the expert.

Experts and enthusiasts are educated enough to make intelligent choices about bike fit and design. The novice is a more likely user to seek aid, accept an untraditional design direction and still desire acceptance.

Made for you, by you.

The most important factor is to have a direct impact on the fit and appearance. Designing, building and learning about the object is an important step for all users when building a deeper relationship.

Something about being unique, right?

Enthusiasts, riders and builders alike agree that turning heads is key. In order to fit in the culture, you must stand out. This can be anything from the champion bike at the 2012 Tour de France or hot pink sparkly grip tape.

From the city streets to the country roads.

Serious riders make large investments in order to properly participate in a variety of riding styles. Anovice may need more education to justify these expenses or understand the need for different versified equipment.

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I will look into emotional relationships between new cyclists and the surrounding products as well as culture. I plan to investigate how a novice can seamlessly integrate into the world and maintain their position after assimilation. I hope to achieve this through a bike and system that can grow with the user to form a lasting bond.

Research will focus on emotional attachment to objects, physical interaction with bicycles, technical advancements to allow for maximized bicycle use, and cultural acceptance.

Research will begin by investigating bonds formed between a user and an object in order to provide a product and system that the consumer will maintain as he/she changes. I plan to use this research within the frame or accessories to encourage users to grow with a product as opposed to discarding it upon new opportunities.

I will then look into the physical interaction with the bicycle. In this exploration, I hope to find techincal advancements that can allow for maximized use to provide the user with a variety of long-lasting possibilities. This will hopefully reduce the intimidation of investing in a culture and product that is foreign to the user.

I then plan to research different situations that allow for a novice to feel welcome in an elite environment in order to encourage new users to join the cycling world. I will incorporate this research into a system that provides cyclists with a support group to learn, grow and inspire.

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Declines were across groups who rode infrequently or occasionally—or what are typically known as casual riders.”

Edmondson pointed out that Ameri-can adults who rode frequently increased 12 percent.”

-National Bicycle Dealers Association


Cycling Causes and Frequency




















Increasing segment

Decreasing segment


Occasional Occasional


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Cyclist Opportunity Group

Baby Boomers Ethnically Diverse Generation Y

Gen. Y, born between 1985 and 2004, have reached 100 million, are the most multicultural generation of Americans, embrace everything green and, according to recent studies, are driving less and are less likely and less interested in owning a car.”

Source: National Bicycle DealersAssociation

Baby boomer involvement in cycling grew by 93.8% between 2001 and 2011. This population will continue to grow for the next 20 years.

Source: National Bicycle DealersAssociation


The cycling consumer is overwhelmingly white, but that group is not growing. One way to draw Americans of different racial backgrounds is by homing in on kids and young adults.”

Source: National Bicycle DealersAssociation

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Buying Power

Population grew but the number of people with discretionary income went down or was flat,” Edmondson said. “In general, the decade from 2000 to 2010 was not good times in terms of income for most people.”

Custom bikes tend to fall around the thousands. It is far out of the price range for most consumers.”

Source: National Bicycle DealersAssociation

$150 $1500 $4500$3000


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Target User Group

Journalism undergraduate student

Commutes to school via public transportation but would prefer to ride a bike

Recently covered a women’s cycling tour and desires to learn more about the culture

Has never purchased her own bicycle

Limited funds or knowledge to purchase a bike

Claire, Novice

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User Interview

I have a lot of friends that cycle but they all tease me when I talk about bikes. I would ask them what to get but I just feel so stupid. I end up checking the internet most of the time.”

I can’t spend as much on a bike as my friends do. I can’t imagine paying that much for one thing.”

I don’t even know what style bike to get let alone the components or brand. I know what color I want, does that help?”


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Target User Group

Industrial Design undergraduate student

Commutes to school by bike but wants to begin using one for recreational purposes

Recently began building a bike with the help of an experienced builder and friend

More concerned with function than appearance or status

Limited funds to build a bike

Jon, Novice

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User Interview

Relying on friends as an info source is not the best because I always feel like its a bother and also I’m not expanding my own knowledge because I will always look to that person for answers.”

I always felt useless in attempting to fix or talk bikes cause I do not have any knowledge base and the subject didn’t concern me until I actually began to ride again after moving to the city.”

I wouldn’t actually describe myself as in the cycling world. I would commute to work and ride around town but just considered it a mode of transportation as opposed to being a part of a sub culture.”

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Target User Group

Retired photographer

Participated in semi-professional and recreational cycling in her 20s and 30s

Recently retired and hopes to begin exercising more regularly

Feels uncomfortable on her old bike with the extreme geometry

Open to spending a larger amount for a more comfortable riding experience

Gloria, Returning Cyclist

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User Interview

I was always so concerned with how I looked and I think I still am. But I am willing to let go of that “cyclist” stance to be a little more comfortable.”

I feel a little out of the loop, but I have never felt disrespected. I think people know that I understand the culture and respect what I went through.”

It has been so long since I bought a bike. I never imagined I would need a new one, my old one was so nice. And who knew how much has changed! I don’t need all these fancy things, I just need something comfortable.”

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User Difficulties

Unfortunately, the Lycra, the hel-met, the traditional recreational bike culture—most American adults don’t see themselves putting on that uniform and being part of that tribe. It’s a barrier to entry. They’re afraid if they don’t look or act the part, they shouldn’t ride bikes.”

- Edmondson

I actually caught myself wishing I had a full suspension bike, and then I blanched at the realization that I have now been transformed into a person who covets both a folding bike and a full suspension bike. I mean really, there's clearly no hope for me now, I should have just buried myself alive in those woods.”

The Problem: Exclusion

A cheaper, multi-use bike that can meet all novice user needs while not “offending” the experts. A source of information on cultural cues or trends presented in a welcoming tone as opposed to an elitist one will also help new users join the in-group.

The Cause: Bike Snobs The Solution: Happy Medium


Source: bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com

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Major Opportunities

Get Involved.

It is crucial that experts allow a space in the world of cycling for new riders. The culture is currently very elitist and is causing potential new comers to shy away from what should be a universal opportunity.

Look comfy, not cool.

Fitting to a bike is not a natural thing if you are new to the process. A system to allow the user to understand when a product fits as opposed to seeing a product mimic typical use is necessary for comfortable riding.

Start small.

Costs should stay low to allow for future change without too large of an initial investment. This will help to encourage new users break into an intimidating market.

Hit the books.

A comfortable source for information about culture, technique and building is necessary to gain a level of intimacy with the bike. The information should be easily accessable while not treating the user like an amateur.


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Bicycle Components

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Bicycle Options (Based On Initial Market Research)

Road, Look 695

Cross, Ridley X-Night

Cruiser, Schwinn Corvette

Commuter, Linus Roadster 8

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Frame Relationships

Most relationships lie at the intersections between tubing. Slight alterations in tube angles could change a frame from one style to another. The cruiser is not an applicable option when using a single frame in different styles. Road, cross and commuter bikes could potentially utilize a single frame with slight customizations.

More physical exploration will be necessary to test this possibility.Commuter


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Sexy racing bikes featured in ads and displayed in shop windows are hard to ignore. These are the bikes the professionals ride. These are usually the lightest bikes. These are often the bikes with the hot paint jobs. These are the bikes that seem to feature all the latest and greatest technological advances. If you want “the best,” you are probably going to be lusting after one of these machines. Unfortunately, top of the line racing bikes are also the ones that won’t be the best fit for most roadies.

The problem:

So, what exactly is it about racing geometry that can cause sizing/fitting issues? The root of the problem is the head tube length on many racing bikes can be too short for many cyclists. Specifically, the shorter head tube length of most of these bikes can create a situation where the saddle to handlebar drop (saddle height over handlebars) is too severe. Many will describe the sensation as being too “hunched over” the bars or too stretched out on the bike.

Source: smartcycles.com


A Shift in Bicycled Fit and Geometry

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Proper Bicycled Fit and Geometry

Be sure to ensure: you fit the bike properly, the bike provides the greatest efficiency for the rider, maximum comfort for the rider, maximum stability for the rider, maximum power transfer for the rider and maximum aerodynamics for the rider

Aspects to look for: seat height, seat fore-aft position, seat rail length, seat post clamp range-of-adjustment and length, saddle width and fit-to-rider, headset stacking height, stem length, stem rise, handlebar width, reach and drop, crankarm length, pedal, cleat and shoe selection and set-up, distribution of rider and bike weight between front and rear wheels and tire width

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Incorrect Fit Pain Points

Knee and Ankle PainBack PainShoulder PainNeck PainWrist and Elbow PainHip Pain

Source: sheldonbrown.com


Potential Fit Issues

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Comfort Over Culture

Geometry should be designed to allow for greatest emotional and physical comfort on the bike. Traditional looks should not direct the fit of a bike.

Cut It Down

Combine styles into a single bike to reduce cost and space.

Clearly, material status is an arms race you can’t win. Flip the script.”

Source: bikesnobnyc.blogspot.com

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Uses a visual experience to customize the frame. However, the extent of the customization is aesthetic. All interaction is lost, as well as gaining knowledge about bike construction.

Source: missionbicycle.com

Existing Online Aesthetic Customization Sources

Mission Bikes

Similar to Mission Bikes in providing a visual representation of customization. Provides a limited number of aesthetic, frame and component options. It also does not aid in bike education.

Source: republicbike.com

Republic Bikes

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Existing Online Bike Building Sources

Provides a limited list of frame, component and alteration options. No visual aid is given during customization, nor is any educational guide about the most appropriate fit.

Source: competitivecyclist.com

Provides predesigned kits as well as educational lectures about the perfect fit. It lacks an interactive guide to construct-ing a bike yourself or any customization options within kits.

Source: rivbike.com

Competitive Cyclist Rivendell

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Existing Print Bike Building Sources

Brief encyclopedia entries dealing with cultural, historical and technical subjects in cycling. Approachable for newcomers but not in-depth enough for full understanding.

Source: William Fotheringham

The most widely used manual for bicycle home maintenance. Very applicable for users with moderate previous knowledge, too advanced for a novice and doesn’t include many visuals.

Source: Lennard Zinn

Cyclopedia Zinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance

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Existing Custom Bike Building Shops

Hand builds steel fillet-brazed frames. Geometry customization is done to fit each client’s needs. All aesthetic decisions are made by the builder, Garry Alderman.

Source: methodbicycle.com

Hand builds steel fillet-brazed frames. Geometry and aesthet-ics are custom to fit each client’s desires. Framesets begin at $2150.00 and continue to go up from there.

Source: icarusframes.com

Method Bicycles Icarus Frames

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Major Insights


Construction guides should be interactive and visual enough to provide clear instructions. The use of numerous senses allows for a deeper comprehension and recall of the process.


The number of alterations should be limited to allow for a complete understanding. Ideally, the necessary custom options will be limited to five components.


Sharing difficulties and triumphs is an important step in growing. The opportunity to contact peers in a similar situation will provide a source of aid and inspiration.


The guide and interaction should be available in a variety of locations and sources. This could be made possible with hard copies, smart devices and stationary computers.


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Guide Inspiration

Visually demonstrates relationships between options with connections to culture, history, aesthetics and more.

Provides background information about each option. Gives clear paths to guide the user toward practical future decisions.

Type Connection

Source: typeconnection.com

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Online Visual Sources

Share images of process, experience and product on the go. Friends and peers may view the images, share advice or praise, and gain inspiration as well as knowledge.

Source: John Watson

Place images located on the internet into a compiled space. Topics are organized to provide a concentrated selection of similar photographs, making comparison and exploration easy.

Source: pinterest.com

Instagram Pinterest

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Online Feedback Sources

“1. Be positive2. Be universal in experience3. Be universal in location”

Allows readers to interact and provide feedback. Red Kite Prayer likes to position the viewer as having the last word. However, this provides a lot of space for negativity despite requests from the blog. Topics are also limited to those given by the company.

Source: redkiteprayer.com

Red Kite Prayer

Source: redkiteprayer.com

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User Interview About Direction

I don’t see myself purchasing something like that but I would definitely recommend it to some-one. It seems practical for a client that wants a more casual lifestyle.”

- Leah Hanus, Triathlete

“I don’t see why you wouldn’t just use one bike for different uses. Sometimes you just need a new experience, that’s why I have so many bikes. If it is an easy transi-tion and I would be sold.”

-Jacob Szymborski, Student

I love the idea that I am learning about it instead of just buying it. It will finally give me a reason to learn about bikes after all this time.”

-Elizabeth Dalton, Teacher

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"3D Bike Shop." Republic Bike. N.p., 2012. Web. Dec. 2012.

Alderman, Garry. Method Bicycles. Garry Alderman, 2012. Web. Aug. 2012.

Brady, Patrick. "About Us." Web log post. Red Kite Prayer. N.p., 4 June 2009. Web. Nov. 2012.

Brown, Sheldon. "Bicycling and Pain." Sheldon Brown. N.p., 2008. Web. Nov. 2012.

Carpiet, Lynette. "Long Term Trend Shows Waning of Riders in U.S." Bicycle Retailer 21.11 (2012): 13-31. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. National Bicycle Dealers Association, 1 July 2012. Web. 13 Nov. 2012.

"Competitive Cyclist - Road and Mountain Bikes, Framesets, Cycling Apparel, Road Bike and Mountain Bike Components, Cycling Ac-cessories." Competitive Cyclist. N.p., 2002. Web. Nov. 2012.

"Fit, Sizing and Position." Rivendell Bicycle Works. N.p., 1994. Web. Oct. 2012.

Fotheringham, William. Cyclopedia, It's All About The Book. UK: Yellow Jersey, 2010. Print.

Lanham, Robert. "Junglee Love. It's Driving Me Mad. It's Making Me Crazy." Bike Snob NYC. N.p., 3 Dec. 2012. Web. 3 Dec. 2012.

"A Look at the Bicycle Industry's Vital Statistics." Http://nbda.com. National Bicycle Dealers Association, 2011. Web. 20 Oct. 2012.

McCarley, Jefferson. "About Us." Mission Bikes. N.p., 2012. Web. 2012.

Scrapertown. Dir. Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari. Scrapertown. N.p., 2010. Web. Oct. 2012.

Seltzer, Aura. "Welcome to Type Connection, a Typographic Dating Game." Type Connection. N.p., n.d. Web. Sept. 2012.

Stanek, Alex. "Smartfit Bicycle Sizing System." Smart Cycles. N.p., 2004. Web. Nov. 2012.

Sutton, Ian. "Thorston Track." Icarus Frames. N.p., Nov. 2012. Web. Nov. 2012.

Zinn, Lennard. Zinn & The Art of Road Bike Maintenance. 2nd ed. Boulder: VeloPress, 2005. Print.


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