Denny is a bike that aims to eliminate (or at least lessen) the hassles of biking. Hills are conquered with an electric assist, and greasy chain-and-derailleur setups are replaced with a belt drive and an automatic shifter. The front basket — a must for urban commuters – isn’t a basket at all, but a parcel shelf cantilevered over the front wheel, making steering stable with loads up to 50 pounds. Lights? Integrated and sensor-activated. Turn signals? Activated with the flick of a finger. Even the hassle of bike locks disappears, thanks to an ingenious handlebar that doubles as a beefy bar lock. And yes, this bike can even charge your phone as you pedal.
Denny is the winner of the Bike Design Contest, held annually by the nonprofit Oregon Manifest with the goal of creating a bike that encourages non-riders to consider biking as transport. Five design teams from five cities participate, the winner is decided by popular vote, and the bike goes into production. Bike manufacturer Fuji will be the company putting the Denny on the road, making at least 100 units as part of its agreement with Oregon Manifest.
Teague is a firm with 70 years in transportation design, much of it in commercial aviation – but they’ve never built a bike. That outsider’s perspective may have been what makes the bike so special. “Denny is unique in that it is a culmination of fresh solutions from a design team that doesn’t come straight from the bike industry,” says Mark Vanek, project manager at Fuji. “A great deal of the design elements come purely from the viewpoint of the end user and how they would want a modern urban bike to work.”
But the issue with production is always compromise. Vanek estimates that the Taylor Sizemore-built prototype, with its “extensive CNC and 3D-printed frame joints, ultra-light lithium batteries, dedicated neopixel LED lighting and some creatively-programmed shifting electronics” easily surpasses the $10,000 mark. And that pricing is not going to convert non-bikers into bikers.
Teague creative director Roger Jackson is aware of the realities of converting a dream into a product; he is working with Fuji to see that the end result fulfills the bike’s mission. “Fuji has received a great response to the bike so the plan is definitely to produce a model as close to the fully loaded prototype as possible,” he says. “In our early discussions with Fuji we’ve discussed the possibility of two production models, one with the e-assist and one without, because not everyone will need that assist and that bike has a lot to offer beyond that.”
That makes sense to Vanek: “The goal is to offer customers the core features of the bike, with unique lighting, security, and cargo-carrying solutions. With this we hope to have an opening price as close to $1,000 as possible. A higher-spec version would provide additional drivetrain and usage innovations at a higher cost.”
Nothing is assured, but the response from the public makes Teague’s Jackson optimistic for the Denny that will launch in 2015. Fuji, says Vanek, is optimistic as well: “We certainly feel that this will become an integral member of our transportation line.”
While the number of Dennys in the bike lanes will be one measure of success, it’s the number of new bikers riding them that will make the biggest difference.
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