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A Design to Replace Old-fashioned Granny Bike?

The old-fashioned granny look of many city pedelecs on the market today, may be preventing (or at best, braking) the widespread acceptance of the product in the market. But, how should a city pedelec look to excite consumers and gain widespread acceptance? Hamburg-based product designer Michael Burger set out to answer that question in a 140-page dissertation for a degree in product design and came up with a fresh, alternative look.

Burger studied under professors Elke Mathiebe and Peter Laabs at the University of Applied Sciences in Dresden from 2004 to 2009. He focused on transportation design and specifically the design of light electric vehicles, such as pedelecs.

For his dissertation Burger relied on the input of people with many years practical experience, such as Hannes Neupert, chairman of Tanna-based test authority ExtraEnergy. He published his dissertation earlier this year.

"The antiquated appearance of the "granny bike" stands in the way of widespread acceptance of the product in the market. A fresh, modern design is needed - one which will move city dwellers who have not cycled before, to also take up cycling," wrote Burger.

Burger's design was born out of a few strongly-held personal convictions. For instance, Burger thinks the current trend towards hiding the electric parts of bikes in the design is misplaced.

"Designers should go in the other direction and confidently display the electric components, such as battery and motor. He also warns against going "too sporty" when trying to get away from the "granny look". "The everyday bike of tomorrow should not be too sporty. It should, for instance, not be fitted with full suspension, painted in trendy colors and covered with brand labels. The modern city bike should at all times be clearly distinguishable from the sports pedelec," said Burger.

Aluminium was Burger's material of choice, as was the Panasonic bottom bracket motor. "The motor and power sensor are inside the bottom bracket, which enabled me to integrate all technology compactly in the new frame design."

The dissertation and well-motivated design for a modern-day city pedelec impressed Neupert. "It's a very comprehensive and well-researched piece of work," said Neupert.

Burger also designed the test stations for ExtraEnergy's ergonomic test, and sections of the ExtraEnergy mobile test track for e-bikes, which is so popular at trade fairs and wherever it is erected for public test rides. Thanks to funding from the European Commission for the promotion of pedelecs in six EU countries, the mobile test track will become another German export product when clones are built for use in five EU countries in 2010.

The young product designer has tried his hand at more than pedelecs. For a glimpse of his portfolio, go to his website at Interested parties may contact Burger at for a digital copy of his dissertation.

Christoffel Volschenk
22 October 2009



7 - 12 September 2021, IAA, Munich, Testtrack

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