The Shape FIeld Bike is a custom-built porteur bike designed by Nick Riddle.

It was built to mimic the geometry of client Karson Shadley’s beloved 1978 Cinelli.

Custom details were made by San Francisco-area designers.

The frame was fabricated by Riddle himself.

While Honjo fenders keep backsplash in check.

While Honjo fenders keep backsplash in check.

A laser-cut name sign hangs below the bike’s top tube.

“The front rack was perhaps the most challenging as we wanted something removable, stable and yet blended in with the dominant lines on the frame,” explains Riddle.

"While I had been building for a few years, my previous work had been modifying frames, a few forks here and there, some rack pieces, or frames for myself," says the CCA professor, who works at Easton during the day.

RIddle’s latest commission came from Grant Davis, the VJ artist of Lumens.

Like the Shape FIeld Bike, it’s made to cart around as much as 80 pounds of cargo.

A Movement To Teach Young Designers To Build Experimental Bikes

Nick Riddle is teaching a young generation of industrial designers how to fabricate experimental bikes, aimed at the growing market of urban commuters.

Building a bike is an expensive and time-consuming process, traditionally reserved for devoted hobbyists and the very wealthy. But as cycling gains a stronger foothold in American cities, it’s likely that such skills will become more commonplace in design education programs. Leading the way is Nicholas Riddle, a designer at Easton and the founder of the Urban Mobility Lab at the California College of the Arts.

Since 2010, Riddle has headed up a two-course curriculum in CCA’s Industrial Design department that teaches students to design, prototype, and fabricate bikes. Students learn oxy-acetylene-brazing, the industrial welding technique traditionally used to made frames, as well as emerging fabrication methods like 3-D printing. Riddle’s co-teachers are well-known custom bike builders, like the owner of Raphael Cycles Rafi Ajl and bakfiets fabricator Matthew Feeney. Together, they are teaching a young generation of designers the tools needed to develop a better urban bike.

"I’m hoping we can evolve the bicycle further," Riddle says. "These classes are teaching fabrication techniques that will allow students to prototype new modes, and new proposals, of transportation." In particular, that means developing a more diverse set of solutions for the urban commuter. Right now, the average cyclist picks their bike from a relatively short list of off-the-shelf road and hybrid frames. Cargo bikes—aka bakfiets—are difficult to find, and often very expensive. And commissioning a custom frame is a major undertaking. At CCA, Riddle is exposing a broader range of designers to the myopic bike-building community. More designers means more ideas, and eventually, a more diverse and adaptive market. The program has already produced a range of bikes, from hemp frames to cargo bikes designed specifically for delivery people—the most under-served (and at-risk) category of urban cyclist.

Riddle’s own bikes reflect his goals at CCA. He got his start like many of his peers, building forks and frames in his spare time. Over the winter he completed his first commission, a custom cargo bike for husband-and-wife graphic design team Shape Field Office, with whom he shares a studio. The Shape Field Bike is an unusual hybrid of road and porteur frame. It was modeled after the client’s beloved 1978 Cinelli Supercorsa, adapted to carry their office’s heavy materials and books around San Francisco. Riddle designed a lugged frame that mimicked the Cinelli’s geometry, but extended the bottom tube out over the wheel to create a removable wooden cargo bed. "The front rack was perhaps the most challenging as we wanted something removable, stable and yet blended in with the dominant lines on the frame," he tells Co.Design. The frame can carry up to 80 pounds. Little details like Honjo fenders and inverse Paul breaks—not to mention the laser-cut wood signage—give the bike the air of a luxury custom build. But it’s the frame that makes it truly unique.

As his program expands, Riddle hopes that more planners and designers will investigate urban mobility within the framework of the bike. "It’s something that has a rich history, is accessible to the masses, something just about everyone had as a child and yet is this beautifully refined structure that demands attention in your craft," he explains. "Frankly, there’s no object on earth I love more."

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5 Comments

  • not richard sachs

    wow, seriously?  the "myopic bike-building community"?  designers need to realize that bicycle design is a 100-year old craft that they are approaching as an outsider.  what's really myopic is to jump into a very old craft and act like you can come up with a big innovation immediately, which of course is what designers love to do.  

  • Joshua J.

    And for ~$3500 no less. A person could buy all the equipment, parts and hire an instructor and have the thing painted for that.

  • Michael Aldridge

    I wish there was a place like this near me (Glasgow). I would sign up tomorrow!

  • Chris Steib

    I'm all for design education, but aren't there more pressing things we could be challenging and inspiring our young designers to be making? Bicycles aren't broken, they're just in vogue and top-of-mind for urban hipster designers. You really want to help people living in cities? Go build a better rat-trap, or a more space-efficient mini-fridge.

  • Peter Stanley

    Riddle can build a bike, but can he build an EXTRA BIGASS BIKE TRAILER? Can he take a bottom line ugly walmart bike and convert it into something more awesome than a stable of Ferrari?