At Pensa, every design, engineering, or invention challenge, no matter the scale, begins with all members of the team diving headfirst into our new subject matter. There is no way to skip this step. We need to be informed, understand the specific nuances of the world in which our solutions will live, and build genuine passion for the subject matter. In the case of the Bike Design Project, our team was overflowing with passion from the first minute. A majority of our Pensa team commutes by bike. To say we were excited and honored to be a part of this effort would be putting it mildly.
But our passion and excitement grew exponentially upon meeting and deciding to collaborate with our partner, Thomas Callahan of Horse Cycles. Our first meeting took place in his shop, a maker’s dream clubhouse. In addition to his custom bicycle operation, Callahan’s Brooklyn space is filled with other projects, from custom surfboards (yes, we do surf out here on the East Coast) to heritage motorcycles, to his work on his ever growing line of bespoke products for his company Horse Brand Co. In this way, the Horse Cycles space reminded us a bit of our own “think tank” space at Pensa. We both feel it’s important to have room to experiment and make new ideas into reality away from our day to day work.
While we consider the bikes from Horse Cycles to be works of art, overflowing with considered and refined details, what we love most is that they are designed to be ridden, and ridden hard. This was some of the focus of our initial brainstorming. Let’s build a bike to ride. Biking in Brooklyn and New York City is its own beast. People move fast here. People have somewhere to be and are singularly focused on getting there. Although this may seem obvious, it was important for us to identify that the ideal Brooklyn urban utility bike would need to be an extension of this rider and his or her needs.
As with any new project, we all approached this effort with assumptions. We felt that our initial role as Pensa, the design firm, would be to stay big-picture, push the limits, and question everything, ideally leading to a unique and compelling bike that answers the needs of the Brooklyn rider in a whole new way. We felt that our builder would provide, amongst other things, creativity, experience, expertise, amazing skill and craft, and the ability to tell us when we were going too far. As is always the case, our assumptions were a bit off.
Callahan is a big thinker, willing to push the limits of everything he has done in the past. His openness and excitement to learn and incorporate our process in our initial meetings has made it feel as though we had all been working together for quite some time. And from our side, witnessing Callahan’s process has been extremely valuable as well. As a team of makers and tinkerers, we believe in getting our hands dirty. Prototype, fail, learn, rinse, and repeat. But, it has been immensely inspiring to see Callahan’s rapid-fire approach that quickly goes from sketch to weld and back again.
Here at the start of our project together, New York has been alternating between bitter cold and snow cover. These are hardly ideal biking conditions, but they have served as a good reminder that we are designing for the real needs of a rider in our city. It’s not all sunshine and wide bike lanes separated from traffic. Weather here is an issue. Storage and theft are very real concerns. How will our solution address all of these needs? We have some thoughts and we are very excited to make them a reality. Stay tuned.