We’ve all been had. The bikes that we all ride have been severely limited in the name of international competition. Their wheels must be in fixed sizes that lack optimum efficiency. Their seats and handlebars must be angled with limiting ergonomics. Their aerodynamics can’t be improved to cut a rider through the wind.
While these standards level the playing field for athletes, they can hurt the average urban commuter who could use every advantage that modern mechanics has to offer to get to work without becoming a sweaty mess. Which is why Specialized’s Creative Director, Robert Egger, spent six months designing a concept he called Eff You See Eye (fUCI for short). It’s a bike that ignores the rules in place by the Union Cycliste Internationale standards committee, and instead imagines a bicycle constrained only by materials and imagination.
“The UCI really caters to a very small population,” Egger said during a presentation at Specialized, “but there’s so many other people out there who couldn’t care less about the UCI. They don’t follow the racing and they don’t even know all the limitations that are put on bikes for the UCI riders. So, my feeling was let’s design a bike for someone who really just wants to go fast on a road bike.”
In turn, fUCI challenges a number of conventions–most of all that both wheels need to be the same size and can’t run under motorized assistance. Instead, fUCI makes the rear wheel larger, capitalizing on the speed and efficiency of a large wheel (whereas the small front wheel appears to keep the bike manageable to ride). And to get this wheel up to speed, the bike uses an electric motor to assist with the rider with those painful first few pedals.
The larger rear wheel feeds right into the frame. While the UCI limits frame shape to that of a triangle, the fUCI becomes a wedged cut from a trapezoid, angling the rider forward in a sprinting position. Would this be a more efficient, comfortable way of riding? Maybe. (It also just looks fast.)
But maybe most stupid-simply of all, the bike features a front windshield, to offer more visibility in bad weather, and make the rider more aerodynamic. It’s just the sort of performance enhancing fuselage that’s banned by the UCI, but could make a real difference to everyday riders. this level of performance enhancement is precisely why you see a windshields or cone nose on many motorcycles. Egger, a self-admitted motorcycle enthusiast, doesn’t shy away from other upgrades that motorcycle riders will recognize, either, like a small storage trunk, built-in lights, and wheels with lightweight, performance spokes.
Of course, while Egger’s bike echoes a fairly common a protest of UCI standardization, it’s worth noting that there’s no government law prohibiting Specialized from putting this bike into production and selling it. The problem for Specialized is that UCI standards have introduced a lot of good things for the biking economy, like an interoperability in bike parts, and knowledge that any neighborhood bike shop can fix or upgrade your ride.
“. . . at the end of the day, I’m trying to make something that people just completely lust after and go ‘Oh, shit, I’m going to sell this and this and this to get this bike,’” Egger said to Specialized. “That’s our job as designers—to create products people feel they can’t live without.”
And if that’s really the case, then why not really fUCI and put this bike into production?