(Photo: Richard Masoner/Cyclelicious)
We’re getting excited for the kickoff of the Oregon Manifest on Friday. One of the marquee events in the six-week bike culture blowout is the Constructor’s Design Challenge. We’ve already written a lot about it, but today we take a look at it from a different angle. I asked one of the judges — bike industry luminary Sky Yaeger — to share her thoughts about the event.
Yaeger is a well-respected bike industry veteran, known for her marketing/product/design skills at Bianchi where she brought the archetypal Pista and Milano models to life. These days, she is the manager of Swobo’s urban bike line.
Last week, between high-powered meetings at Interbike, she was nice enough to take some time and answer questions (via email) about the upcoming Design Challenge…
“… they [the bike industry] will be looking at these bikes and we’ll see everything from blatant rip-offs to barely disguised rip-offs of them in their respective lines next year.”
— Sky Yaeger
First, tell us why you’re such a big deal in the bike industry?
Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” I have been showing up at bike shops, road races, track races, mountain bike races, cyclocross races, Taiwanese bike factories, Japanese bike factories, Italian bike factories, British bike factories, Chinese bike factories, dealer bike shows, consumer bike shows, and riding various European, American, Mexican and Asian tracks, roads and trails, for almost 40 years.
By the way, I would never say I was a big deal. I’m from Wisconsin and we are humble people.
Why do you think Oregon Manifest organizers asked you to judge the Design Challenge?
See above. I have more than 20 year designing all types of bicycles, causing them to be manufactured, bringing them to market and then selling them. Some of them were market leaders like the Bianchi Milano and the Bianchi Pista, over 11 years of single-speed mountain bikes and some of the first production cyclocross bikes.
Do you think the bike industry is lacking in events like this to push the R&D of this category (as opposed to race bikes)? If so, why?
The bike industry is slowing waking up to the potential for using bikes as transportation. Amazing as it sounds, this is the first year at Interbike where it was like a huge “DOH” when I saw all the urban bikes. The bike industry is obsessed with racing, no secret, so it is nice to see the beast committing to more practical bikes. I love racing, don’t get me wrong. If we didn’t have racing we’d only have dorky hybrid bikes to ride. I’d just like to see a tiny crumb of R&D and product development money, as well as institutional muscle, behind internal hub technology.
“I think we now have enough novel ways to open up beer bottles, so I won’t be awarding any points for that.”
Do you think the Constructor’s Design Challenge will have an impact on bike design industry-wide?
Yes, because the big guys are never first to market with anything cool, so they will be looking at these bikes and we’ll see everything from blatant rip-offs to barely disguised rip-offs of them in their respective lines next year*.
As a product manager, what will you be looking for from the bikes the builders create?
I like to see solutions to problems that I’ve never seen before. A fresh way of thinking about hauling things and integrating different technical challenges. I want to be surprised. I don’t care if they are steel or not. I don’t give a rat’s ass if they have a Brooks saddle. I’d like them not to be precious objects.
Can you share a few features of what you think every good transportation bike should have?
I think we now have enough novel ways to open up beer bottles, so I won’t be awarding any points for that.
Thanks for the interview Sky.
For more on the Constructor’s Design Challenge, visit OregonManifest.com and bookmark our Special Coverage Page for all the Oregon Manifest action.
— In a related side note, industry stalwart Electra told a Portland bike shop owner during Interbike last week that their new Ticino line, was directly inspired by what they saw at the Portland NAHBS show in 2008.