When the Oregon Manifest competition last set up shop in 2011, it brought an array of velocipede jewels to the Pacific Northwest College of Art. This year, the event will be a little less packed.
The competition's stated goal is to create the "ultimate utility bike"— a bike that might convince the skeptical masses to spurn car convenience in favor of bike convenience. And while there's a healthy debate to be had over whether a bicycle's design can do that, or whether infrastructure changes are most important (they're having that debate over on the comment thread at bikeportland.com) 2011 brought out some delightful ideas.
This time around, the competition is both much larger and much smaller in scope than 2011's outing. On the small side, organizers have drastically reduced the number of bikes: just five compared to more than 30 last time around. Those five projects will be crafted by a curated selection of design firms and frame builders from five cities—an invitation-only format that appears to have rankled some folks who'd like to see a wider array of ideas and view this new format as "selling out." (Again, comments).
But the stakes are somewhat higher this time around, too. Most impressively, the bike with the most votes will actually be produced, in limited numbers, by Fuji. And the organizers are tapping Portland's ample supply of regional pride and mid-sized-city insecurity. Portland's team—made up of folks from Industry and Ti Cycles—are up against similar unions from San Francisco, Seattle, New York and Chicago.
"This is a battle of pride, not just design," says a website for the competition.
It's not completely clear how the organizers arrived at the five-team format (Minneapolis, Denver/Boulder, and others could also field strong efforts). Contest staffers are out of the office, and so couldn't respond to my questions.
The bikes will be unveiled at simultaneous events in all five cities on July 25, with a winner decided (via online votes) in early August. And even though I'm playing into organizers' hands, I want Portland to dominate the field.
Here: A video made during the 2011 competition will give you a better idea what this is all about (though there's no road test this year). After the jump.