The Cardboard Bike: Breaking Traditional Material Conceptions.

You know what gets me excited? Projects like this one that break our usual paradigms, reshaping the way we think about a particular problem space:

Anyone who’s done some industrial design or materials science will tell you that strength is a relative thing. There’s a whole bunch of materials that are “stronger than steel” but that trait usually only applies to a particular trait that the supposed better material excels at. Cardboard, whilst not being able to boast anything strength gains over steel, has the rather awesome advantage of being cheap, light and almost limitlessly available. Constructing durable, reusable products out of it is something that I haven’t really seen done before and a cardboard bike shows that it can be a very capable material when you carefully engineer around its shortcomings.

Honestly when I first heard about this idea I was pretty sceptical. I figured that it was probably some kind of one off (which it is, currently) that wouldn’t work outside some very specific conditions. From the video though it’s quite clear that the bike is quite capable of replacing a regular fix speed bike without too many troubles. The next steps would be to include gears to make it a bit more usable, but for a first prototype of a production design its pretty spectacular.

The kicker of all this is just how cheap such bicycles could be. Whilst I doubt that the $90 price could be hit with all the work being done by hand I could very easily see something that’s being factory produced hitting that target. Gafni’s idea then that the bike would be “too cheap to steal” is an intriguing one as the black market for such an item would be incredibly low. I mean would by one second hand for $30 when the new one could be had for $60? I think not and crack fiends around the world aren’t going to work that hard to sell something like that when a GPS worth an order of magnitude more is just one window away.

Everything about this project is exciting to me. The radical use of materials, the incredible amount of engineering and the wider social impacts that such an invention could have. Should these eventually become available you can be assured that one will make it into my home, just because of the ideals it represents.

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