Friday, June 8, 2018

Look Ma' - No Seat Tube!

There's nothing on a bike that's more pointless than the seat-tube. Am I right? I mean, if bicycles have an equivalent to a vestigial organ, it's the seat-tube on a diamond frame. And that's why any time "innovators" and designers want to create a "futuristic" looking bicycle, the seat-tube is often one of the first things they ditch. Besides - it's called a "diamond" frame - not a "two-triangles" frame.

One of the most iconic bikes on point would have to be the Trek Y-Foil of 1998-1999. Remember these things?

The negative of "famous" is "infamous." Notice that they're not exactly opposites. In other words, famous but for all the wrong reasons. Like Churchill was Famous, but Hitler was Infamous. If the word "Iconic" worked the same way, would the Y-Foil be Iniconic? There must be some way to say "iconic for notorious reasons" in one word. But I'm digressing.
Oddly enough, Y-Foils still have some kind of cult following. And as if this weren't goofy enough, they made a mountain bike version, too. Fans of the bike claim that the Y-Foil went away after such a brief run because the design was not approved by the UCI. If that were true, why did the MTB version go away too? Can't people just admit it was a fugly bad idea?

One of the latest on this no-seat-tube trend comes from the German company Urwahn, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter for its "unique" commuter bike.

Not only does this look-ma'-no-seat-tube bike represent the latest in futuristic design, but it's another bike billed as the "ultimate commuter" which might actually be OK if you work at home. Like most other "ultimate commuters" I've seen, it doesn't look like it would be comfortable or practical for any ride longer than a short hop down to the coffee shop. The website claims it can take full coverage fenders and a rack, but I'm just not seein' that.

Another relatively recent entry into the no-seat-tube club comes from AOI.Cycle:

With its laid back geometry, the AOI is like some kind of oxymoronic "future cruiser."

Cervelo has their P5X Triathlon bike, which I mentioned in this blog back in 2016:

The seat-tube-free design means there's more space for little cubbies and compartments for storing "hydration" formulas, goo packets, and maybe tools. But the real benefit is that it lets them brag that they're thumbing their noses at those ogres at the UCI and all their pesky regulations - which have never had an impact on triathlon bikes, or on most of the bikes made for non-professional-racing consumers for that matter. Remember what I said about the Y-Foil.

Here's a seat-tube-free design rendered in laminated wood from the German company Aceteam. It's also an e-bike.
Back in 2015 I called attention to the Viks Urban Cycle - an engineering-defying styling exercise from Estonia. Unlike many other styling exercises, however, you can actually buy the Viks. They have another version that looks almost the same except that it also foregoes seat stays. It's worth pointing out that the one-piece bars/fork make it impossible to make any adjustments for better fit or comfort - and apparently such frivolities as brakes are not really compatible with the design. Oh - you can get brakes, but according to the website: "All these are extras. Bike with extras is more complex to make, which in turn means extra fee. Don’t hesitate to ask us the prices."

Yep - the seat-tube's days are numbered. And good riddance, right? Just think how much those things are holding us back. Here's to the future!


  1. These 'ultimate commuters' never seem to have derailleurs or internal gears either. Of course all cities are as flat as Regina, (couldn't resist) or Miami.

  2. A commuter bike for those who work from home. I'll have to remember that line--a good one!

  3. Things that hold up the glutemus maximus, Dursley Pedersen had a cunning plan and a number of tubes !

  4. The frame was made of 14 separate narrow diameter tubing rods, joined in 57 places, making 21 triangles throughout the bicycle. Bit different to these ultimate commuters. Then again it was also at the opposite end of the comfort spectrum.

  5. You're kidding right? The basic two-triangle truss structure has yet to be improved upon. Stress analysis of all the 'futuristic' designs shown reveal bending moments which would require heavy tube construction to keep from flexing and collapsing. A double-triangle frame design will have almost pure compressive and tensile loads only. Thus allowing the thinnest wall butted tubing to keep weight down.
    What we have in these futuristic designs is pure marketing. I guess I am more retro and grouchier than you. :-)

  6. Don't forget Softride:

  7. The "ultimate" commuter? I think now of Duane Thomas. Just before taking part in the Super Bowl, a reporter asked him, "How does it feel to be playing in the ultimate game?" His response: "If it's the ultimate game, how come they're playing it again next year?"

    As for the Trek: Whenever I see a red-white-and-blue Trek from that era, in my mind, I hear someone pleading, "Say it ain't so, Lance!"

  8. These designs are like the "high couture" dresses: a design exercise made to look outrageously different. Real-world practicality is unimportant.

  9. Hmmm. Is there an older safety bicycle with a missing seat tube then John Starley's Rover?