Collaborative bicycle engineering

In addition to getting a carbon racer I have been infatuated with getting a titanium frame for an off-season bike. I was just skimming through the XACD threads at Road Bike Review and a thought occurred to me. I don’t know if this is in any way a novel idea or even feasible to implement, but I think it would be great if there was an Internet service for sharing bike design.

I’m thinking of an open-source library with technical drawings for classic road bicycle frames and even some more radical custom designs. Basically people would be able submit their designs and share their experiences once they have had designs manufactured. Maybe people could even pitch in to have custom carbon casts made or join in sponsoring a prototype getting made. Why would anybody want to do this? Obviously to get better bikes.

The problem with bicycle companies these days is that lot of times technical design changes have more to do with differentiating for marketing purposes than actual progress. Also since people buy bikes fairly rarely there is inertia in pushing for radical ideas as only safe proven designs tend to sell on the mass market. It has taken ten years or more for carbon fiber for example to finally hit the main stream. Obviously design by committee is never going to work, but I have a hunch that if there were enough participants willing to take the risk the concept would work.

Obviously in a knowledge economy not everything needs to be shared for free. I think it would be great if some frame designers earned a cult status and could get compensated either via small fees or by asking for donations. It would probably also make business sense for some of the small frame builders to share their designs. In the end the value of real hand-made frames will never be diminished by factory built copies.

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