Tuesday, November 04, 2008

13 Personal Genetics Kit, Unicycle Riding Robot, My Entry For The Commuter Bike Design Competition & More....

Its been a while since I have brought some good cross-pollination, so here are some interesting stories for this week to delve into. I also call them cycling 'shorts'. No stink, and no charge, ok?

1. 23&ME PERSONAL GENOME SERVICE : I'm an avid reader of the Time Magazine. For those who didn't hear, the publication has named the 23&Me Personal Genome Service as 2008 Invention of the Year.

This is a revolutionary product that brings personal genotyping to the masses. 23andMe is dedicated to helping individuals understand their own genetic information through DNA analysis technologies and web-based interactive tools. 23andMe analyzes your DNA using a genotyping chip. The chip used is an Illumina HumanHap550+ Genotyping BeadChip . 23andMe has also added a customized set of SNPs to the chip. The company's Personal Genome Service informs customers how markers in their genomes affect their propensity for over 90 health conditions and inherited traits, traces customers' genetic roots back to the origin of the human species, and allows customers to compare their genomes to those of family and friends who are also 23andMe participants.

Here's my curiosity : Can this tool be used to answer the question whether a person has the genetic potential and talent to be a competitive athlete close to pro ranking? That goes even for top rank cycling. No seriously, if you found out that you didn't have the genes to be up there at the cream level, you would be better off not working your butt off trying, correct? And could this be used by coaches to identify cycling talent at a young age, by looking at a person's athletic genome map?

What do you think? Scary technology or does it have potential?

2. MURATA GIRL THE UNICYCLING ROBOT : ForJapanese tech loving people.. finally, Murata Manufacturing has a female compatriot for the Murata Boy! See its features here.

But think about it. While these robots may have taken years of R&D to produce tiny baby steps on a bicycle, they still cannot approach the learning capacities and control mechanisms of the human brain.

The title of this design may sound misleading since it isn't something you eat, drink or dope with.

The Ohm device targets cyclists, relying on magnets and a dynamo to store up power which can be used to power up your portable electronics including cell phones and MP3 players. Ohm magnets are hooked up to bicycle wheel spokes, where the N42 neodymium magnets offer an optimal balance of durability and magnet strength (see Neodymium). As the user cycles, the wheel spokes will turn and start inducing current in the Ohm which is subsequently stored in an internal 1200 mAh lithium ion battery. Once you've arrived at your destination, the Ohm can be removed and used to juice up your exhausted gadget. It takes around an hour of cycling to fully charge a cell phone.

Learn more about how it works here, through its designer Xavier Unwin. More and more of these personal energy devices are appearing in the market. If you'll remember, I had a post a while back on the Kurt Kinetic 911 energy storing trainer system.

4. CYCLOCOMPUTER CAN'T COMPUTE HIGH SPEEDS : This video shows how your bicycle speedometer is useless close to and beyond 99mph (hardly a matter of concern since you'll never reach those speeds in your lifetime riding)

5. BUYING STOCK IN SCHWINN? This is for all you budding investors. Would buying stock in Schwinn or other bicycle companies who appear to be doing well in the financial crisis be a wise decision? Find out, and comment here.


Here's the interesting website of possibly the only side mounting bicycle pedal in the world. I'm very interested to know whether Pasadena Bicycle Manufacturing still exists today. And what about this pedal? I certainly haven't seen any in the market. Does any one have any info to share with us?

7. MY ENTRY TO "COMMUTER BICYCLE FOR THE MASSES" COMPETITION : Bicycle Design has a commuter bike design competition up. While I think that there can be further innovative design ideas to make cycling safer and more fun, for something like a bicycle - I don't think there can be ONE "Perfect" bicycle design that will fit everyone's satisfaction. Its kind of like saying, design one perfect car for everyone. That stuff didn't happen, and won't.

Perfection is highly individual. It is a biased idea. To make everyone's preference be the same model of bicycle, you need to change their mindset, or brainwash them. I think this will be a good juncture to point out that I'd not only design the bike, but will also design the perfect commuter so they can stop whining!

But yes, you can always build a better mousetrap, why not?

So James, here is my contribution to the design challenge.

My "blue ocean" design philosophy is pretty educative in nature : "First teach the new bicycle rider about what he or she needs in a bicycle through an involving exercise."

Just think about the number of other advantages and simplicity this "ground breaking" design affords (no pun intended).

1) Top notch aerodynamics
2) Full body workout for ass, abs and tree trunk triceps
3) No need of brakes or absurdly heavy steel tubing to make an overall lighter design, which ultimately translates to higher power to weight ratio since the denominator in that ratio is now 25 pounds lighter. No need of fenders too, since the rider is now fending for himself.
4) Dynamic wheelbase feature makes adjusting possible on front and rear contact points for a more tighter or comfortable ride

5) Adaptive stiffness - Flexy when you're relaxed, rigid when you're having a stiff neck.

6) Low center of gravity for drag reduction and cornering efficiency

7) Additional rear thrust possible during a bad stomach day

8) Excellent cooling offered by splashing dirt water on body, or when launched in the air by road bump

9) Custom design? Oh hell yeah, this is as custom as it can get!!

10) All the above features will make the vast "blue ocean" of non-cyclists better appreciate a bicycle design suited for them. For instance, the rider in this case can go home and evaluate exactly where they had muscle aches and body sores to help choose a suitable and equivalent mechanical component to do the same job (instead of them)

Okay Cannondale. Now hurry up and ship me my prize.

8. MYTH BUSTERS PROVE DRAFTING ADVANTAGES : Stupidity aside, here's some known facts. Drafting saves you energy and its not a myth. Well, The Mythbusters also went ahead and proved it in one of their episodes on Discovery Channel.

Remember this scene from the movie Breaking Away?

The Mythbusters did the same thing, validating the physical advantages to bicycle drafting by monitoring a heartbeat sensor. With all the cool instrumentation these guys can come up with, I'm surprised there wasn't a single power meter around! Powertap & SRM, you guys need to seriously bring your prices down!

9. CYCLIST'S ZODIAC : Do you know yours?

10. That's all for now folks. I'll be BACH but don't forget your chillout tune for this week!


  1. ...(1)- sure, cool, why not ???...but a good researcher/coach most still remember that nothing determines like determination...

    ...(2)- w/ the combination of japanese robot technology & amazingly detailed & lifelike japanese latex sex dolls i've seen (at many thousands of dollars & isn't the internet full of wondrous things to see ???), i predict someday the twain shall meet & then, hey, no more asian hookers w/ sushi breath...

    ...(3)- energy recovery & miniature solar cells along w/ their requisite storage systems oughta be powering more of our small electronic devices...

    ...(4)- re: cyclocomputers...high speeds & worry ???...not so much...

    ...(5)- re: schwinn...owning a piece of american cycling history can't be too bad...unless you're betting the farm, n'est pas ???...

    ...(6)- i was in a big discussion about these pedals at velocitynation.com (?) last year...don't think they ever got off the ground but other than a tremendously huge side load on those big bearings, i still think the idea is sound in regards to pedaling efficiency...& yes, there was an english company who had a similar interesting system also...

    ...(7)- snerk !!!...whoops, i mean, ah, splendid design & why, i'm sure it's a good & practical solution, sir...

    ...(8)- hard to believe that this was even contested...seems basic but then again some folks think humans roamed around w/ dinosaurs, like, 5 thousand years ago...

    ...(9)- cycling zodiac ???...hmmm...i little bit of each, i'd say...

    ...(10)- shhhhh !!!...i'm listening here...

  2. Anonymous7:58 AM

    Hey Ron .... GREAT STUFF
    I read your blog most days,
    and it's informative AND fun.
    Keep up the great work, Mark.

  3. Isn't it funny that a magazine like Time would come up with best inventions of the year well before the year ends? Are they following the Chinese calender?

  4. BGW : About the SMp pedals, you're right about side loading on the bearings. Since those loads are not radial anymore, I'm not sure roller bearings will suit the application, unless you want to wear them off fast. I'm not sure what their bearing design is.

  5. Example of side loaded bearing failure (from a go kart). Perhaps tapered would be the best way to go then?

  6. The guy who designed those pedals is an eccentric dude who runs a bike shop near Old Town Pasadena called Open Road. It's on the same lot as Foes Racing, and it's one of the stranger shops you'll ever visit. Stop buy if you're in the area, or just make a call. I can tell you from personal experience that he'd be happy to discuss his design with you.

    I read a review of the pedals a couple of years ago--I think it was in ROAD magazine. My understanding was that the pedals were great until it was time to get out. No problem if you were coming to a stop voluntarily, but extremely dangerous if you were crashing.

  7. Thanks Faceless. Very informative there. I would be extremely pleased to know more about the design, and how their shop is doing. There seems to be an apparent design flaw, and I would like to call that out. Perhaps we could work with them to straighten their issues.

  8. Anonymous4:56 PM

    Ron you've got Mark Sanders reading your blog. I'm actually impressed!

  9. Anonymous5:32 PM

    When you're building a bike or anything for that matter from the ground up, you can question every little issue and think about it in other ways. I think the commuter bike competition is great!

  10. "I don't think there can be ONE "Perfect" bicycle design that will fit everyone's satisfaction."

    Don't sell yourself short Ron. I think your design has potential to be the biggest thing in individual transport since the Segway (and just as practical too).

    Seriously though, I don't think anyone thinks that there is one magic design or idea that can get everyone riding. The idea behind the competition is just to get people thinking. I am looking forward to seeing some of the ideas.

  11. Absolutely James. You know I was just pulling your leg.

    However, it is a fact of life. Philosophically, there is no perfect design. No design is without is adamant critics and well as ardent admirers, and you always get two opposite views from these two. Because every design must satisfy competing objectives, there has to be compromising among, if not complete exclusion of, some of those objectives, in order to meet what are considered the most important of them. This is what we call optimizing and trading off.

    Every major patent you can look up is an "improvement" over a competing or old design (better mousetrap...just look up the patent titles). Improvement comes because nothing is perfect.

    And to look at it in another way, every design is simply decision making or choice, that someone somewhere thought up. Decision comes from humans. Now guess why they aren't perfect :)

    So if you meant an absolute perfect commuter bike that will suit everyone, you probably meant something that can satisfy everyone's tastes, not the fact that it is truly perfect. Again, I hold my view that a single bicycle won't be without its critics.

    Sorry for wasting time on this issue, but it wasn't trivial. I think if cost were never an issue in designing something, there'd be something near to perfect.

    Anyway, what I'm most concerned about is that these ideas you receive in your email are not just conceptual art work, but something that has the nuts and bolts to actually work.

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