The conservative standard saddles have made a breakthrough into the polo or banana seats, and these changes have been followed by a host of others, reflecting an ongoing surge of creativity in shape, covering material, color, texture and pattern.
Handlebars, formerly restricted to variations on the standard racing or touring design, are taking on new shapes with each model.
The horizons of customizing and personalizing have widened fantastically for youngsters, with the availability of new, imaginative accessories, trim, decals and spray finishes.
In short, bicycles have become exciting again, and as wide open to creative imagination as they were in the golden era of the 'Nineties" when they were the hot new product that was transforming the face of America.
As a creator of custom cars and, if I may say so, a participant in the design revolution they sparked. I found the challenge of all this opportunity irresistible. Like most American kids, my first efforts at customizing were applied to my own bike as a youngster, and I went through this a second time, helping my son and daughter do the same.
After trying some time to interest the bicycle industry in my ideas, I was able to gain the confidence of Jack Berkowitz, Phil Steller and Marvin Cohen of Stelber Industries. The Mini Miss, Yellow Bird, Mini Indie, Drag Stripper and Rogue III models of their Iverson line are the results of our collaboration.
One of our first moves was to bring the Mag Wheel to the bicycle. Designing and engineering it for the bicycle posed problems of strength, alignment, balance and styling, which we solved to create a bicycle Mag Wheel with all these characteristics at a weight gain of only one pound over the traditional wire-spoked wheel. Constructed of die-cast aluminum alloy with machined races for bearings and brakes, this wheel is rust-proof, considerably stronger than wire spoke construction, never has to be realigned from the shock of hitting a deep rut or the curb, and has a racy automotive look to which the kids recognize and respond.
My design target is a bike so speedy and exciting in appearance that it looks as if it is moving even when standing still. Our new wedge-style frame featured contoured horizontal rails plus double-monocoque construction which I have included in many of my sports cars. It adds strength and safety to the frame without changing the riding characteristics familiar to young bicyclists.
Our Spoon seat delivers comfort with basic vertical support, security under lateral thrust and, for further support and style, matching head rest on the Sissy Bar. Handlebars have to carry out the design theme of the rest of the bike, but foremost is their design for safety and comfort which are part of the same thing. I've designed Stelber's to keep the rider in a relaxed position at all times.
Nothing is more important in merchandising today than color. It is the first thing you see when you look at any product. More than anything else, color can give a feeling of youth, life, excitement and fun. What is often not considered is that it is also a very important component of design for safety; a colorful bike is a highly visible bike, alerting other bicyclists and motorists to its presence immediately. Moreover, we find youngsters are much more likely to keep bright and colorful things neat and clean. Once again, we are reminded that new, exciting, and saleable design is not in conflict with safety, utility and durability; on the contrary, they go hand in hand.
What is the owner going to do to still further customize and personalize his bike once he has it? One must never forget that the new boom in bicycles, the high-riser revolution, was launched by the youngsters themselves out of a powerful need to have a bike which somehow reflected this generation in general, and each edition of which was personal and unique to its owner. No matter how exciting the new bike is, that the industry offers him now; the need of each youngster to make his bike his very own continues. The very "personality" of our bikes today, informal, fun, irreverent invites further customizing and personalizing. In designing a line of add-on "do-it-yourself" styling products and accessories for Stelber's Saf-Tee Products Division, I have tried to fill this after-market creative necessity. This kind of activity can also be educational for the young bike owner and, to insure that he gets the most out of the time and money he puts into it. I have written a booklet which Stelber will soon make available, "Hints on Customizing Your Bike," This is a basic manual covering four styles: (1) a Racer: (2) a Super-Stock Performance Bike: (3)a Classic" and (4) a Wild One. There are specific suggestions, of course, in each category. The foundation to all of them however, is the section on safety entitled, "Danger Isn't Groovy" and the section, "Be Practical" which tells how to budget expenditure and how to tailor the project to your specific skills and limitations.
We must always remember that his bicycle is as personal and as important to a youngster as an automobile is to his father or older brother. And to an American, his personal vehicle is as much an expression of himself as are his clothes, his home, or the way he combs his hair. The more personal we can make the bicycle, both in its original design and in the opportunity to further customize it, the more important it will be to its owners.
Reprinted from American Bicyclist and Motorcyclist Magazine
© 2001 George Barris