A BMX stem is one of the winners in I.D. Magazine's annual design review issue; online retailer Chain Reaction Cycles has pedalled off with Northern Ireland's top e-commerce gong; and the iXi bike has been awarded bronze in the US Industrial Design Excellence Awards, sponsored by Business Week, with a gold place for a concept trike-to-bike that's meant to help children learn to balance in stages.

Awards galore for bicycle businesses

The judges in the Industrial Design Excellence Awards may not be aware of the simple, hobby-horse style German-made bikes that can help children master balancing on two wheels. The wooden Like-a-bike is not a 3-D rendered computer model that has zero chance of commercial success so probably wouldn’t sit well in design competitions.

However, the SHIFT ‘bicycle’, a concept machine living in the computer memory of academics at Purdue University in the US looks great in PowerPoint presentations and seems, to non-cyclists, such a brilliant way of teaching children to balance that it wins awards. First it won this year’s International Bicycle Design Competition at the Taipei trade show, often a kiss of death for any product hoping to be commercialised. At least it was a bicycle of sorts: most of the recent winners of this competition which attracts hundreds of Wacky-Races entries from around the world have been 3D-modelled push-scooters.

According to the blurb, SHIFT, when it’s a real product and not just a shiny computer graphic, will help "children learn how to ride a bike by gradually teaching them how to balance on their own. With this concept, designers wanted to evolve beyond traditional training wheels, which only serve to prevent a bike from tipping. SHIFT provides more balance at lower speeds when stability is most critical (starting and stopping). As the child builds forward momentum, the bike’s dual rear wheels shift inward, thus causing the balance to gradually shift from the bicycle to the child. Designers also wanted the bike’s appearance to help build self-confidence. The look evokes nothing of the generally perceived childish training wheels."

Now the SHIFT has won gold in the Design Explorations category of IDEA’s awards, a competition sponsored and promoted by Business Week.

In the same competition, the fully-commercial, already-selling iXi belt-drive bicycle won a bronze in the consumer products category. Apple’s iPod shuffle won gold in this category.

iXi is the brainchild of Madison co-founder Errol Drew, who moved to the US in the 1980s and founded Delta, a US bike parts distribution company. Drew likens the iXi bike to the design aesthetics of the iPod.

According to IDEA, the goal of iXi was "to design a bicycle that would be visually appealing and user friendly in the manner of other modern consumer durables. It should appeal to sophisticated consumers who might not normally venture into a traditional bike store. At the same time, the bike should function in a way that people can easily integrate into their daily lives, be extremely easy to use, not only for riding, but when not in motion. The Drive Belt system is entirely maintenance free, requiring no tensioning or lubrication. Media attention following the launch of the bike dramatically raised the company’s profile resulting in easier sales and renewed attention for the entire product line within industry."

Another product that is already selling in the marketplace and is Odyssey’s Elementary BMX stem. This has been awarded with a "Design Distinction" prize in the Equipment Category of I.D. Magazine’s 2005 Annual Design Review issue, on sale in the US now.

The stem was one of 150 winners that was recognised from a field of approximately 2000 submissions, and shares the pages with entries from Nike, Apple (again), adidas, BMW, and Burton Snowboards.

I.D.’s Annual Design Review has been going since 1954.

E-commerce awards are mere babies in comparison. That won’t bother Chain Reaction Cycles of Ballyclare, Co. Antrim. CRC won both the eCommerce category and the Web Award at the 2005 Goldeneye eBusiness Awards, sponsored by BT and organised by Business Eye magazine of Northern Ireland.

"Chain Reaction Cycles sells bike components and equipment online to customers in more than 80 countries," said the awards blurb.

"The firm makes use of some of the most advanced web technology around, has a multi-language site, and also employs a team of 45 in Ballyclare."

Michael Cowan, sales manager at chainreactioncycles.com, said: "The ecommerce establishment couldn’t believe that a ‘bike shop’ won."

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