Next Wednesday, Apple is widely expected to debut the iPhone 5. As always, it will surely cause a reaction and send other companies scurrying to catch up (or figure out how to generate a similar level of fever pitch for their products).
A few days later, an unassuming bike will quietly debut at Fiets of Parenthood in Portland, Oregon that bears striking resemblance to Apple’s product design thinking. As in when the first iPhone debuted, it will simply meet a previously unarticulated desire in people, raising expectations of what’s possible.
How can a bike be like an iPhone?
When it combines features in a way not previously seen, meeting needs in a simple, well designed, intuitive, uniquely satisfying way. Though other devices on a rudimentary level combined being a phone, computer and music player previous to the iPhone, none did it with such elegance as Apple. Apple has a knack for delivering on all three vectors of product design simultaneously: useful, usable, and desirable. Nearly everybody leans towards one or two of these, but is lacking in the others.
The Cascade Flyer by Kinn Bikes aims for, and in my opinion succeeds on this front. How? Simply put, it’s a cargo bike that can exist peaceably in the rest of your life, deftly serving multiple purposes. Or as they put it, “The new Kinn has a double mission: be big enough for family and small enough for you.”
Some context: Cargo bikes, touted for their ability to carry enormous amounts of things, like your kids, your groceries, your band gear, your house, don’t make sense in most urban environments. At 12-18” longer than a standard bike and quite a bit heavier, they frequently don’t fit in elevators, definitely not on bus bike racks, and require a suburban amount of ground floor space to store, or must be left outdoors.
People can and do address this by getting a conventional bike and adding a trailer, panniers, and numerous other attachments as needed. But the reality is that extra few minutes installing/uninstalling these add-ons frequently ends up being a barrier that results in the bike staying home a disproportionate amount of time.
Beyond that, what if you just want to go for a longer ride, sans cargo or kids? Many end up getting a second city/road/commuter bike for this purpose.
Kinn achieves its hybrid status via some brilliant touches: It starts out as just 6” longer than your average bike, then the front wheel can shave 4 more inches by rotating backwards, locking in place for easy transport, onto a bus rack, up stairs, into an elevator.
It skips the need for a thick, heavily reinforced frame via careful design touches that create what Kinn designer Alistair Williamson calls, “an elegant interdependence,” the result being an exceptionally light bike.
The Swivel Deck is the clincher that will draw many to this bike: Rated at 130 lbs capacity but proven to carry nearly triple that, two thirds of it rotates, enabling wider, larger things to be carried. Or it can be quickly removed, a Yepp child seat installed/uninstalled in under a minute. The final third of the deck is definitely an Appleish touch, meeting an unexpressed and quickly essential need: Under a discreet brass circle is a key hole that reveals a handsome cork lined storage space, perfect for the small details you pick up along the course of your day.
Unexpected delights and diverse utility mixed into a single object. Sound familiar?
Readers: What’s your thoughts on the new Kinn? Any ways it could improve? Would you buy such a ride?
Paul Smith is a sustainable business innovator, global trend tracker, the founder of GreenSmith Consulting, and has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He creates interest in, conversations about, and business for green (and greening) companies, via social media marketing.