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Kinn, the iPhone of Bikes, Debuts Next Week

| Friday September 7th, 2012 | 11 Comments

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?

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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.

 


▼▼▼      11 Comments     ▼▼▼

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  • Karstan Lovorn

    A chromoly frame is sort of the opposite of a high-end technology device.

    • http://GreenSmithConsulting.com Paul Smith

      The comparison was based on design philosophy, not level of technology.

  • http://twitter.com/Gary_Fisher Gary Fisher

    No chain case, fail, crummy fall down kickstand, fail. No integrated electronics, fail. Sorry. Does not meet up with claims.

    • Alistair

      Actually, it is spec’d with a chain case (I agree it’s important); and you are right, that kickstand did fail so you get the Usrus Jumbo http://www.albabici.com/ursus/kickstands/ursus-kickstand-80.htm (with a massive 14 inch spread). Correct, no integrated electronics and I’m pretty confident that’s not the barrier to getting people to travel by bike.

      Apple ditched a keyboard their phone and got the big forum comment “fail”. But when you try it you understand why. Hope you get a chance to try one out someday, do you ride a cargo/utility bike?

    • rbrichard

      interesting that an icon of the mountain bike community has such a small minded view of someone’s effort to create a usable city bike. Come down off your mountain oh revered creator of the trail bike industry and show some compassion and wisdom in you advisory communications. People might begin to want to listen to once again.

    • Davey Oil

      Is this the real Gray Fisher? What a rude way to act on the internet, sir. I am very excited to try the Kinn, as are almost every other Pedal Parent I know.
      No honestly, why even troll like that?
      Good luck, Kinn!

  • David Hohmann

    Overblown analogy? Nice bike, it looks like a Kona MinUte at 2-3 times the price. How would a bus rack wheel chock work on this bike with the fender sticking out when the front wheel is turned backward? I don’t think it will lock onto a fender.

    Your article perpetuates several myths: 1.) That cargo bikes are slower — so therefore one would want a faster bike for urban transport riding. I know that my Surly Big Dummy is just as fast as other bikes, when I ride it unloaded to work after dropping off my son at school. And it’s great for touring around town with kids, etc. 2.) That putting one’s bike on the front of a bus is really desirable. Since I have been bike commuting the past 7 years I have done that exactly zero times. Waiting for a bus sucks. Riding a bike doesn’t.

    This bike has a nice frame geometry and the use of disc brakes is positive. The use of steel frame tubing and integrated rack is practical and fine. The 2-legged kickstand is a practical must, but not anything new. Why no chainguard?? It better not be a cheap plastic one that rubs/rattles/falls off…

    Missing but readily available on the market: Integrated dynohub CREE LED head and tail-lighting, belt drive, USB power outlet at the stem, and ability to fit a front porteur rack. The back fender is too short and needs to wrap further to keep the rider clean. Some riders would appreciate an e-assist, but I’m not among them.

    Today I rode my Jamis Coda sport, which in which I have invested $280. It has a milk crate on the rear rack. Fittings for front and rear racks, fenders, ergo cork grips and a Brooks saddle. Clearance for plenty wide tires. It’s great. Having different bikes for different purposes, still is nice sometimes.

    • http://GreenSmithConsulting.com Paul Smith

      Thanks for the thoughtful response David. I’ll let Alistair, the designer and from what I know exceptionally thorough tester of the bike answer most of these questions. He loced feedback/ideas, so im sure he’ll be glad to see it. See below re chain guard.

      Re the iPhone metaphor, I stand behind it, as like Apple, this comes into the game later than the now established players,, improving on them usefully and enjoyably (lighter frame, swivel deck,/lock box/storage, backwords rotating/locking tire, height adjustable foot pegs, etc)

      As for speed, sure a Big Dummy is fast, but a Bullit, other Bakfiets/long john style cargo bikes? And bus rack use, that’s your experience, but here in Portland, where the bike is domestically built, they’re frequently in use.

    • Alistair

      Hi David,

      Always interesting and useful for me to hear peoples initial impressions, it all goes to making a better bike – so thanks.

      As for myths, for me the point of the Kinn isn’t that it’s necessarily faster, but that it has flexibility and nimbleness a longtail cargo bike doesn’t. Just like a longtail has carrying capacity the Kinn doesn’t. You mentioned your Jamis bike, so sometimes you chose not to ride it, presumably because it does some things better than the Big Dummy.

      One example of flexibility/nimbleness is when you stop: being shorter means it’s easier to park and less likely to block the sidewalk. Plus it’s easier to take into your house (and up stair) for those who have apartments. You can fit it in most elevators (covered bike parking at my work was in the basement) or directly fit on a car-rack. Handy for the weekend trip to Grandma’s. (didn’t even mention the bus)

      As for features you’ll be glad to hear it has a dynamo option and an internal gear option and it will have a metal chain-guard standard. The guards not in the photo because I had to import them and it hadn’t arrived yet (hard to find good chain-guards in the US). It does fit a porteur rack – the fork has no less than 3 sets of rack bosses.

      Anyway I am glad you noticed the rear fender too: welcome to design dilemma #17. Longer fenders give better rear coverage BUT when you put the bike vertical (e.g. to hang on a bike hook or put on the Light Rail) it mashes the end of the fender. So I have shorter mudguards and a rubber extension (see the one on the front) and the buyer can add or remove the extension based on what’s important to them. I’d love to hear folks thoughts here.

      Finally yes the Kinn costs 2x the similar sized Kona Minute. The Big Dummy you own costs 2x the similar sized Yuba Mondo and many think it’s worth it. Personally I think all 4 of these bikes offer a great value.

      As a bonus the Kinn is made in America. Delivering a fully equipped bile under $2,000 built in the US with a fair livelihood to all involved and a good value to the customer is an aspect of the design you can’t easily see but it was probably 1/3 of the total work and many of the most satisfying experiences.

      What’s being made here worth? Well, everyone gets to decide that for themselves which is, I think, as it should be.

      Cheers, Alistair

      P.S. I tried a lot (a lot) of grips this last year and the ergo cork grips you mention are awesome. A little slice of biking joy.

      P.P.S. The feature it doesn’t have that I’d most like to add is good internal
      light wiring. Why after 100 years of bikes can’t we all turn on and off
      both front and rear lights from one switch that we can reach from where
      we sit?

  • partofthepuzzle

    @David Hohmmann
    “Waiting for a bus sucks. Riding a bike doesn’t.”

    Unless your homeward bound commute is a 60-70 min slog up *steep* hills, like mine. I can physically do it but it’s too long and too draining. Sometimes, riding a bike sucks.

    Then along comes the bus. My bike in the rack, my butt in a seat, while the bus does the heavy lifting up the hills. 15 min later and I’m dropped off with an easy 5 min ride home. Sometimes, waiting for a bus doesn’t suck at all.

    The Gary Fisher that posted here links to the real mountain bike Gary Fisher’s Twitter account.

    The GF used “fail” to critique the bike was very flippant and dismissive: seems like he no concern about how the the person who had worked his as off, designing and starting a company to make a bike might receive his comments. That kind of wise ass, detached communication style has just normalized. A lot people don’t realize how much they’ve changed their affect. The thing that bother me the most is how unconscious it is. I’m sure I’m not immune. Just bugs me when they can’t even show show any empathy or basic consideration.

    Sorry, rant over.

    • Jonathan Childers

      This is sad news – but I want to post here for the benefit of anyone currently considering a Kinn bike. I am currently 3 months past the promised delivery date for a Kinn bike that I ordered in October 2013. I was actually very excited to make the pricey $2600 order, but I have grown increasingly concerned about the ability of the company to actually deliver on the goods. My bike was finally shipped to Seattle a couple weeks ago, for assembly at our local bike shop. However, it turns out the bike is still missing critical parts that were due as part of our order. In particular, we are missing the saddle (!), spoke guards, and wiring necessary to connect the dynamo lighting. (The lights were supposed to have been pre-wired and functional upon delivery.)

      It seems that all of these issues could be readily addressed, by simply providing the needed parts (although I’ll still have to pay for our local shop to wire the supposedly pre-wired bike). But for weeks, Kinn’s owner, Alistair has refused to respond to requests for the parts and is avoiding any response to me, or any action to address the situation. I have talked to other staff from Kinn, who are kind and responsive, but unable to address the problem without Alistair’s intervention. At this point, the Kinn staff actually can not even get in touch with Alistair.

      Honestly, I do not understand what is happening – something is broken at Kinn.

      I hope to post here again, soon. To report that all has been resolved and things are once again on the up and up with this company. Until then – buyer beware. I would not order a Kinn bike until there is a clear intervention to address the current problems with production, quality assurance, and communication in this company.