The Puma Bike is a folding bike with a difference. Also now known as the ‘Disko’, it is the result of collaboration between sports-equipment manufacturer Puma, Biomega and Vexed Generation.
What is it?
The Puma Bike is a folding bike with a difference. Also now known as the ‘Disko’, it is the result of collaboration between sports-equipment manufacturer Puma, with technical and manufacturing expertise from Jens Martin Skibsted, founder of Biomega bicycles, and design expertise from Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter, founders of Vexed Generation. The design addresses both the limited storage space typically available in urban homes and the desires for low maintenance and to reduce the threat of theft.
How our research led to new design?
In addition to being co-founder of Vexed Generation, Adam Thorpe is Creative Director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre (DACRC) at Central Saint Martins college of Art & Design, where the DACRC team had already started research stages of the Bikeoff initiative, concerned with addressing bicycle theft and bicycle security. He was able to feed specialist knowledge about crime prevention, theft techniques, bicycle user habits and how to address these, to the Puma/Biomega/Vexed team and prioritise the importance of anti-theft features being integral to the design of the bicycle.
The designers Adam Thorpe and Joe Hunter at Vexed Design (and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design) suggested a folding bike to Puma to help urban users avoid street crime.
Jens Martin Skibsted of Biomega, was invited to participate in the project and they put their creative minds together to outwit the most savvy of folding bike thieves. The resulting ‘Puma bike’ Anti-Theft Folding Bike, now known as the Disko, is one example of how creative professionals have managed to use the tools of design combined with crime prevention insights to help reduce bike theft, in this case by using “spoiling” principle (making the target of theft of less value to thieves) as a strategy.
The down tube of the aluminum frame has been replaced with a steel cable that works as a locking mechanism. It is also a structurally essential part of the frame which stops the bike from ‘splaying’ apart when it is in use. The cable is used to securely lock the bike by passing it through the wheels and parking furniture when the bike is folded for on street parking or domestic storage. The handlebars rotate and the pedals fold to further reduce the bike’s use of space when stowed. The bike is single-speed with disc brakes making it low maintenance with fewer components prone to theft.
If the cable is broken to remove the bike then the frame is left structurally unsound and prone to breakage. The missing cable is also obvious should the thief seek to resell the bike. The potential loss of value to the thief is obvious and likely to discourage any attempt of theft. An additional benefit is the reduced number of conventional locks that the cyclist may have to carry. A replacement cable and key is only available to those quoting a unique model number known only to the owner and manufacturer.
Why our design approach constitutes “social design” or “social innovation”?
Since the bike went on general sale under the Puma brand in 2005, the integration of the crime resistant features that will ‘spoil’ the bike if the locking function is destroyed, has proved not only to increase the physical security of the bicycle itself, but has also helped to bring issues of bicycle security and theft into the mainstream and consumer and creative consciousness (1) in a fashionable and desirable way. It has simultaneously proved a market success for Puma, who have been able to expand and diversify the range in response to continued consumer demand five years on (2). In parallel the bike also helps meet urban mobility and sustainability agendas, good for individual users who need a space-efficient solution to getting about town, and good for authorities who want more of us to minimize our carbon-footprint while we travel.
This collaboration, involving crime science and design expertise with manufacturing know-how and a key sports-equipment brand, exemplifies some of the benefits that can be achieved through multi-agency design-led research that is connected with industry.
Strengths of design aspect of the project?
The foldable bike offers a stylish design that reduces space occupied when stored, reduces the need to carry extra locks
and allows both wheels to be locked securely. Importantly it also promotes the value of cycle security among its users and others who see this novel design around the city.
Weaknesses of design aspect of the project?
The bike needs to be folded for the built in lock to function making short ‘lock stops’ a bit of a hassle. The saddle can end up in contact with the ground, when folded, which is not ideal for all on-street situations.
1. See reviews and creative responses, e.g.: