Do I look at other people's designs?

The answer is yes. This question was asked of me by someone but I will also 'Hurry to add' that I am very careful about what I look at and how long I look at them. The reason is simply. Often times when we look at something to long or with too much interest, those images, words, etc are imprinted on what some people call our subconscious mind. These images (bikes) or words will creep out in ways we may not recognize. In our speech, writings, design, etc. Before you know it, you think you did something that was your own and creative when the truth is that because you viewed images, words, etc for too long, you are actually plagiarizing somebody else's work. This may or may not be done on purpose, but the result will be the same!

My inspiration for design never comes from other designers, but my inspiration comes form such places as the fashion industry, car care accessories, etc. Strangely enough, sometimes it comes from seeing the simplest things. For instance, I saw someone wearing one of those huge shiny, silver Rodeo belt buckles one time. You know the ones cowboys wear around and some of them seem as large a a saucer? I saw how one looked and I thought to myself "That would make a hot bicycle design!" A few days later, a design of mine I call 'Beasty' was born. Granted, those things are steel and unrealistic for what I am doing, but the inspiration was there. Another time I heard some one's name that I really liked, 'Emraphael', a few days later, a design baring the same name was born. My point is that design is all around, slow down and notice.

I read once that there was some design copying going on with a few of the major bicycle manufacturers. The way they go about it is they all pretty much get their bicycles manufactured in some of the same factories in China. If you don't know, China is the hugest copyright offender in the world. Bootlegging products is a way of life in China. Everything from music to fashion to movies, etc. I struggled to understand why anyone would really care about what the competition is doing, but what I remembered is that the reason they are concerned is because 'It is the competition!' What an epiphany right? Nevertheless, sure I am a nobody as design goes right now, sure the odds are stacked against my designs ever making it to market, but where most would see that as a position of weakness, it is actually a position of strength!

When this thing does go down, no one will ever see it coming. To wrap this all up, I do not spend much time looking at other designs because the truth is that I do not care what they are doing! What they are doing is irrelevant to me and small designers all over the world. Please do not think I am arrogant, because that isn't who I am (anymore anyway). I just realize that there is a higher plain of bicycle design that can be achieved. Not these futuristic bicycle concepts that win awards at the Taiwanese design competition every year but aren't relevant or practical for mass production (Although there was a design called Wild Buffalo that is HOOOTTTT!) A higher plain doesn't always mean more sophisticated, or more gadgets on the bike, etc. A higher plain in my mind simply means 'More relevant to the culture to which it is targeted'.


Buffalo Soldier Bicycle Corps.

African-American Soldiers that served in the United States Army in the mid to late 1800's were often called Buffalo Soldiers. They were so named by the Native Americans because of their woolly style hair and brown skin. I read a book about a year ago called 'Iron Riders'. This is a story all of America should know. 1st it highlights the black soldier's role in American Military service not even 20 years from the Emancipation Proclamation, but it also demonstrates the role black soldiers played in 'Pilot', or testing roles in military decisions at the highest levels. Iron Riders is a great ride and does have some really nice pictures from 1892.

The Army wanted to test the viability of bicycles in troop movements. Keep in mind that bicycles were a fairly new invention not even being 20 years old at the time. These soldiers were attached to the 25th Regiment based out of Fort Missoula, Montana. They rode their bikes, which weighed almost 90 pounds, plus hauled gear that had to be transported. Their journey was one of 1,900 miles from Fort Missoula to St. Louis, Missouri. There were no roads as we know them now, there were no gas stations, or any of the modern conveniences we take for granted on road trips today. These men endured harsh climates, climbed steep mountains (cycling minds, there were no 5-10- or 15 speed bikes), not to mention serving as their own mechanics on a brand new invention that they were barely trained on!!!

They did make it to St. Louis with much fanfare outside of the city. African-Americans have a rich and long history within the cycling community. Let's shout about it from the roof tops! Click on the link for a picture of the book cover and the 2nd link contains an authentic picture of one of the soldiers who made the journey.


Am I blind to the facts? ABSOLUTELY!

I recently was meditating on on strategy to push my bicycle designs to the next level, which is producing digital renderings. I remembered an email exchange I had with Richard Schwinn some months back. Richard Schwinn is the great-grandson of Ignaz Schwinn (Founder of the Schwinn Bicycle Brand), with business partner Marc Muller, purchased the Schwinn Paramount plant in Waterford, Wisconsin, where since 1980 the exclusive Paramounts were hand built. They founded Waterford Precision Cycles, which is still in operation today. As of 2003 they employed 18 workers building custom, ultra-lightweight bicycles.

I emailed him to see if he was at all interested in building my top ten design proto types. He wrote back and asked me such questions as "What is my background in the industry", you know, almost job interview questions that one expects. Anyway, I pitched my concept to him in such a way that at the end of our emailing back and forth he said "Brian, I love your imagery." He also said "I agree that the minority consumer has been disrespected with bicycle design." In an earlier post I presented my case to you all using the fashion industry as an example. There has been a huge exodus of the minority consumer from the entrenched fashion brands in the last 20 years (Levis, Jordache, DKNY, Eddie Bauer and others) to more urban lines of clothing such as PHAT FARM, Roc-A-Wear, Sean John and other clothing brands founded my minority entrepreneurs. Why? Because the entrenched brands do not produce, and can't design (or are unwilling to) clothing lines that appeal to the minority consumer!

What I told Mr. Schwinn he agreed, with "The time is coming when someone is going to be able to market an Urban Bicycle Line, incorporate that into our lifestyle, produce funked out designs (not low-riders, etc) that will freak out the 100.2 million people of color in this country. This will cause them to open up their purses and wallets and a cultural phenomenon will be born. I will hearken back to the title of this post "Am I blind to the facts, ABSOLUTELY!" The junior and youth bicycle market is vicious (Mr. Schwinn shared that with me), the odds are stacked against this becoming a reality, but hey, when are the odds not stacked against people with vision?


I Saw the funk and IT IS GOOD!

Sister Dale recently went to a festival in Boulder, Colorado. There were many vendors out there but she happened to see a few Bicycle Companies, small, but big enough to catch her eye. She brought me back their business card and I was REALLY IMPRESSED with a few of their designs. The company is called They have found a very niche design style that hearkens from the Hispanic American Culture of Low Rider Bicycle Design. There are numerous low rider style bicycle companies out there, but what set this company apart and what caught my eye was that their designs were very elegant. This is the 1st time I have ever seen such elegance in design with its' roots stemming from a culture originating from people of color.

What I am about to say, it not meant to offend anyone. That being said, every other low rider bicycle company I have seen really over do their designs. Sometimes in bicycle design, more is just that, MORE. 99.9% of the designs in this niche market I have seen are WAAAAYYY over designed. The designers have reached a point where the things they ad to the build don't offer anything more in the way of aesthetics, functionality, and certainly not the most essential element (I believe) in design and that is simplicity. Luxury Low riders don't seem to have done this (Save one design that I think is overkill). Now, these bicycles are VERY expensive and will probably never reach a mass market, but KUDOS to this company!

When Sister Dale saw these designs, a light went off in her head and she thought "Maybe my husband's designs aren't that crazy after all." I designed a 'New Age' chopper style bicycle that I call 'Hannibal' (One design in my 'Warrior Series' of bicycles) and the 1st time she saw it, she literally laughed at me! I did not take offense because sometimes when people do that, one must always remember that anytime someone sees something they can't comprehend or hasn't been done yet, people will laugh. All that being said, I continue to believe that my Urban Style designs can and will fill a vacuum in the market place. They are designed from an African-American perspective and will be priced for affordability to the masses. I just finished a sketch called 'Blingin' that I showed people. I didn't tell them I designed it as to not shade their real feelings. I just put it down in front of them and said "Tell me what you think of this". The verdict was unanimous, THEY FREAKED OUT AND WANTED ONE! To be truthful, all of my designs do not cause this type of reaction, which is understandable, I can't make a hit record every time out can I?