Friday, January 6

“Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick two.”

Can I ponder a little about a conundrum? It is about manufacturing a bicycle, which is strong, lightweight and cheap on the currency!

“Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick two.” This is one of the most interesting quotations that I have come across in cycle world.

One of the most common and genuine questions any novice biker will be asking is, “Which bike should I buy?”  Keith Bontrager,  a brilliant bicycle-frame builder and component designer said it simple:“Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick two."

Yes, I can pick a strong and light bicycle, and then I cannot get it cheap.  This is the reason why entry-level road bikes cost more than entry-level mountain bikes. Lots of technology goes to make aluminum tubes both light and strong.  What is more interesting is to note what balancing of priorities goes into the construction of hybrid bicycles: something between a road bike and an off-road bike! I have marveled at the way companies balance priority and build excellent road bikes and hybrids.

If my bike is light and cheap, it probably will not be strong. Many lower-end aluminum bikes go into this category.  A strong bike just does not mean that it can carry 90 Kg rider’s body weight. It means, the bike should pull much more weight and stress day-in and day-out. If the frame is light, it may flex upon tough riding, causing discomfort. Light frames are designed on a principle of sturdy platform.

If my bike is strong and cheap, it will never be light.  Well, the typical example is the doothwalla cycles of India. They are steel tube frames and they carry heavy-duty fittings. Put everything together, they will cost less than 4000 rupees. Weight is an important design factor in the construction of any modern bicycle. And the 'strong and cheap' bikes just forgets it!

The conundrum of the quotation “Strong, Light, Cheap. Pick two”  is worth musing repeatedly by any cyclist.  


Vijay said...

Interesting read indeed...a very impressive thing I have noticed about the doodhwaala cycles aka roadsters which many use to carry loads is that they are extremely resilient to abuse, when I was small and used to visit my native town(a very rural place somewhere in North India)I saw many of these roadsters go through such bad paths with their heavy loads, many of which we would happily ride as trails. Noisy but somehow efficient and worthy to their owners, waiting for these cycles was a highlight of my childhood visits to that place of yore.

just as I am said...

Thanks Vijay for the comments. Yes, doodhwaala roadsters are proven cycles. Till 1970s,they were an integral part of every working middle-class Indian family. I was carried to my LP School on one of them by a servant at home... and they never broke down!!

soorej said...

Yes Mr ABBY....
As clear from your words ,your fascination for cycles is great...Why dont you take a ride through the evolution that has happened to the Indian cycles in the last 20 years...From the doodhwalla ones to the latest....Will you not come across any which are strong..light..(i have picked these two) and taking care of your pocket? Conundrum is good...i have seen it...BUT IF YOU WERE TO GET EMOTIONALLY DETACHED FROM THAT BRAND ..which indian brand would you choose...Any Idea as u take ur ride on & on...?

Anonymous said...

Yes, this doodhwala cycles are still in demand, less in Kerala though. Even now in Bihar or for North of India, these so called doodhwala otherwise known as roadsters are given in dowry.