The Workshop

Observation: Looking back on the 2011 Collaborations

All around the country right now, small teams of builders, engineers, and designers are putting pen to paper to start sketching the designs that will grace the floor of the 2014 Oregon Manifest.  It’s now been 3 years since I pulled together a small team to begin the 9-month process of creating a bicycle that we named Faraday.  Depending on how you count, those past three years feel like either an eternity or the blink of an eye.

In 2011, we descended on Paul Sadoff’s (Rock Lobster Cycles) small shop with a set of tools rarely even imagined by the independent builder – 3D modeling and printing, CNC machining, PCB design, firmware programming.  The result was a beautiful collision of traditional craft with modern technology and design.  It wasn’t easy.  Every collaboration team I spoke with emphasized the challenges of fusing the working styles of the solo craftsman builder with the collaborative and freewheeling culture of the modern design world.  I can only imagine that with this year’s OM, the goals, and the challenges, will be even higher.

Here’s some advice for this year’s teams.  Designers; bring your builder in on the process early – make it a shared vision, not your vision.  Work hard, and prepare to work harder.  Start early, and see it through to the end. Be there in the shop late at night holding a fixture and a flashlight while your builder welds – even if you have a client deadline in the morning.  Builders; be patient with your designers, they have the best intentions. Open your mind and get excited about learning something new.  Build an electric bike for the first time.  Create something no customer has ever ordered.  Create something you think no customer ever SHOULD order.  And then be proud of it.

Don’t just build a bike, build a relationship.  We’re shipping our first 175 Faraday bicycles this spring.  Paul has been our prototype builder, a resource for design feedback, a connection to others in the industry – he nearly even welded some of our production frames.  Do it right, and you never know what will happen.  Good luck!

Adam Vollmer is the founder and CEO of Faraday Bicycles, an award-winning electric bicycle manufacturer born from the 2011 Oregon Manifest competition.  Adam is an engineer, designer, and lifelong bicycle builder, rider, racer, and advocate, who believes that exceptionally built electric bicycles will change the face of urban cycling forever.  More at @oregonadam, @faradaybikes and faradaybikes.com.