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Cannondale Dutchess - the future of urban bike design?

Traditional looks with modern design touches

The future of urban bike design is something that's visited quite regularly. Normally said future is a fairly dystopian one where global warming has eradicated rain, removing the need for mudguards, and carrying things on your bike is punishable by death. Spokes have also been outlawed, as have chains. Chris Boardman is the latest high-profile pedaller [sic] of doubleplusgood 'new' bikes.

But the reality is that the bike hasn't changed much in the last 100 years because it really ain't broke as a design. Refreshing, then, to see a concept bike that's a little bit of what we like mixed with a little bit of what we'd like to see. It might even have a chain, Cannondale were tight lipped about that but we'll keep digging... we're guessing it's a belt drive.

The Cannondale Dutchess is a collaboration between the bike manufacturer and industrial design student Wytze van Mansum, from the Delft University of Technology. van Mansum's final year project was to 'explore the development and opportunities within the ever growing urban sector', and instead of coming up with some sort of flat-seated two wheeled unicycle the outcome is a very stylish but recognisably traditional roadster. Here's what Cannondale have to say about it:

"Designed for women keen to express their style amongst the fast paced and ever changing urban vibe, the Dutchess brings modern lines to the environmentally conscious whilst at the same time offering longevity and low maintenance.

"Although the clean looks may depict simplicity, the bicycle is enriched with innovation throughout. The rear fender acts as a structural part of the frame, supporting the carrier with a load of up to 50kg. The arch connects the bicycle from the handlebars to the tail light both in a visual and structural manner. As the most eye-catching and striking element it also refers to the sturdiness, comfort and ease of ride of the traditional Old Dutch bicycle.

"Loyal to the Cannondale philosophy the total weight is kept under 14kg through the integration of parts and functions. Gearing and transmission are fully enclosed, allowing the bicycle to be ridden in formal clothing and at any speed. The hub brakes are self-adjusting to compensate brake pad wear and since the brake lines are integrated into the frame, they can double act as wheel locks by folding the levers into the handlebars. Adjustable handlebars allow for different riding positions and can be folded together for easy storage or used for locking the bicycle securely to a fixed object."

The Dutchess continues some of the trends we've seen at the shows recently. Cannondale, of course, have gone to production with the On bike, which uses a chaincase as a structural member, and the Dutchess uses the rear mudguard in the same fashion. The integration of lights and cable runs into the frame for nice clean lines is also something that's worked its way into production urban bikes.

And will we see the Dutchess beneath ladies expressing their style amongst the fast paced urban vibe any time soon? Well, no. It's a rideable prototype but there are no plans to start knocking them out just yet, it's more of a vehicle to "prove certain design and technology elements that may feature on future urban bicycles", say the chaps at Cannondale.

Dave is a founding father of, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.

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