Michelin Project -

Designing a Commuter Bicycle

How can we enhance the commuter cyclist experience? Where does Michelin’s Tweel Technology fit in the commuter’s world? We were asked to research commuter bicycling and develop a design a bicycle that would utilize their Tweel Technology.

I developed this project with Abigail Maeder, Jae Hyuk Kim, and Angela Kim.

My personal role included leading design research, conducted interviews, field studies, survey design, affinity mapping, survey analysis, personas/user Identification, insight generation, design recommendations.

Initial Research

This project kicked off by generating foundational research questions through stakeholder interviews.

Initial Research Questions:​

  • How do cyclists interact with other commuters?

  • What technology is prominent in the market?

  • Why do people decide to use a bike to commute?

  • What is the process of commuting with a bicycle?

  • What challenges do bicycle commuters face?

  • How can we create a better commuting experience?

  • How can Michelin's Tweel Technology be implemented on a bicycle?

  • What are the advantages of this technology in the commuter world?

  • What would it take for people to adopt a Tweel over a conventional pneumatic tire? 

Michelin Tweel

Our market research in stores allowed us to explore products on the market and identify competitive feature sets. We learned more about maintenance of the system, emerging technology in the field, and made contacts with experts to continue conversations.

The intent of our field study was to better understand the context of bicycle commuting. Through direct contextual observation we would be able to identify external factors influencing the commute, user behaviors, and the general demographic.

We identified several major bicycle commuting paths in the city of Atlanta. We observed traffic patterns and noted the busiest times according to google maps data. Our field studies and observations were organized into an AEIOU, documented, and coded.

We rented bicycles and met volunteers before their morning commute and walked through their process from preparation all the way to their arrival at the office for work. By experiencing the commute first hand with a commuter we were able to empathize and understand first hand the struggles of being a bicycle commuter. 

We identified a general process when a user chooses to commute:

Personas

Adventurous Abby 

Abby is a young businesswoman in her first job. She bikes to work in the city but will detour her route if there is a new cafe, park, or library that's nearby. Abby values her freedom and ability to explore the world around her for her personal enjoyment. She views her commute as an opportunity for adventure.

Values: Flexibility, Spontaneity, Freedom, Exploring New Routes

Better Betty

Betty is an active health guru who commutes on her bicycle everyday. She has tried and tested dozens of routes in search of the perfect route for her needs. Sometimes these routes are the fastest, easiest, have the most incline, give her the best workout. Betty is constantly looking for a better route, however what she determines is "better" may differ from others.

Values: Efficiency, Improvement, Looking For Better Routes

Consistent Carl

Carl is a middle-aged school teacher who rides his bicycle on a short commute daily. He has his route planned and continues the path regardless of the situation because it is predictable and he is familiar with the terrain. Carl seeks comfort and reliability from his commuting platform.

Values: Consistency, Predictability, Reliability, Taking The Same Route

Dashing Danny

Danny, a father of two, just wants to get home from a long day of work and get his kids ready for soccer practice. He will take whatever route or mode of transport that gets him home the fastest. Danny views his commute as wasted time better spent elsewhere and seeks to minimize that time spent.

Values: Speed, Agility, Taking The Fastest Route

Based on our user interviews we began to formulate various hypotheses based on the qualitative data. We designed a mass survey that would sort users into two main groups of cyclist commuters and non-cyclist commuters to better understand the relationship between the two. The 175 participant responses allowed us to compare results with previous research methods such as observations, interviews, and personal experience to distill insights that have tangible evidence supporting them.

Cyclists Identify Their Commuter Types

Chose Multiple Types

Chose One Type

Non-Cyclists Identify Their Commuter Types

Chose Multiple Types

Chose One Type

Cyclists Commuter Type Breakdown

Non-Cyclists Commuter Type Breakdown

Although the cyclists only barely held the majority of identifying multiple types, the direct contrast of non-cyclists only having 20% identifying multiple types indicates a discrepancy in the perception of the two. This suggests that our users find more flexibility in bicycles compared to other methods of transportation. After speaking about this in detail with several users, we found this to be the case among them. How can we encourage users to utilize this versatility? How can we design a better experience for all commuter types?

According to our interviews and survey data, bike commuting has a general perception of going short distances. There is a gap between the perceptions of bike riding from general public and advanced cyclists. How can we bridge that gap and provide a better experience for novice cyclists and encourage commuting via bicycle?

Cyclists Commute Distances

When driving, how safe do you feel the cyclists are on the road are?

How safe do you feel as a cyclist on the road?

When people ride their bikes on the road they feel relatively safe, but when they are driving they view cyclists as unsafe. This shows the general responsibility of the cyclist's safety is shifted to drivers. It shows that there is a gap of miscommunication between drivers and cyclists. What can we do to return that shift in responsibility back to the cyclist? How can we close the miscommunication gap between cyclists and drivers?

Based on all of our research efforts we made an affinity map of possible topics and findings. By organizing and categorizing these key points, we identified specific topics to begin discovering insights that we could directly relate to our users and the design of a commuter bicycle that meets their needs.

Insights and Design Recommendations

Insights

Bicycles are utilized as a more versatile transportation method among commuters, although the general perception is the opposite.

The perception of  surveyed users is bicycle commuters have short ( <1 mile ) commutes. 83% of bicycle commuters surveyed commute more than a mile one way, 37% commute more than 5 miles one way. 

Cyclists hold drivers responsible for their safety rather than themselves. There is miscommunication between drivers and cyclists.

Cyclists are more likely to change their commuting style or adopt multiple styles compared to commuters who use other transportation methods.

Cyclists feel their cargo is more secure when it is linked to them, either by touch (backpack) or in their vision (front storage).

Experienced cyclists require versatility and novice cyclists require intuitive interactions

People find the existing Tweel design jarring and will likely not adopt the technology as it is now.

Design Recommendations

Feature set based off of the 4 commuter types identified. 

E-assist to ease and encourage the users with long commutes. Reduces the chance of over perspiration before arriving to work.

Adaptable storage that can be attached wherever the user desires.

Encourage versatility by allowing users to choose features on a dynamic platform.

Traditional double diamond frame design to aid and encourage novice cyclists.

Redesign of the Michelin Tweel to reflect more familiar bicycle wheels.

User Side

Product Side

Once we had a firm understanding of who our user groups are and have data to support our observed user needs we were able to begin mapping to a value opportunity canvas to translate our research data to a physical product. Through the value opportunity canvas we could clearly map user needs, wants, and fears to help us generate product features that would directly address these.

Impact

Flux is a versatile and dynamic commuting bike platform that evolves with the user’s personality and commuting styles. More than just a transportation method, Flux offers the benefit of not only a flexible commute but also a playful and exciting experience. 

The Bicycle designed can be found here: Flux Commuter Bicycle Design

We delivered a full scale physical prototype, an exhibition style set-up, detailed research that highlights user centered views of Michelin’s Tweel technology and possible applications in the commuter bicycle market.

Flux went on to be a 2018 International Design Excellence Award Finalist and receive a Bronze Chairman’s Choice Award at Georgia Tech.

A big thanks to our client Michelin and my project team!

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