It's crazy but it's true, another year, another Design & Innovation award. And maybe this is the most satisfying one. You see, the past six months have been bittersweet. We introduced the New U.P., and it has proven really popular while the Classic U.P. has also kept its fans. So we have really nothing to complain about (you don't hear a Dutch guy say that very often, unless it's immediately followed by a complaint).
But these six months for us really stand out as the period where almost every week, some manufacturer would bring out a gravel bike with a dropped chain stay for extra tire clearance. Now, I don't complain about that either (gotcha), design is all about finding inspiration, close to home or far afield, and using that to further one's own ideas. Some like to say nothing is original, that's a bit too skeptical for me, but for sure new ideas or designs are really about taking things that already exist and put them together in a new way, a new field or a new application.
Take that dropped chainstay; that has existed on mountain bikes for a long time. The purpose was different (usually to create clearance with the front derailleur for a suspension swingarm) but the shape was there. Strangely enough, I never thought about that when designing the U.P. chainstay, so technically the MTB chain stay did not inspire the U.P. chainstay. Yet one cannot deny that they are related, like twins separated at birth and reunited thirty years later.
Or take the combination of two wheel sizes in one frame, I didn't think of that sitting in a bubble without any interaction. Those ideas have existed in different applications, and putting it together in this specific way came from my discussions with the late Steve Hed. Without Steve, I never would have participated in the Almanzo, there wouldn't have been the long drives to the venue and back to discuss everything under the sun, and I wouldn't have seen the light on 700c & 650b in one frame. Just like 10 years earlier, Steve made a rim based on the Squoval shapes of the original Cervélo R3. This is how inspiration works.
Anyway, what has made it bittersweet (ah, there's that complaint after all!) is that instead of the U.P. chainstay serving as inspiration to push an idea further, it seems to have been reinterpreted worse than the original. When the frame is not stiff enough, when the bigger tires don't fit properly, in short when people are copying the feature instead of its benefits, what's the point? That just makes everybody look bad.
Again, we like the arrival of all these gravel bikes that fit bigger tires, we even like it when people take a close look at our bikes before designing theirs (part of that is self-interest, when a design like that becomes better-known, people seek out the original anyway, so in the end it helps us sell bikes without having to do any work). Just make the effort to do it well and if possible, with some originality. (it even inspired our "Ride the original" T-shirt)
So that makes this Design & Innovation Award so nice. As they say in their report:
"The OPEN NEW U.P. is the next evolutionary step towards revolution: since its
launch two years ago, the OPEN U.P. has been considered a pioneer and it has since
become the symbol of a fast-growing bike movement. It fills the void between road
bikes and mountain bikes.
The frameset of the OPEN NEW U.P. is now 130 g lighter
and comes with some important updates to its design. One of the most important
updates is the lighter, in-house U-Turn fork, which was previously only available
with the top-of-the-range version, the U. P. P. E. R. With these changes not only
does the U.P. score some impressive style points, but also offers more riding
comfort and increased torsional stiffness to guarantee even more precise handling.
Depending on the spec, the new U. P. is the perfect companion for long road rides,
gravel adventures, cyclocross races or daily commuting battles in the urban jungle.
It’s a true “do-it-all” bike, an incredible 650B slick-tired fun-machine for any kind of
terrain. Thanks to its recent updates, the OPEN NEW U.P. is still the benchmark
against which all gravel bikes have to compete."
BTW, the 3T Superghiaia adventure dropbar you see mounted on the New U.P. in these D&IA photos won the Design & Innovation Award in the handlebar category.
So a big Thank You to the jury and most of all, a big Thank You to all of you for your support, for recognising the original, and for spreading the word on how much fun the U.P. is to ride!