The Bicycle Design Centre were featured on RTE 1s new show ‘Big Life Fix’ on Wednesday night (March 18th at 9.35pm).
Ireland’s only Bicycle Frame Manufacturing company were given a unique task by a brand new RTÉ series, Big Life Fix, that challenges a group of leading designers, engineers, computer programmers and technology experts to create inventions that will transform people’s lives. Filmed over the course of a full year, the group uses cutting edge science and technology to build practical solutions for those who need their help.
BDC were committed to the project after meeting Kevin, a farmer from Roscommon that had lost both his legs in an accident.
Filming at Bicycle Design Centre:
Kevin visited the workshop for an initial consultation, after a lengthy chat we carried out a series of measurements and rigorous Testing to see if it was remotely possible to put his ideas into reality.
My initial thoughts were that as a double amputee above the knee, he didn’t have enough to be able to successfully ride a two wheeled bicycle.
Kevin was measured with our professional FitKit Systems Measuring Tools, and using our Licenced BikeCad Design Software we transferred his Design to our Sizer Cycle for Rider Testing.
From the Sizer Cycle we were able to determine a possible prototype bike frame and components to suit.
We decided to use a mix of Dedacciai & Columbus Tubing on the frame (The same tubing we use for our Lightweight Professional Race Bikes).
Over the next few months we hand-built a prototype frame for Kevin to test at Irelands Premier Race Track (Sundrive Velodrome) in Dublin.
Why Did We Chose Custom Steel:
In recent years we have seen major advances in Steel tubing. Custom Built Steel frames can now be built almost as light as the lightest carbon frame. This was especially important with Kevin’s Frame, we needed it to be totally custom, with every one of the Eight Tubes shaped for Kevin’s unique position. This was not possible with Carbon.
Sundrive Velodrome Prototype Test:
The Prototype frame tested with Kevin at Sundrive added more questions than answers, Yes he could balance on a two wheeled bike.. but only for a couple of seconds.
Kevin was unable to complete a pedalling circle, and we had the further issue of needing his shoes to be clipped to the pedals, but with none of the existing shoe and cleat systems able to be adapted for his unique riding needs.
The project was in doubt, and after our team came up with possible solutions to his pedal needs, we decided to bring Kevin back to Bicycle Design Centre to reassess his frame and bike position.
Bicycle Design Centre Testing:
A further visit to the workshop gave us a clear direction.
Away from the pressure of the Velodrome, Pedalling circles, Crank Lengths etc. – Kevin could indeed balance on two wheels for as long as he wanted.
Kevin was determined to ride a bike, and we were in turn determined not to let him down.
A complete redesign of the Prototype saw us with an even shorter frame, a lower Bottom Bracket height, and a lower Top Tube. I decided to add a small motor to the Cranks to allow for a smooth pedalling circle when he needed it .
At Bicycle Design Centre we are used to making one off custom bikes, but this was the first time we had to throw all we know about frame-building out the window for a completely unique bicycle.
Sports Campus – Launch Day:
The final design and complete bike was launched at the National Sports Campus in Dublin, with us only finishing the build close to midnight on the night before.
This was a first for everyone, the first time Kevin saw the finished bike, and more importantly the first time he would have to master the use of Balance, our new Pedal System, and an optional Motor all at once.
After a nervous start from all of us, Kevin was flying around the Track, this was an emotional finish seeing everything come together at the final hour. The determination from a man that only a few months earlier had to be held to balance for a few seconds was inspirational.
Made with the support of Science Foundation Ireland, this series marries real problems and human drama with science, proving that with a little bit of ingenuity – nothing is impossible.
About Brendan Whelan:
Brendan has been involved in the Irish Cycling scene for over 35 years – In that time he has been a Rider, A Coach and Manager at Elite National team level. A multi National Medalist & Champion, he continued to race at the highest domestic A1 Level until he was 45 years of age.
Multiple Irish National Medalist & Champion on both Road & Track
Women’s ‘Irish National Team’ Manager 2002 to 2005
‘Women’s Commission of Cycling Ireland’ Team Manager 2017 to Present.
Owner & Manager Arcane Cycling Team – Multiple Irish Champions & Medallists (Men & Women) all riding our Irish made Arcane Bikes.
Notable Arcane Bike Owners:
Martyn Irvine – World Champion Cyclist
“The bikes been around Europe, to Guadeloupe, Mexico and back. I can recommend a bike from Brendan. If you have a unique position or a need for a certain bike setup he can help. I’m delighted to support a local Irish company and I’m delighted that they have supported me”.
Darragh Zaidan: Current Irish Track Champion (Multiple National Medallist / Irish International).
Riding on Arcane Bikes (Road & Track since 2015).
Róisín Kennedy – Elite Former Irish International / Multi National & Provincial Medallist.
Riding on Arcane Bikes (Road & Track since 2014).
Women’s Cycling Ireland – Eight Women of the fifteen selected to race at the International Omnium at Manchester in January were racing on our Arcane Track Bikes, handbuilt in our Naas workshop.
Our Most Successful Bike (Arcane Number 23)
Elite Competition 2015 to 2020. One of the last frames built in our old Kildare Town Workshops, and the most successful Irish Track Bike of all time. Released in 2015 , the frame immediately propelled its rider to National Team Selections racing in Velodromes all over Europe. It won its first National Pursuit Title in 2016, and a Double Irish Champion in 2019 (National Team Pursuit / National Omnium). A Super Light Steel Frame, it has been crashed heavily more than once (and still looks like it has more to give). This frame is a testament to what a rider can achieve when he has the advantage of understanding bike design.
2016 National Pursuit Gold
2016 National Omnium Silver
2017 National Scratch Race Silver
2017 National Madison Silver
2018 National Team Pursuit Silver
2018 National Madison Gold
2018 National Scratch Race Gold
2019 National Omnium Gold
2019 National Team Pursuit Gold
Arcane Women’s Team:
One of Irelands most successful cycling Teams, and current Silver Medallists in the Irish National Pursuit Championships.
Brendan Whelan today:
Womens Commission of Cycling Ireland – Secretary / PR / Team Manager Road & Track
Arcane Cycling Team – Owner, Coach
Bicycle Design Centre – Irelands only Custom Framebuilder.
Coaching – Some of Irelands top riders from Junior to Elite.