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Whatever happened to the crazy Specialized fUCI concept bike?

Specialized ditched UCI rules and created a bold concept bike with a motor and smartphone integration. It was pretty radical

What happens if you ditch the UCI’s rules governing road race bicycle design and let your imagination go wild? Well, back in 2015, Specialized creative director Robert Egger, came up with the spectacular fUCI (eff you see eye) concept bike shown here. Specialized called it an “appetiser for what could be.”

2023 Bike at Bedtime Specialized fUCI - 2

“The UCI [cycle sport's world governing body] really caters to a very small population, but there’s so many other people out there who couldn’t care less about the UCI,” said Egger at the time. “They don’t follow the racing and they don’t even know all the limitations that are put on bikes for the UCI riders. So, my feeling was, let’s design a bike for someone who really just wants to go fast on a road bike.”

2023 Bike at Bedtime Specialized fUCI - 5

So what did Egger do after hurling the UCI rulebook at the bin? Well, he actually came up with an e-bike; there was a motor concealed in the bottom bracket shell to help turn the huge rear wheel. At 33.3in, the rear wheel was bigger than the front wheel and was meant to act as a flywheel. Yes, he threw conventional wheel sizes out the window.

2023 Bike at Bedtime Specialized fUCI - 3

“I didn’t look at every UCI limitation per se,” Egger said. “I just started with the fact that I’m not going to be limited by wheel size, I’m not going to be limited by tubing diameter or tubing shape, I’m not going to be limited by aerodynamic advantage, and I’m not going to be limited by, you know, not being able to have a cargo area where I can carry stuff. So really, there were no rules.” 

The fUCI also used smartphone integration. The motorbike-style front-end fairing housed a docking station for a smartphone which could do smart stuff like monitor tyre pressure, show warnings of approaching cars, set the lights to switch on automatically - yes, of course the fUCI had front and rear lights built into the frame. It even had brake lights. 

2023 Bike at Bedtime Specialized fUCI - 4

As well as the moto-style front fairing and windscreen, the whole bike was wrapped up with aerodynamic fairings designed to help it slip through the air more cleanly, as well as cutting straight through the UCI rulebook.

It’s clear that Robert Egger took a lot of inspiration from motorbikes when designing this bicycle. It looked more like a motorbike than a conventional bicycle. The fUCI even had a rear storage compartment.

2023 Bike at Bedtime Specialized fUCI - 6

The fUCI was only intended to be a concept bike to demonstrate ideas, so it's no surprise that it has never gone into full production. What do you think, though: was it ahead of its time or just plain crazy?

Photos by Carson Blume

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25 comments

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Chris RideFar | 7 months ago
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So, it seems that the question in the title of the article "Whatever happened to the crazy Specialized fUCI concept bike?" is only addressed in the penultimate sentence: "it has never gone into full production" - I was hoping for something with a bit more substance and enlightening than that, given the title!

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OnYerBike | 7 months ago
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It's a shame he made it an e-bike. I have nothing against e-bikes per se (I think they are great for both urban mobility and getting more people more active than they would have been otherwise), but I would have seen the "point" of this exercise as being to design a fast human-powered bike. 

If the brief was just to build something fast on two wheels with no rules, you could do a lot better than that.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to OnYerBike | 7 months ago
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I think the e-bike bit was just to start the "flywheel" side up. Same as the "fastest-bikes-in-the-world" are towed to a certain speed first as the gearing couldn't be turned from stationary by human legs alone. 

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armb replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
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But there are purely human powered bikes that go faster than this.
(Admittedly the near record speed ones aren't usable on the road: http://www.aerovelo.com/)

Electric assist is legally limited to 25km/h, by actual law not just UCI rules. If it's only for startup you could make the assist fairly light, and disengage for no drag at speed, but it still seems a bit pointless.

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to armb | 7 months ago
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But even those are pushed to get the wheels turning.

https://youtu.be/BKjU95ePpYw?t=34

The built in lights, phone dock with access to loads of sensors and rear storage pod are probably a bit pointless in the real world as well. 

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chrisonabike replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
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AlsoSomniloquism wrote:

The built in lights, phone dock with access to loads of sensors and rear storage pod are probably a bit pointless in the real world as well. 

Don't tell Steve Roberts!  Although I don't think he was going for speed.

Steve Roberts wrote:

I’m trying to make good time, but the emphasis is on the good, not the time.

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TempleOrion replied to AlsoSomniloquism | 7 months ago
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You don't think lights & storage are useful? Bizarre...

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Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
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They've mispelled fugly as fUCI...but I've always been intrigued by the potential of a fairing on an upright bike since reading Richard Ballantine's eulogising of the Zzipper fairings long ago, and also have thought in the past that on certain types of bikes lockable hard case integrated storage could have its place.

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chrisonabike replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
8 likes

Ignore the UCI rules? Fairing? Storage? 80mph on the flat? Just relax!

http://recumbents.com/wisil/whpsc2002/Varna.htm

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HoldingOn replied to chrisonabike | 7 months ago
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80mph!

I have never ridden a recumbent cycle before, but my understanding is that they are really good for people who might struggle with the riding position on an upright* bike.

Is there another aspect to recumbents where they are actually quicker than upright bikes? Are they more difficult when start/stopping at traffic lights?

*not sure if this is the correct term

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AlsoSomniloquism replied to HoldingOn | 7 months ago
4 likes

Check the GCN TT with Hank on a "normal" road bike and Manon in an enclosed recumbent.

It would have been interesting the difference with a normal recumbent but even with them, being lower to the ground and the body being more horizantal gives better aerodynamics. Then add the fairing which can reduce the drag even more and even act like a sail if the wind angle hits it right* and yes, speed can pick up massively. (*Notice the record was set outdoors with a large flat basin).

 

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chrisonabike replied to HoldingOn | 7 months ago
3 likes

I've no wish to derail this thread by opening up another rabbit hole...

...but the correct term is "upwrong bike".

Recumbent bike designs are another universe so generalising is tricky.  Yes they can be very comfortable, that's the reason I ride them *.

They are faster** for "comparable" designs (e.g. unfaired bike vs. unfaired bike etc.) which is the reason they were banned by the UCI (protectionism for existing builders basically).  Looking at just the "speed" element the gain is a lower frontal area (so less aero drag) in a position which is physiologically suited for effort (e.g. easier to breathe etc. than an extreme tuck / superman, more comfortable).

Another rabbit hole is opening so I'll leave it for further research!

* I ride them because they are really fun!  Might just be me of course.  Note that depending on bike design and rider it can take between a couple of minutes to "that's it, they're not for me" to get the basics of riding one.  They're different from uprights and can feel as different from one another as a TT bike and a bakfiets do.

** On the flat.  The myth is that "they can't climb" - the truth is more complicated (see e.g. Mike Burrows' take).  I'm really slow up hills on mine, but I don't race and my current one is heavy, has chunky tyres, front and rear suspension, the drive train's not optimised etc.  A much lighter racy machine would definitely make a difference but I've no idea by how much.

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HoldingOn replied to chrisonabike | 7 months ago
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Definitely a rabbit hole! A side of cycling I have no idea about - its fascinating. Thank you both!

I wonder if other road users would be more accepting of a bike like the GCN video? They may mistake it for a small car! Cycling incognito

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chrisonabike replied to HoldingOn | 7 months ago
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HoldingOn wrote:

Definitely a rabbit hole! A side of cycling I have no idea about - its fascinating. Thank you both!

I wonder if other road users would be more accepting of a bike like the GCN video? They may mistake it for a small car! Cycling incognito

Always going to be a niche IMHO.  Recumbents are on average heavier and particularly bulkier (even folders).  They're more effort to move around when dismounted as they're a long lever and for e.g. doing maintenance the steering (well - everything) is often awkwardly far from the pedals.  Diamond framed bikes "cornered the market" so recumbent sales are tiny and so they are significantly more expensive.  Every engineering design involves compromises but "normal" bikes are either great or pretty good over so many aspects it's hard for anything else to be a sufficient improvement on them.

If you own a recumbent you're going to be doing a lot of "show and tell"!  If interested just reach out to your nearest rider / group (e.g. the BHPC are a fun lot) - owners tend to range from "friendly" to "evangelical".

I would say at least in daylight I'm massively more salient on a recumbent.  Particularly on my last one which was bright yellow with a tail box (like this one)!  Down side - one time I discovered I was "dangerously distracting" a driver as they tried to film me on their phone. no

Never incognito though.  It's never happened to me but apparently sometimes police may stop you because it they don't know what that thing is.  So "you were going that fast, you must have a motor in there" or "do you have insurance?"

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Miller | 7 months ago
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This is one of these bikes designed to appeal to people who know nothing about bikes. I'm getting vibes of the Kickstarter Speedx bike which made a play about smartphone integration and attracted a set of one star reviews when it finally appeared before disappearing with everyone's money.

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Off the back replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Do you NEED to know about bikes to own one? Since pretty much everything about a modern road/TT bike is dictated by UCI rules in its design, throwing away the rule book allows things like this. Specialized, until not long, ago made two very different versions of the Shiv. One conforming to UCI regs and another aimed at Triathletes and Ironman competitors that doesn't come under UCI regs so there is an ability to tweek the design a little.

All this is doing is expanding on them concepts to see what people go for. Its no different to the concept models car manufacturers bring to auto shows. They are always full of outlandish designs that never come to fruition but showcase tech that might come to market in the future. 

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don simon fbpe replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Miller wrote:

This is one of these bikes designed to appeal to people who know nothing about bikes. I'm getting vibes of the Kickstarter Speedx bike which made a play about smartphone integration and attracted a set of one star reviews when it finally appeared before disappearing with everyone's money.

'people who nothing about bikes' What a strange comment, and I'm buggered if I know what it means.... Are there degrees of knowledge? Top dogs have 100% knowledge, me for example with around 36.2583% knowledge? Does that allow me to respond in this most weird concept of cycling snobbery?

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Miller replied to don simon fbpe | 7 months ago
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Yay, a tiny road.cc pile-on. 

Cycling is plagued by people who know nothing about bikes or cycling. They're the ones telling you to wear a helmet, or cycle on the road, or get off the road, or wear hi-viz, and so on. Why shouldn't you know about bikes before buying one? You'd know about a car before buying one. 

This Spekilizd concept bike is full of crap that would look amazing on the shop floor and be a pain to live with long-term. Like two different wheel sizes, for one.

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Rendel Harris replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Miller wrote:

Cycling is plagued by people who know nothing about bikes or cycling.

That is debatable, but even if true I rather doubt that the people at Specialized, a $1 billion company that supplies many of the world's top riders, fall into that category. This was a concept bike from eight years ago created just to try out various ideas, clearly having tried them they are not being taken forward. Not quite sure why you are getting as irate about them as if they were all being foisted on the cycling public, they are not.

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mark1a replied to Rendel Harris | 7 months ago
3 likes
Rendel Harris wrote:
Miller wrote:

Cycling is plagued by people who know nothing about bikes or cycling.

That is debatable, but even if true I rather doubt that the people at Specialized, a $1 billion company that supplies many of the world's top riders, fall into that category. This was a concept bike from eight years ago created just to try out various ideas, clearly having tried them they are not being taken forward. Not quite sure why you are getting as irate about them as if they were all being foisted on the cycling public, they are not.

I'm not sure it was even a serious attempt at trying things out, I believe a lot of it was to poke a big stick at the UCI, who are known for stifling innovation and progress, all in the name of purity - the name "f*** UCI" hints at this. It is showing what we could have without interference. Although asthetically I'm not sure I'd want all of it!

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chrisonabike replied to mark1a | 7 months ago
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mark1a wrote:

... It is showing what we could have without interference. Although asthetically I'm not sure I'd want all of it!

Quite right - here's Graham Obree showing what he could do without interference on his "beastie".  Not sure that's even legal in Aberfeldy...

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joules1975 replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Miller wrote:

This is one of these bikes designed to appeal to people who know nothing about bikes. I'm getting vibes of the Kickstarter Speedx bike which made a play about smartphone integration and attracted a set of one star reviews when it finally appeared before disappearing with everyone's money.

Coming at something from a point of ignorance results in fresh thinking. When done badly, yes, you get things like Speedx (although there were maybe other business related shinanigans going on there too). When done in conjuction with those with existing knowledge that's based on good understanding and experience, conventional 'wisdom' can be challenged positively.

Remember that it was people that knew nothing about bikes (well, nothing about cycling as sport anyway) that asked Chris Boardman and co 'why are handlebars the width they are?'. 

In case you don't recall/are not aware, it was this kind of 'knowing nothing' question that lead to loads of the 'secret squirrel' British Cycling innovation's, with the above question leading to the use of much narrower bars and one of the biggest reductions in aero drag.

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LookAhead replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Miller wrote:

This is one of these bikes designed to appeal to people who know nothing about bikes....

This Spekilizd concept bike is full of crap that would look amazing on the shop floor and be a pain to live with long-term. Like two different wheel sizes, for one.

I hate ill-conceived cycling products as much as anyone, but I think you misunderstand what a *concept* bike is. It's not really meant to appeal to anyone or to be suitable as a bike to actually own--they're not trying to sell it--but just to, as the article makes clear, demonstrate ideas and see what's possible.

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Paul J replied to LookAhead | 7 months ago
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To be honest, I'm not sure this concept bike is that radical.

Different sized wheels - smaller at the front to get lower and more aero - was all the rage in TT bikes in the eighties?

Narrow handle-bars were something I personally discovered the benefits of when I bought a vintage road bike. I think it was a 70s bike. It had noticeably narrower bars than my (then) modern CAAD10.

Those 2 things in this bike don't seem particularly innovative.

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TempleOrion replied to Miller | 7 months ago
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Your "vibes" are laughably wrong, as usual LMAO

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