Seattle firm competing to design 'ultimate urban utility bike'

SEATTLE -- We've all heard of SUVs, and now comes the UUUB -- the ultimate urban utility bicycle.

A Seattle design consultancy firm is in a competition with four other firms in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Portland to create the ultimate urban utility bicycle.

It's a competition where a online public vote will decide the winner. Seattle's entry is called " The Denny," named after one of the founding families of Seattle.

"I think everyone feels comfortable in a car. We are trying to get everyone comfortable on a bike in the city," said Roger Jackson, creative director for Teague, a downtown Seattle design consultancy firm known for designing interiors of Boeing aircraft.

The Denny has integrated brake lights and turn signals, a no maintenance belt drive instead of a chain, and a removable handle bar that doubles as a bike lock.

The competing firms are each designing bikes fitting for their city. Some of Seattle's biggest biking obstacles are hills and rain, and that's what The Denny is built for. All the gears are inside a rear hub, said Jackson, who calls it "tech enabled automatic shifting."

Sensors tied to a microprocessor can detect if the cyclist is struggling up a hill and automatically downshift or upshift to make an easier ride. The technology is also tied to an eAssist battery-powered motor in the front hub that kicks in when the bike is going uphill.

"It's not a fully automated system, you still have to pedal but it takes the edge off those hills," Jackson said.

There are no fenders -- a near must-have on Seattle's rainy streets. Instead, there are rubber bristles that wipe the tires of rainwater before hitting the rider. The idea is to remove the water before it makes it way up the rotating tire, according toJackson.

There's also an ambient light sensor that detects dimming light and automatically turns on battery-powered headlights and running lights.

"What we wanted to do is make this bike for non-riders as easy to understand as a car," said Jackson.

Teague has one working prototype of The Denny that has been manufactured from steel and 3D printed parts.

The competition is being put on by Oregon Manifest with the goal of promoting urban biking. The public can watch promotional videos and vote online for their favorite bike until August 3.

Fiji bikes will make a short production run of 1,000 of the winning bike designs and make them available for purchase sometime in 2015