The leading award of the bicycle world, the Design & Innovation Award 2016 is almost upon us. Starting next week our international team will be riding, testing and analyzing the most exciting products of 2016. Our mission is to award the world’s best products and most innovative technologies, and joining us will be a select jury of six of the most skilled, influential, and analytical minds from the cycling industry. It’s time to meet our jury members.

Jury Member | Ruben Torenbeek

Meet jury member number 3, Ruben Torenbeek!
Meet jury member number 3, Ruben Torenbeek!

Ruben is already familiar with the Design & Innovation Award process, he was instrumental on the 2015 Jury where his experienced eye, and rapid bike handling skills quickly cut through any marketing bullshit. We are pleased to announce that Ruben will be joining us again for another year. Ruben is an experienced bike designer whose skills do not extend only to design, he is also an exceptionally talented rider. Growing up competing first in trials and after that in downhill, whenever he goes against the clock he ends up on the podium. We look forward to hearing his feedback. We caught up with Ruben to find out his thoughts on design.

Bikes are emotive objects, where do you find your inspiration when looking to the next developments?
I am very much into ergonomics and functionality of products. I like how a Tupperware box can be closed and give a certain sophisticated but simple feedback that it is closed. Simplicity in all kinds of products is key for me.

With new concepts like plus sized tyres, are we seeing change for change’s sake, or is this a real optimization of technology?
People tend to think it`s change for the sake of change and I do find that a lot of marketing around new products in the bike industry is a bit impulsive and reckless, but we should look beyond that. Just step away from what they try to tell you and try it yourself. Plus sized tires are a perfect example. When I ride G-out berms on my downhill bike I can’t imagine having 2.8 inch tires, but when I ride loamy terrain I can. It’s all about what you can take out of a certain innovation.

Ruben is not only an experienced bike designer, he also has some incredible  riding skills.
Ruben is not only an experienced bike designer, he also has some incredible riding skills.

As a designer, what part of the bike would you most like to improve?
I think bikes get to a point where they are technically very good, but also very complicated. I think there are a lot of opportunities to simplifying products. The bike industry should start to separate products for pro athletes from products for everyone. Suspension might be the main topic, but also setting up a saddle or a cockpit could be simplified.

We seem to be seeing a shift towards longer, lower and slacker at the moment; as geometries unify do you think there are still improvements to be found or are we almost at the perfect design.
We should start to differentiate more. A super long and slack bike might work for someone who can reach the required speed, but not for someone who just rides every Sunday afternoon. We do have very capable bikes nowadays, but there is not one bike that fits everyone, every terrain and every riding style. I think there is a lack of communication in what fits who. In some way we (the bike industry) are very nerdy, we always look at dimensions and values of bikes, but we should look more at the usability. We should be able to sell someone a bike without telling the amount of travel. I know that sounds strange, but what I try to say is that we should focus more on the actual usability of a product and make mountain bikes more understandable.

From a design point of view do you think the evolution of world class competitive events are driven by improvements in bike design, or are they driving them?
With the bikes from 15 years ago events like the EWS would have been unthinkable, right? But it’s definitely hand in hand. World level competition pushes us to improve bikes and the other way around.

Ruben is looking forward to the Design & Innovation Award 2016.
Ruben is looking forward to the Design & Innovation Award 2016.

What are you hoping to discover through the Design & Innovation Award this year?
I am very honored to be part of the jury and look very much forward to hear what the other jury members think and how they see future products!

Other jury members

The remaining jury members will be introduced in the course of this week.

Words: Trevor Worsey Photos: Christoph Bayer

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