What does a bike that can fold faster than any other bike have in common with the most recent iterations of Cervélo’s P series frames? The best person to answer that question is Cervélo Industrial Designer Mark Remennik. He was lead designer on the P5 and applied a lot of what he learned in the conception of the new P3.
“It all starts with asking the right questions” Mark says. “It is about more than just making the fastest, stiffest, lightest; you have to make the bike actually work for and benefit the person using it. That is what you have to make your goal.” Remennik first refined his process during his thesis project in his final year at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) in Toronto. His approach: definition, discovery, opportunity, concept, and finally, implementation.
“The [thesis] question was ‘how can we improve the workday commute for people in northern climates’” explains Remennik. “The entire purpose was not just to set out to make a bike, it is to improve the user’s life. Specifically in northern North America, we are challenged by some of the longest daily commutes, highest volume of car traffic, and all types of weather conditions.” With this question in mind, Mark began investigating all of the potential solutions.
During the development of his thesis, Mark credits the program for helping direct his ideas. OCAD U partnered with the University of Toronto Rotman School of Business in a program that teamed up MBA students with Industrial Design students. It was during this time that Remennik really learned that focusing on the right question is the best approach. The practise of critical thinking lead him to the idea of a folding bike that was low-maintenance, clean, and can be folded instantly to the size of a rolling suitcase with a single release button. It is a solution that can integrate with mass transit and eliminate many of the challenges of commuting. The result was the ToTo Companion Bicycle.
“The answer didn’t have to be a bike. But, after looking at all of the possibilities, the folding bike had plenty of advantages” describes Remennik of his ‘discovery’ part of the process. “It is a lot like when we are looking at the P3 design. It was not enough to just make it faster. We needed to make the experience of riding it, travelling with it, maintaining it better.” It is clear that Mark values the needs of the user over all else; even if it means defying convention.
Remennik’s introduction to Industrial Design came very early in life. His father is a Mechanical Engineer and when Mark was only nine years of age, he installed the Solidworks program on their home computer. “I started playing with the program” Mark explains “basically, as if it was just a computer game. My father saw that I was interested so he showed me a few tips. Then, I started making chairs, tables, whatever I could think of at the time.” By age 12, Mark had helped his father on an engineering project. By 14, he was regularly contributing. By 19, Mark had designed assembly line robotics for a manufacturing client. He now teaches a course on Solidworks at OCAD U.
“On the side, I really wanted to experiment with more sculptural challenges” Mark says of his time spent mastering Solidworks. “Making something functional is an accomplishment but, making something that is beautiful and functional at the same time is truly gratifying.” Mark sculpts with clay and creates his own wood carvings using a pocket knife. The challenge of working with simple materials and tools really drives his understanding of form and structure.
“That is why I loved working on the new P3 so much. It had to be a functional improvement over the most popular bike in triathlon. At the same time, I wanted people to look at it and be motivated to go ride. It had to be beautiful.” And the similarities with the ToTo Companion bicycle are apparent. The ToTo bike “had to do more than just get you from point A to point B. It had to be something that looks good and looks effortless. It needed to have storage in case you were lugging around extra gear, and the moving parts needed to be contained so you could wear what you would normally wear to the office.”
According to Mark, it is impossible to define these design requirements if you are not asking the right questions. And asking the right questions will lead to true innovation which might defy some traditions. Mark even jokes that he is “not always the favourite in the engineering department because I question everything. Maybe too much sometimes. But that is just the Industrial Designer in me.”
Find out more about Mark's thesis at mark.remennik.net