Almost a year ago I visited a friend and saw a bicycle disc rotor hung on the wall. I had seen a few pieces of bicycle art before but this caught my eye and I walked over for a closer look. It was a functional and clean looking wall clock. The way the creator used the shine of the rotor and the overall clean, but decidedly bicycle-centric, look inspired me to add a bicycle part clock to my project list. Unfortunately, life intervened and the project never got off of my list and into my hands. When we were assigned a project centered on upcycling however, this immediately came to mind.
I have always wanted to make artwork, useful or not, out of old or broken parts from bikes. I’m not quite sure why but I really like the look of rotors, cassettes, hubs, wheels and cranks; more than complete bikes or beautiful frames. The work to design and manufacture these components combined with the effort to extract and refine the metals used seems so substantial. My heart always pangs a little to see them in the the trash or rubbish piles. After toying around with a few other ideas for this project I set my heart constructing a clock made out of these diamonds in the rough.
Vision & Goals
I had my general goal but not a clear, specific vision of where I wanted to take this. The clean, minimalist aesthetic of my friend’s clock was intriguing but I also really appreciate the industrial look of gears and chains. Initially I wanted moving gears and hands that were actual bicycle parts. However, further research revealed most of the clock movements I could acquire have a difficult time moving even thin lightweight hands found in most wall clocks. I looked into using other stronger motors but the precision required for clocks is difficult to achieve and I didn’t want a clock that constantly told the wrong time. I quickly explored the idea of a clock that displayed general times such as eat, sleep, ride, work, etc. with the ability for the user to manipulate the piece but decided to shelve it for a future project.
Still teetering between a more modern, minimal aesthetic and the steampunk, industrial design, I gathered several used parts from several bike shops and some lying around from repairs of my own bikes. I mainly envisioned the clock using the shine of metals and a clean, crisp and professional look to attract attention and stand out in a room. Unable to throw out either aesthetic I decided to set out with a general goal of making a clock with that elusive cool-factor and one I could be proud to call my unique creation.
Design Process and Clock Creation
My overall design process was additive and fairly linear. After my initial research and inspiration I began to tinker with the parts creating different looks, designs and prototypes. This helped me flesh out some different ideas and develop my aesthetic, which began to lean towards an industrial and gear laden look. During my initial design, I threaded spokes through a rim and bent them around different components such as cassettes and chainrings to affix them in the middle and form a base for the clock. After I had the base I prototyped other ideas for additions, affixing things with removable putty and colored paper cutouts to develop the final design.
I have outlined my general design process below alongside the more familiar design loop my group created in class.
- Acquire materials and determine feasibility
- Research existing design and influences
- Form a few loose Concepts
- Tinker and explore designs and ideas (Pretotype)
- Commit to a design and go for it
- Play with different ideas for additions
- Finish project
- Evaluate for success
Challenges, Final Evaluation and The Future…
Fortunately the project took an aesthetic direction I enjoyed fairly quickly. However, I often struggled with decisions over which designs and ideas to use such as: number size and placement, possible painting of pieces, the number and pattern of wheel spokes, and using different color materials. In particular I struggled to determine whether to paint the bicycle chain numbers and clock hands (or enlarge them) to increase contrast and legibility. Pretotyping helped to an extent, but many times I just committed and assessed at the finish. Maybe on a different day I would end up with an entirely different clock? I eventually decided to stick with raw metal as I really like the finish and aesthetic of the unmodified bicycle chain numbers. If the design I committed to after pretotyping had not attained my loose vision, I imagine I would have gone back to the drawing board. Thankfully I was able to complete the look and feel I was after in a fairly linear process.
Evaluating my clock at the finish, I believe I accomplished my overall aesthetic and functional goals. The clock works perfectly and tells time accurately. I am really pleased with its aesthetic on my wall and I think it will attract attention and comments as time unfolds. I learned quite a bit in this whole process and think I may have found a new hobby. I now have at least 2 more bike clocks added to my project list. Creating a future clock with an eat, sleep, ride dial; one with actual moving gears and bike parts utilizing welds with a heavy steampunk aesthetic; and another with a very minimal, sleek, modern design still intrigues me. As for the final design of this project I may further explore painting the numbers and adding different or painted hands. I enjoy neons and other bright colors which may give a cool “pop” to the clock, but for the moment I am satisfied with the metallic industrial look I attained.