Reinventing the wheel: Insights from Canyon’s design team
With numerous Red Dot Design Awards, Canyon Bicycles represent a combination of technology, design, and quality like no other company in the bicycle industry. In March 2023, they collected another award for the Roadlite:ON CF 9 LTD. So, what makes good bicycle design, and what’s the creative process?
Canyon made a name for themselves right from the start thanks to their striking design, giving their bikes an unmistakable look. There’s little wonder that the Canyon design team was honoured as “Design Team of the Year” at the Red Dot Design Awards in 2017. And they have since collected new accolades, including the Red Dot Best of the Best Award 2023 for the Roadlite:ON CF 9 LTD. A success story that is deeply anchored in the company’s values.
Designed for Success: Industrial design at Canyon
When Roman Arnold founded Canyon Bicycles in 2002, he had an ambitious dream: to create bikes deserving of the title “best bikes in the world”. Since then, every Canyon bicycle has reinforced that vision with a winning combination of visual clarity and simplicity mated with precision engineering.
Red Dot Design Award for Canyon Roadlite:ON CF 9 LTD
The quest for perfection does not stop with Canyon's racing bikes. In the urban sphere, the bicycle has been elevated beyond a mere means of transport. It has become a lifestyle, an expression of individuality and a modern identifier of sustainable mobility. The Canyon Roadlite:ON CF 9 LTD has earned the Canyon design team yet another coveted Red Dot Award, in the category ‘Best of the Best 2023’.
The ultra-light, sporty e-bike challenges the status quo in urban traffic. A subtly integrated e-drive combined with smart features sets a striking example for the future of urban mobility. This is also reflected in its appearance. “Lightness, freedom and sporty minimalism. These were the guiding design principles for this bike right from the start,” explains Dennis Fiedler, Canyon graphic designer for city & hybrid bikes.
Alexander Forst, Canyon's Design Consultant for City & Hybrid Bikes, provides a fuller explanation of the development process for city bikes like the Roadlite:ON CF 9 LTD in the German-language design podcast “Chapter”.
Alexander Forst Bicycle design and future mobility: Alexander Forst, Design Consultant at Canyon and Professor for Advanced Mobility Design at Hof University of Applied Sciences, in the Chapter Podcast.
Click here for the Podcast episode.
Why does the bicycle industry need good design?
The bicycle is much older than the automobile, but the classic idea of industrial design arrived comparatively late in the industry. “Bicycle design is still a relatively young discipline where the potential for innovation is far from exhausted,” explains Lars Wagner, Canyon’s Lead Industrial Designer, Road Bikes.
Considering the fact that some people spend as much on a bicycle as they would on a cheaper car, it stands to reason that the highest level of attention should be paid to design and aesthetics.
“Good design must offer added value for the user,” explains Canyon's lead industrial designer MTB, Peter Kettenring. “Aesthetics and appearance are of course part of it – but it's mainly about function. Our ultimate goal is to develop a truly better product through outstanding design.
Birth on the drawing board: The developmental process at Canyon
According to the principle “form follows function”, design and engineering go hand in hand right from the start of the development process. “We start at the same time in the core team together with the engineer and product manager and develop a bike that leaves nothing to be desired aesthetically,” says Kettenring.
“Right at the beginning, we ask ourselves what the bike should say,” explains Kettenring. “The new Stitched by Fabio Wibmer, for example, should radiate completely different aesthetic values as a finished bike, than a bike for urban use.”
It takes an average of two years from concept to creation for a bike that’s ready for sale. The work begins with a vision in mind and a pencil in hand. The rough sketch on paper is then transferred to the digital CAD system and brought to life.
“From this, scale models are created from the 3D printer. We then put the puzzle pieces together in our engineering workshop. We work with numerous components that have to be perfectly coordinated. As designers, we create the outer form and the engineer takes care of the perfect integration with the other add-on parts,” Lars Wagner explains enthusiastically.
“The topic of 'artwork' is and remains indispensable, because fonts, graphics, and colours form a close connection with the design,” adds Peter Kettenring. “We take up the lines and edges of the frame and reinforce them with our artwork. In doing so, we don't embellish, but emphasise the essentials.”
Canyon's design DNA
Canyon's design language features a combination of functionality, aesthetics, and aerodynamic shapes. The main focus is on clean lines, a modern appearance, and well-thought-out integration and ergonomics. Innovative technologies and materials ensure optimal performance and weight.
“Depending on the bike type, it's all about different requirements with regard to aerodynamics, weight, stiffness and comfort,” explains Peter Kettenring. “At the same time, Canyon manages to combine the different bikes under one design and brand language like hardly any other manufacturer. Every line, every detail, every shape is meant to convey simplicity and precision.”
System integration: Challengingly simple
Striving for simplicity presents a challenge. Not only should visual clutter be removed, but functionality should be created at the same time. While in the past it was primarily about the frame, today the trend is centred on system integration.
“In the end, we want to achieve a well-designed and clearly aligned overall output. To this end, it is important for us to design as many components of the finished bike ourselves, such as the fork, stem, handlebars, seatpost and matching bags,” says Peter Kettenring.
This simplified design draws attention to the unique selling points. Technical innovations like the integrated seatpost or the Shapeshift function on the Canyon Strive should remain discreet but visible.
The future of bicycle design
What awaits for the future of design at Canyon? “Of course, there are trends in bike design,” explains Peter Kettenring, “however, at Canyon we have created such a strong brand identity that we tend to evolve in this world rather than follow general trends.”
Instead, Canyon will continue to lead the way in bike design and performance, with outstanding developments such as the Shapeshifter function on the Canyon Strive or the new K.I.S steering stabilisation.
“Canyon's research and engineering process has a lead time of 4 to 5 years. Only time will tell which of our current projects will end up on the market as a product. We can at least reveal that there is a lot of movement in the area of E-MTB and sustainability,” Kettenring reveals
Circular Bike – Future Vision of Sustainability
With the “Circular Bike”, the development team presented their vision for circular economy in bicycle manufacturing for the first time at the end of last year. The goal is to completely recycle all the materials used. In the future, new materials and production as well as 3D printing, will break the boundaries of frame design to create new possibilities. The freshly announced partnership with IperionX, for a sustainable titanium supply chain, takes Canyon on a step further in this exciting direction.