My name is Dave Waddell and I’m an industrial designer at Vanhawks. Let’s take a moment to talk about the form direction of the Valour’s handlebar and stem.
This project was a bit of a challenge for me because of the rigorous demands and requirements we set for what we considered to be the ideal component. Finding a way to integrate all of the lights and indicators into the stem and handlebar while maintaining both the best aesthetic and structural strength was and continues to be a monumental task.
We first played around with the idea of creating a detachable capsule that contained the Valour’s brain. The stem would allow for an insert to be placed inside. This was quickly dropped for security reasons; it was too easily targeted by thieves.
We eventually established that the electronics would be placed inside the stem/bar; the first iteration was developed and it started to look pretty voluminous. This plan was initially rejected; I thought it was crazy—not only would we have to create a really large gap to fit all the electronics, but the form of the stem/bar was heavily influenced by the form of the circuit board.
The design sort of looked like a bison’s head. Picture how a bison’s horns meets up with its skull. I really wasn’t happy with the way this form was looking.
I spent many days on this, just re-sketching and trying to make something that looked good. But every time I came back with a new sketch, the response was always “that looks huge!” and “how can we make it visually distinctive but bring the volume down significantly?”
The first breakthrough occurred after a discussion with Sohaib (our CEO) and we came to the conclusion that it would be okay to move away from a traditional stem. Normally, stems are attached to the fork by way of a 2-bolt “pinch” clamp, but that’s not the only way to do it. Everything changed when we made the decision to go with a 4-bolt rear-mounted clamp. This made installations a breeze — we no longer had to cut a huge mouth at the front of the stem (the initial plan). Now we could install certain components from the ends of the bar and the larger components from the rear of the stem.
When all this was decided, we moved towards a form factor that everybody was happier with. We ended up with this pronounced head with these kind of tapered shoulders. This would be the top view and it’s really important that this be a look that we’re happy with because that’s what the rider looks at, all the time and constantly. We wanted this form to be unique and something that was visually pleasing.
Here’s an initial concept where used we used bullets and that’s typical of any stem where you have hardware. When we integrated these bullets into the form, that’s when we started to see this flaring (at the rear of the stem). It echoes the flaring we see at the front of the bar and it gives the form a lot more of a flexed muscle feel. It also echoed certain elements of the bike frame itself.
In the end, no design is perfect. There is still a lot of work to be done on this handlebar as we consider the switch to alloy from carbon. I wouldn’t expect this current form to be the final product but this is the look and feel that we’re moving forward with.