Q&A with Pensa's Mark Prommel

Concept. Image via Instagram.com/pensanyc

Concept. Image via Instagram.com/pensanyc

The idea is simple: Design the best urban utility bicycle. The. Best. 

That’s the core concept of Oregon Manifest, a design national competition happening right now that has attracted five teams from five cities (Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland and New York). The winning bike will go from competition to production thanks to Fuji, and will be seen in stores in 2015. Reveal parties are scheduled for July 25th, with voting opening July 28th and winners announced August 4th. 

New York’s entry was designed by Brooklyn’s Pensa. You may know them from the solar charging stations they designed that have been placed around the city. They teamed up with friend of H&E, Horse Cycles to manufacture their entry. While designs haven’t been revealed, I caught up with Pensa’s Mark Prommel over email to discuss their design and the competition. 

Tell me about Oregon Manifest and why Pensa decided to enter? 

Oregon Manifest is an organization dedicated to promoting everyday cycling and bicycle commuting in urban settings and beyond. Most of us at Pensa are bicycle commuters and we very mush believed in the mission and the cause. We were also honored to be one of five design firms nation-wide to be selected, each of us representing our particular city in this prestigious competition.

Fender work. Image via Instagram.com/pensanyc

Fender work. Image via Instagram.com/pensanyc

Can you share and describe any notable features of the Pensa entry and also the design process of the bicycle.? 

We intended all along for our bike to be inspired by the variety of cycling needs in New York City. In many ways this is the ultimate proving ground for an urban bike. While we do have some good cycling infrastructure, we also have streets that are packed with cars, including bike lanes with cars often double-parked in them. We wanted to offer a bike that could make it's rider feel confident navigating tight spaces, a compact and nimble ride. At the same time there is necessary utility. You need to be able to pick up a package, or a bag from the store and ride with it. We are also dealing with extreme space constraints, security and safety concerns. With our design, we wanted to address all of these needs while still delivering an elegant and integrated solution. So many bikes are frames with disparate accessories strapped all over them.

How did the partnership with Horse Cycles come about? 

The beauty of this exercise is that each design firm works side by side with an experienced custom frame builder who can offer real world experience and a wealth of expertise. The choice was ours to make within the NYC bike building community and we were blown away by Thomas Callahan's work. He makes gorgeous hand-built machines that are made to be ridden. He has precise attention to detail. We felt an immediate kinship upon meeting him and were looking forward to learning from his process. He assured us the feeling was mutual.

What's the status of the design? How much work do you have to do? 

We are entering the home stretch. The final build out of the frame and all the custom components is happening as we speak. There are a lot of balls in the air at the moment, but we are very excited about where this is going. The bike will be revealed at a public party right in our own neighborhood in Dumbo, Brooklyn on Jul 25th.

Could there be a Pensa-designed bicycle for sale in the future? 

Anything is possible. Fuji Bikes is a sponsor of this effort and will produce a production run of one of the bikes. The winning bike will be decided upon by a public vote. Beyond that, I know we'd love to continue some kind of collaboration with Horse Cycles, so we will see.

Follow Team NYC progress here: