Bike Bros

Portland-based international design ?rm Ziba teamed up with two-man local bike builder Signal to create “the ultimate utility bike.” Here’s what both sides learned.

By Zach Dundas August 19, 2011 Published in the September 2011 issue of Portland Monthly

SIGNAL We typically make a road bike or a mountain bike—an existing genre of bike. We don’t dive into the concept behind a design. At Ziba, they have pictures of cowboys up on the wall—they really delve into the underlying idea. When we’re making a road bike for Joe, we’re not thinking, “Is Joe a cowboy, spiritually?”

ZIBA Which is something we love. We design for an aspirational person. We got really hooked on the cowboy. We wanted to apply that spirit to a city like Portland.

SIGNAL Our bikes are like custom suits. Ziba aims for something more like a clothing line. We don’t make prototypes like they do, for example.

ZIBA And this time we get to clamp and weld things. We put the goggles on! We came into a meeting with all these crazy sketches. They looked at them, and to 70 percent of the ideas, they said, “No, this will fall over.” Early on, they wanted to know what drivetrain we would use. We thought we should focus on “bigger” issues. They impressed upon us that this was the big issue.

SIGNAL We’re from art backgrounds, so to feel like we’re setting limitations is weird.

ZIBA But we don’t see their insight as limiting. This will be a real-world design.

The Ziba x Signal utility bike will be unveiled as part of the Oregon Manifest Constructors Design Challenge, Sept 23–24, alongside many other designs by bike builders, students, and industrial design firms. Visit for details.

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