The flax fiber frame (80% by content) uses a bit of carbon fiber in the headtube and bottom bracket to help it pass CEN safety testing, but is otherwise constructed of flax. That fiber happens to be somewhat translucent, too, a fact highlighted by internal LED lights that are powered by the front hub dynamo. The result is a softly glowing frame when riding at night (video after the break!).
Schwinn’s working on sourcing cockpit parts made of recycled aluminum if they can find a supplier that can do it cost effectively, but the bike has other green touches that help make it sustainable. Check it all out with loads of photos after the break…
The new Schwinn Vestige was first shown at Eurobike 2010 and won the Gold design award for the urban category. The flax fibers are all natural and biodegradable. Actual fiber is shown in the tubes, so every bike will look unique – the hue and pattern will look different in every tube.
Schwinn says flax creates less of a carbon footprint to manufacture. The resin is a hybrid resin that’s partially biologically sourced and part traditional resin, and the paint is water based. They say it dampens the ride better than carbon does, but is not quite as stiff. It’s within 10% of the weight of carbon. The fork is a mix of carbon fiber and flax to be strong enough.
The grips and fenders are bamboo, and the tires are custom from Schwalbe with a recycled rubber puncture protection layer molded into the tread.
Fibers are translucent, so they put LED lights inside the top and down tubes that are powered by a front hub dynamo, which looks very cool. When the LED lights eventually die out, they are replaceable by removing the fork and sliding the light tubes out. They opted against having an on/off switch in order to reduce the chances of water contaminating the system, but the lights are all but imperceptible during the day. At night, they, it’s wicked cool looking. They start flickering at about 3mph and are solid at about 5mph and up. The flickering at the end of the video is because the wheel started slowing down.
The Vestige comes out in June for $1,299 and will be available in both the men’s and women’s versions shown here. They’re continuing to work on ways to increase it’s overall sustainability, like the recycled aluminum bar, stem and posts already mentioned, and by looking at different packaging options, too. Drivetrain is 1×9 with Shimano Alivio and Promax V-brakes.
I had the chance to ride it around DC for the Urban PC scavenger hunt. The bike rides smoothly, and it does seem like the flax construction soaks up some of the vibrations and smaller bumps. I pedaled fast at times, trying to beat some of the ill-timed bike lane traffic lights (yes, they have those in DC!), and it felt plenty solid. This isn’t a bike you’re going to be standing and cranking on, so any “softness” shouldn’t ever present itself as a performance issue. Perhaps the only thing I’d change is to slacken the head angle a bit…the steering was a bit quick for a commuter bike. I suppose if you live in a city like DC or NYC that may require aggressive maneuvering, this isn’t a bad thing, but for casual riding, a slacker angle would make it a hair more stable at low speeds.
Overall, the concept is killer, the green features and internal lighting are sweet, and the drivetrain and all are simple to operate. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a mid-level commuter with a smooth ride and earth friendly cred.