When one looks at folding bikes as a category, it is very obvious that they were made to fulfill a purpose – provide the best possible riding experience, while still being as compact and easy to transport as possible. But in the case of foldable bicycles like the CARRYME, there is a far more interesting story to be told from inception to the bike you can buy today.
The idea behind the CARRYME
It all started back in 2003, when OX Engineering president Mr. Shigeyuki Ishii felt the need for a bicycle that would be fast enough to keep up with their sports wheelchairs. But let’s take a few steps back, shall we?
OX Engineering is a Japanese company that creates some of the world’s fastest, lightweight, high-performance wheelchairs. Their president, Mr. Shigeyuki Ishii, was a professional YAMAHA racing driver. But in 1984, a crash changed his life, leaving him with a spinal injury that means he now needs a wheelchair to travel anywhere. And pretty soon, he found out that, if you’re walking, you can’t really keep up with the speed of a high-performance wheelchair, which left anyone accompanying Mr. Ishii struggling.
This, combined with the fact that a person who uses a wheelchair has no room to carry another bicycle, led to the need for a lightweight, incredibly compact bicycle that would be able to keep up with a high-performance sports wheelchair. Fast forward to 2003, and OX Engineering asked Pacific Cycles to create that bicycle.
The CARRYME concept
George Lin, president of Pacific Cycles, already had a few ideas. He had previously co-designed the Pierre Blanchard prototype, which was remarkably close to what Mr. Shigeyuki Ishii required. But he wanted to make it even better, which is why he swapped the wheels for 8-inch wheels and used a ¼ inch chain. The entire design concept was made in just three months.
This combination resulted in an incredibly functional foldable bicycle. The extremely short wheelbase made the CARRYME very easy to maneuver, while the thin chain and high gear ratio made it very quick. And the icing on the cake was the fact that you could fold the CARRYME in a mere 15 seconds and then push it around thanks to its trolley wheels.
The goal behind the bicycle, aside from fulfilling Mr. Shigeyuki Ishii’s desire was to allow people to reach any place they wanted to, with a bicycle that’s lightweight and they can take with them when they’re traveling. The fast folding feature, and the overall incredibly small footprint, made this bike the perfect solution.
The name is nothing coincidental either – it is actually a play on words. When you ride it, it carries (Carry) people (Me). When you fold it, you carry (Carry) it (Me). And the name is not just fun, it’s also very easy to remember.
Overcoming the design obstacles
While the design might seem simple, and the appearance of the CARRYME is fun and light, a lot of thought went into the design and geometry. Initially, the wheelbase was too short and the upright sitting position caused the center of gravity to be too far back. There was also insufficient grip at the front wheel.
But that wasn’t the only problem that was accommodated for – the bicycle is made so any person between 140 and 195cm can ride it easily, without your knees hitting the stem or handlebars when turning. When the rider sits on the saddle, their feet can be flat against the ground while the bicycle is upright, rather than tipped like other bicycles.
And of course, there are the various folding joints that were made to make it incredibly compact when folded, and still have it be as rigid as possible when in use. George Lin succeeded in the construction, and the unorthodox design has been imitated by many, though not successfully.
The last trick up the CARRYME’s sleeve is how you ride it. Most people look at the small wheels and keep looking at the ground while they’re riding, which is a bad idea because the fear of falling causes instability. Instead, the correct way to do it is to keep your sight straight ahead and you’ll find the bicycle is just as stable as any other.
The CARRYME over the years
The OX Pocket was actually the initial name, back in 2003, but two years later it was changed to Carry-Me. The large, 100 teeth front chainring and front flywheel remained a crucial part of the design. In 2005, the second generation saw a name change to CARRYME, and a drivetrain change. The flywheel was moved to the rear, the chainring was reduced to 84 teeth, and the Speed Drive Bottom Bracket Shells derailleur system was introduced.
The third generation came only a year later, and introduced mobile carriers and a tricycle version, CARRYALL. The fourth generation adjusted the geometry, and introduced new colors and a new logo for the CARRYALL. A bigger change came in 2011, when the CARRYME DC was introduced with exclusive electric motors and controllers – it then went on to win the Taiwan Excellence Awards.
The current CARRYME was introduced in 2014, and it added a drum brake, adjustable angle handlebars, as well as a replaceable rear fork and new self-locking mechanism, alongside a redesign of the carriers, which improved long-term performance. And today, the CARRYME has the title of the fastest mini foldable bike on earth!