At 3Doodler we’re always looking for new and innovative ways to try and DIY—Doodle it yourself. For our latest exploration into Doodled additions, we decided to take our show on the road.
Avid cyclist (and 3Doodler Marketing Director) Kelley Toy teamed up with 3Doodler Product Development Engineer Samson Wong to conceptualize and road test a series of Doodled solutions for two common cycling needs: a drink bottle cage, and an action camera handlebar mount. While these solutions were prototyped and tested on a road bike, all of the designs could easily be adapted for a mountain bike, touring bike, or daily commuter.
The Prototyping Process
“I started by borrowing a bottle cage from Kelley,” Samson says. In order to start the design process, Samson needed a jumping off point. Using common accessories that any cyclist might need was the first step to getting an idea for a customized design.
While a water bottle cage attachment may seem like a simple enough design concept, Doodling one from scratch is a more complicated task. Getting the tension and strength just right while having it fit the bottle snugly is important, all the while making a sturdy enough design that would hold up to actual use.
It was also important for Samson to understand how the piece would be attached to the bike. “I needed an actual bottle cage to trace the holes used for mounting it to the bike,” Samson explains. “I made a template based on the original so I could Doodle the holes at exactly the right measurements.”
For his first prototype, Samson used the same design concept as Kelley’s old bottle cage, with two “arms” coming from the mounting to grip the bottle. “After the first Doodled trial, I found that the arms were a bit too weak,” Samson says. His Doodled version needed the right balance of strength and flexibility.
"After the first Doodled trial, I found that the arms were a bit too weak."
In his next prototype, he knew better what improvements he needed to make. “The second design focused on reinforcing the two arms,” he says. “To make it strong enough I Doodled three layers of ABS, building up the plastic to be roughly 5mm thick.”
When choosing which filament to use, Samson had to consider the different properties of ABS and PLA. “ABS is a bit more flexible,” he explains. “PLA is strong, it’s rigid, but it’s a little bit brittle. So for this type of project, ABS is a better choice, because the cage has to flex a little bit to get the bottle in and out.”
Testing and Re-working
Once Samson had a prototype in hand, it was time for biking veteran Kelley to test it out. After taking the new Doodled bottle cage through a variety of terrains, Kelley was pleased with the results, but still felt there were more improvements to be made. “The cage performed well and there was no sign the bottle was going to launch at any point, and it was very easy to get the bottle in and out while riding,” she says. “But I heard a small crack the first time I loaded the bottle into the cage, and the fit around the bottle was not snug and this reduced contact area with the bottle.”
As an end result, Kelley felt a sturdier design was necessary. “The bottle flexes the plastic cage a lot, and I would ultimately not feel confident about the durability of the design,” she says. It was back to the drawing board for Samson. “I did some research, checking how other bottle cages look,” he says. “I found a few designs that had a whole ring around the bottle instead of the two arms.”
"At first I thought this design was going to be a fail, as off the bike it was tough getting a bottle in and out."
With Kelley’s feedback in mind, Samson thought this new design could provide the stability and tighter fit around the bottle that the first prototype lacked. “Molding the cage to the bottle, this one has got a lot of gripping power and a lot of friction, so the bottle won’t move anywhere when you’re riding,” he says.
“At first I thought this design was going to be a fail,” Kelley admits, “as off the bike it was tough getting a bottle in and out.” But Samson was confident this new design would be an improvement.
And Kelley was pleasantly surprised. “It is totally rock solid!” she says. “Once loaded on the bike—and with a small adjustment on my part on the angle—I loaded and unloaded the bottle while riding easily.” Kelley also found another bonus of the new prototype: “I also like the minimal look of this design on the bike.”
Creating concepts for practical DIYs requires a continual process of prototyping and testing, but Samson says that in the end you can wind up with some great results.
The first step, he recommends, is to copy. “Copy existing products, and then go from there,” he explains. “Modify it to fit your needs.”
Innovation for Creative Solutions
Samson used this same principal when creating an action camera mount for Kelley’s bike. After researching existing mounting solutions, he was able to better understand how he could begin to construct his own. “Some mounts have a hinge on one side for opening and closing,” he says, “but it’s kind of hard to make a hinge out of Doodled plastic, so I made a whole ring in one piece, and made it a little flexible.”
Adapting a commercial design for custom use was exactly what Kelley was looking for. “While camera mounts for round handlebars such as mine are commercially available, I liked that the mount was custom designed for my handlebars and therefore I could place it exactly where I wanted so it didn’t get in the way,” she says. “Also the Doodled mount is considerably less bulky and lighter than the commercial ones available, which is always important for weight-conscious roadies.”
When designing the mount, Samson was faced with a new array of issues and problems to overcome. During the prototyping process, he says it’s important to experiment and take risks to find solutions. In this case, Samson found that mixing materials was the best fix for the mount. “I had to use FLEXY on the inside of the ring to provide grip,” he explains. “The inside surface was too smooth, and when it grabbed the handlebar it would still move a little bit even when you screwed the bolt really tight.” When faced with a problem, finding creative solutions is key. “I put the FLEXY inside basically to act like a tire tread to grip onto the handle bar,” he says.
And road-testing confirmed his mixed-filament experiment. “The addition of FLEXY provided excellent grip, and meant there was no rotation even when riding on rough bumpy surfaces,” Kelley says.
With DIY projects like this, Samson says it’s all about adapting designs to fit what you can do, while getting the results you want. “It might not be the best looking product, or be good for selling to the public,” he says, “but if it works, then it’s a good DIY project.”