Royal Dutch Gazelle has been making bicycles since 1902, and they are a global bicycle powerhouse that is based in the Netherlands, but…most North Americans have not heard of them (They are actually the third largest bicycle producer by volume…in the world!). The Netherlands is one of the most bicycle-friendly places on Earth. Gazelle recently decided to build an upscale mid-drive bicycle, and they hired the famous Italian design studio Italdesign Giugiaro to help them create something stunning.
As a young man in the Italian Army, Giorgetto Giugiaro had a passion for car design, and he hand-made and then personally delivered a plaster model of a car shape to Nuccio Bertone, head the successful Bertone design studio. This was a brash move for an unknown, but his talent was evident even then, and…he got the job.
The average person can be forgiven for not knowing who Giugiaro is, but…he is quite literally the most famous car designer that you’ve never heard of. In fact, the automobile industry awarded him “designer of the century” in 1999.
During his stay at Bertone (from 1960 to 1965), his most famous design was the 1963 Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, which really impressed everyone in the Italian school of car design at the time.
This energetic and impressive young man then accepted a job offer from the prestigious Ghia design studio, where he worked from 1966 to 1968. His first design job at Ghia was the Maserati Ghibli. It has been cited as the major influence over automobile design at the time (including the 1968 Chevrolet Corvette and the 1971 Ferrari Daytona), and it made him even more famous.
In 1968, Giorgetto Giugiaro formed his own design studio, Italdesign Giugiaro. Future VW Chairman Ferdinand Piëch was an apprentice at Italdesign Giugiaro as a young man in 1972, and this must have been a good sign, because Giugiaro and VW collaborated on two of their most memorable successes; the 1974 VW Golf/Rabbit, and the Scirocco.
The success of the Golf/Rabbit and the Scirocco heralded-in the “folded paper” era of car design. the next milestone was the father of the mini-van, and…as pedestrian and unexciting as that might seem, it was a visionary leap that was ahead of its time. In 1976, Giugiaro designed the Alfa Romeo “New York Taxi” prototype, which resulted in a production model named the Mega-Gamma.
It was boxy, but it used an existing chassis and drivetrain, with a body shape that very efficiently provided a comfortable riding position for the passengers, and also employed a variety of clever cargo solutions. Just a short while later, the famous automobile executive Lee Iacocca (who was a fan of the Italian school of design) left Ford to salvage the then-struggling Chrysler, and the second design he funded was a very successful minivan, called the Dodge Caravan.
In 1976, the British sports car company Lotus hired Giugiaro to design what would become the Lotus Esprit. It played a prominent role in the 1977 James Bond movie “The spy who loved me”.
The next most notable model designed by Giugiaro was the 1981 DeLorean DMC-12, which became infamous after a scandal involving the company founder, John DeLorean, who had previously been an executive at General Motors, and had designed the Pontiac GTO. A DeLorean DMC-12 was then used in the famous 1985 comedy “Back to the future”.
The cars designed or influenced by Giugiaro are too numerous to list all of them here, but several note-worthy milestones are the 2003 Lamborghini Gallardo, the 2004 Toyota Volta hybrid, the 2005 Alfa Romeo 159, the 2005 Ferrari GG50, and the 2016 Giugiaro Brivido.
The Gazelle Electric Bicycle
The first promotional pics of this ebike were released showing the Dutch King Willem-Alexander riding it (with Queen Maxima). There is very little information, and very few pictures released, but we will find out what we can.
The motor is the well-regarded Bosch mid-drive system which provides a smooth and seamless application of power, using a torque-sensing crankset (so we have assumed it uses 48V). The rear hub is a fully encapsulated IGH, the NuVinci Harmony 380, which is shifted electronically, and can even be shifted at a complete stop. In keeping with the Dutch street laws, this ebike is a full pedelec design, where the motor only supplies power if the pedals are moving, and there is no hand-throttle option available.
The most striking feature at first glance is that the entire frame uses carbon-fiber in every possible place, even in the wheel-spokes and rims. This makes this model extremely light and strong, but also…very expensive!
Another upscale feature is the Gates carbon belt (instead of a chain), which does not need any lubrication, and runs very clean and silently.
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Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, October 2015