ARCHIVED - Bixi bikes built with NRC partners in Quebec

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November 05, 2009— Saguenay, Quebec

This year, Montréal residents were delighted when municipal authorities introduced the bicycle taxi or "Bixi" — the first public bike-sharing system in Canada. Launched in May 2009, the service currently features 3,000 bicycles available for rent at more than 400 self-service stations throughout Montréal.

Montréal's Bixi system is based on a two-wheeled "urban jeep" designed and built by Cycles Devinci in Saguenay, Quebec. Chosen through a formal competition, the bike maker proposed a distinctive, lightweight but robust design. The company was aided by NRC and its partners in the aluminium transformation technology cluster in Saguenay, Quebec.

The Bixi bicycle owes much of its success to the NRC aluminium transformation technology cluster in Saguenay. Cycles Devinci was supported by the NRC Aluminium Technology Centre and other cluster partners including the Centre québécois de recherche et développement de l’aluminium (CQRDA) and Rio Tinto-Alcan. CQRDA offered financial support and helped Cycles Devinci with research and development. Rio Tinto Alcan also provided financing for the Bixi project and supplied all of the aluminium required.

"Cycles Devinci asked us to help solve various design challenges," says Alain Simard, business development officer at the NRC Aluminium Technology Centre (NRC-ATC). For example, the Bixi frame is all square, and encloses the bicycle chain and cabling — so they can't be damaged or vandalized. "This means there had to be enough space inside the frame to hold these components," he adds.

Bicyclettes Bixi

Left to Right: Michel Giroux, mechanical designer of the Bixi bike for Cycles Devinci, and Dr. Guillaume D’Amours, NRC-ATC research officer in the Saguenay region, Quebec.

To provide the necessary space while maximizing the bicycle's strength, the company needed to make a very solid and rigid frame. Its solution was to apply "hydroforming" technology — the use of fluid to mould metal parts — to increase the frame's loading capacity. "Many people use welding to create a complex metal part. But if you weld aluminium, you decrease its strength," says Simard. "Hydroforming allows you to make a complex metal form that is as smooth as possible."

NRC-ATC researchers have considerable expertise in aluminium transformation processes, including the hydroforming and shaping of aluminium tubing. Led by Ahmed Rahem, the team used special software and a hydraulic press to conduct a range of tests and studies, which allowed Cycles Devinci to identify the optimum bike frame design.

Last year, Montreal's Bixi bike-sharing system was named one of Time magazine's 50 best inventions of 2008. "The design of this one-of-a-kind bicycle proved the enormous power of cooperation and synergy when motivation, entrepreneurship, innovation and knowledge are put to good use in a technology cluster," stresses Simard.

Related information:

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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