By Taro Muso and Sylvia Rozwadowska
Spurred by a summer day in March, we headed to our local bike shop where we happened across an unusually sturdy, rapidly folding bicycle, the ‘Boston’ by Montague. Thinking such a bike would be of interest to green-minded commuters, we visited the company’s Cambridge headquarters to meet inventor, entrepreneur, and MIT alumnus, David Montague, who founded Montague Bicycles as a graduate student 20+ years ago.
Why did you name your most recent model ‘Boston’? Do you think Boston is an especially favorable environment for cyclists?
Boston has become more bicycle friendly over the years, thanks to Mayor Menino’s initiative in establishing the Boston Bikes program, led by (2000 Sydney Games Olympian) Nicole Freedman, but Boston still faces some challenges before becoming a truly bicycle-friendly city.
Safety is the number one issue. An old city like Boston was never designed with bicycles and cars in mind. You can convince people that cycling is healthy, eco-friendly and fun, but Boston needs to address safety. Mayor Menino himself has been hit twice by cars while riding a bicycle, so we know that the Mayor is very interested in this problem.
How do other old cities address safety?
One way might be to increase taxes for automobiles, especially for the ones that operate near the city. Another way might be to designate certain streets for bicycles only and others for cars only.
How about safety features on the bicycles themselves?
Thirty years ago, my father Harry Montague invented a full-size folding bicycle that was both portable and high-performance. Since then, we’ve constantly innovated our technology into what we now call the F.I.T. System, which makes our bikes the strongest folding bikes on the market. In designing the Montague Boston, we asked our engineers in Boston, “What do you want to ride?”, and they built it.
I assume you ride a Montague bike.
I use it every single day. When I go to work, I go part way by car and part way by bicycle. The key here is flexibility. Every day, I can decide how much of my commute is going to be by bike. If it’s sunny, I might ride longer; if it’s rainy, I might drive all the way. If there’s an unsafe road, I’ll drive through that and then bike the rest of the way. Many people think that it’s either biking or driving, and nothing in between. That might be true with regular bicycles that don’t fold into your car, but our bikes allow you to have many, many options on how biking will integrate into your lifestyle.
So folding is a big advantage.
Absolutely. Foldability solves many problems: security, portability, convenience, and flexibility in lifestyle. You’ll notice the difference as soon as you buy one. The box will fit right in your car, and you don’t need tools to assemble it. You won’t need to rely solely on a regular bicycle lock, because your main bicycle protection will be the car alarm or the lock of your front door.
One of my friends was concerned a bike might fold while in use. How do you address extra safety concerns of the foldable bicycle?
We do everything we can think of to make our bicycles as consumer-oriented and safe as possible. For example, we improved upon the traditional quick release by inventing the CLIX Wheel Release System. Compared to its predecessor, CLIX is faster, easier, and less likely to be used incorrectly . We also invented the Octagon Adjustable System for the handle bar, to reduce the risk of sudden loss of steering and increase ergonomic comfort. The result of our industry leadership has been widespread recognition from both within and outside the bicycle industry. Every year Harvard Business School invites us to run a case study on our company in its classes.
Sounds like you have both technical and business savvy. What did you study at MIT?
I majored in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, but I also took courses at the MIT Sloan School of Management. Actually, my project in the entrepreneurship class was a business proposal on the foldable bike. That’s what I used to found this company.
What else do you do?
I like to go sailing. There’s nothing like the relaxing feel of being out on the water. I also love to play soccer, not just with my soccer league but with my kids who also love soccer. My children are my number one job. The bicycle is my number two job.
Anything else you want to tell the Green Scene?
Yes. If you have a bike, get it out and ride it. It’s good for your body, the environment, and your mind. Einstein once remarked that he got his best ideas while riding his bicycle.
David Montague and his colleagues gave many good reasons why we should look into Montague bicycles, but perhaps the most compelling reason was their faith in their own work. Montague employees trust their bicycles enough that their own children ride them too. To learn more about Montague Corp. please visit www.montaguebikes.com