The bicycle has catapulted from being a humble bipedal carrier of the common man to the vehicle of a revolution. We have told you much about the bicycle and its role in getting the not so well to do citizen around the city. In India, bicycles are not as much a symbol of breaking away from the rat race of fossil fuel-powered cars and high-flying consumerism as it is about affordable transport. Simply, transport.
But the world has reacted to bicycles in a whole new way. It is about freedom – from preconceptions, from choked roads and choking cities, and from the ordinary. Here is a look at some innovative, some zany inventions around the humble bipedal bicycle.
Tandem for One
California-based Calfee Design outdid its bamboo frame bicycles with a tandem (two-person) bike that can become a single person bicycle with some minor adjustments. So it takes two of you to school and the day your partner decides to take a day off, you can go solo!
Want to go hi-tech? Want to connect your smartphone to your bike, to see how many kilometres you have biked today or check for routes? Switch to a FlyKly SmartWheel! This sleek motor fitted into the rear wheel of a bicycle assists riding and makes your bike a power-packed gizmo. Its main functionality though is to make a bicycle almost motorised for no-sweat biking! It stores kinetic energy when you are pedalling and assists in movement when you are navigating a steep hill or a busy street.
Bike on water
The Jesus Lizard can walk on water. And thanks to San Francisco resident Judah Schiller, we humans can now bike on water! Schiller’ BayCycle Project has developed a bike kit that contains two inflatable pontoons, a small propeller and a mount that attaches to the bicycle. It takes about 15 minutes to set it all up and five minutes to take it down. What can it do? It can float on water so you can bike across a river or stream!
Glow in the dark
You know how difficult it is to spot a cyclist at night, right? And for the biker this seeming invisibility is a real security hazard. Mission Bicycle Company teamed up with another company called Halo Coatings to develop a glow-in-the-dark bike called the Lumen. Sprayed with a retro-reflective coating this bike appears gray-coloured by day and flashes neon by night, when a headlight beams on it.
Loud and clear
Researchers say that car horns are best tools to prevent road accidents. Drivers react automatically to horns, without attempting to locate where the sound is coming from. Research engineer Jonathan Lansey, applied this logic to bicycle horns to develop the Loud Bicycle Horn. Set at 112 decibels, it mimics the sound and pitch of a typical car horn to get the driver’s attention and ensure a biker’s safety on the road.
Swedish innovators have developed a stylish way to save bikers from serious head injury, without messing up their hairstyle. No bulky helmet, this. The Hövding is fast-launching (one eighth of a second) airbag collar which detects abnormal movements associated with a crash to launch. It is lighter than a helmet and comes in a range of designs. Add to that the developers claim that it has been tested by Swedish insurance company Folksam and you have yourself a sweet and safe deal, right?.
Light my way
Smart phone technology is the inspiration for many of these bike innovations. Here is another one. Helios Handlebars are fitted with ultra-bright lights in front and two smaller lights turned towards the back. These backlights function as indicators to those behind the bicycle. When connected to a smart phone, these bar-end lights flash to provide turn-by-turn GPS navigation too!
Most of these startlingly innovative vehicles are born out of the creative minds of inventors and engineers who ‘crowd-funded’ their ideas. There are cases where the funding they received was double the amount they asked for! So bicycle safety is, clearly, on everyone’s mind, and hats off to those who could convert that into exciting products!