I bet plenty of you are rushing to get ready for the holidays, even if you don’t celebrate the end of the year tends to be a time of reflection on how far you’ve come this year and where you’d like to go in the year to come. Bikes have been around for centuries, with some argument over which was the first and over the fact the first wheeled human-powered device didn’t look like the bicycles we know and love today. Isn’t it interesting that the predecessors of our two wheeled wonders were so similar and so dissimilar at the same time? Fast forward a century or two, or six to some interesting design modifications to the standard bike. Now I’m not talking about the differences we see from the various styles of bikes, or even frankenbikes, I mean commercially available bikes that get a double take when they pass by. You know the ones – the prone, the treadmill, the elliptical bikes. So let’s take a look at a few.
If you’re not familiar with anatomical terms for body positions, prone is when you lay face down on your abdomen. The cyclists lies on a padded platform that supports their core and pushes behind them to propel the bike forward. Instead of the bottom bracket being, well at the bottom in the center of the bike, it’s extended back behind the rear wheel. The rider’s position makes this an extremely aerodynamic bike, and by moving the crankset to the rear the rider is able to engage their lower extremity muscles more efficiently because they are in what we physical therapy folks like to call a gravity eliminated position, which basically means their legs aren’t fighting gravity every time the begin a new pedal stroke. You can see the Bird of Prey in action with it’s creator to get a better sense of how this bike just seems to glide on the road. The Bird of Prey isn’t the only one to do this, the H-Zontal and others have explored using the prone position for cycling, likening it to flying like superman.
So if you’ve ever spent hours on an elliptical at the gym, you know how boring it can be, effective but boring. A few companies have challenged the concept that ellipticals need only be an indoor experience. Whether it’s a two wheeled bike-elliptical hybrid like ElliptiGo’s model or a trike-elliptical hybrid like the StreetStrider, I’ve got to admit they do look like fun and definitely eliminate some of the typical soreness and tight muscles associated with traditional riding positions. I saw one of these on a marketing video about a year ago, and not more than a month later did I see someone riding (running?) theirs on the street on my way to get groceries. I wanted to stop and asked them what they thought about it, but sadly not dying in a horrible car accident caused by braking suddenly and running out of my car was not in the cards for me that day – phew. I’ve been on the lookout for that guy ever since. From what I saw in person he was going at a pretty good clip without looking like he was overexerting himself to do so until he got to the hills that dot my neighborhood. I’ll be honest, I love this idea as a cross training device and wouldn’t mind giving one a whirl, but I don’t see making this my standard-get-around-town bike by any means.
Now some may classify this one more scooted than bicycle, and I won’t necessarily argue with you there, it is very scooter-like. I’m including it here because unlike a traditional scooter which requires the rider to push with the feet akin to a skateboard, the Lopifit is an electric treadmill/scooter/bike hybrid. Now I plan on covering e-bikes in a future WIIW so I won’t go into too much detail here, but this is indeed an electric based design. The Lopifit glides you along the road using different gear levels while you walk at a normal pace on a small treadmill belt at speeds of 4 to 17 mph. Not too shabby. I could totally see this being a part of a bike rental program in tourist heavy cities if only it weren’t for the hefty price tag per unit. Also, at over 100 pounds per bike, it’s a chunky monkey should you actually need to lift it for any reason. Interesting concept none the less, and I can see this being a nice gateway device to get someone into biking who’s fearful of being on a traditional bike or lacks coordination.
Bicycles got their start not necessarily looking like the ones we lust after today/ These bike hybrids are taking the chance to break the mold of what we consider a bike. I foresee that happening going forward for quite some time ahead as we play around with the notion – what really IS a bike?