Monday, November 28, 2011

Yikes! What Bikes!

Bike mower -- could this work?

Ho Chi Minh Trail technology
Madsen cargo bike

E-Solex electric bike
  If  bike shops (outside of California) stocked some of the exciting new interpretations of that most efficient and economical machine, would they sell?  Highly featured and shockingly expensive baby strollers have found outlets and eager buyers, but they speak status rather than eccentricity.  Acceptability might follow the usual path of early adopters in vanguard enclaves, notice in the media, and then a favorable mainstream attitude vis-a-vis entertainment value + utility.
When huge and growing demand for fossil fuels slams headlong into declining supplies, we'll still need transport; the many ingenious varities of bikes and trikes now used for practical purposes in the third world might be one solution to the problem -- for the few fit enough.  I doubt if you see 350-pounders on Rascal scooters in the bicycling nations such as the Netherlands or China.
They do work, though -- the rickshaw trike can carry up to 500 pounds; for up and down hills I think you'd need an electric assist and sturdy brakes.  The North Vietnamese walked their heavily-loaded cycles through jungle and over mountains, but the Madsen cargo bike's design would do the job well for an urban guerilla going to Lowe's today.  And they're only about $1000; a car costs about $8000 a year to operate after a five-figure purchase price and sales tax to boot.  Not that a car, without public transit to use when distance and weather pose difficulties, wouldn't still be in the picture for most people.  Hybrids and all-electrics will make that possible.  Bicycle-based alternatives for light transport are out there, and you just may see them on the road someday soon.
The 50cc motorbike, moped or scooter has been used by millions in Europe and Asia; the Solex brand debuted in 1946 in France alongside the Vespa in Italy and they're still going strong due to well-focused design and quality.  The new 400 watt electric-motor E-Solex isn't available in the U.S., but at $2100 it's an attractive combination of trusty old and beautiful new.  Unfortunately, most of what is available here in electric bikes and scooters is made in China and promises a short life to disappointed buyers.
The Studebaker family knew when to transition from wagons to automobiles, and we know what a leap in transportation technology the Wright brothers' bike shop produced.  There are some inventive Wilburs and Orvilles at work around the world, and that's a comforting thought in challenging times.
ElliptiGO -- something really new

       (7/2012 update)  I just found out about the ElliptiGO, a real innovation, the brainchild of two former Ironman triathletes.  It was first introduced in California (of course) in 2010, and four arrived in a local (Camp Hill, PA) bike shop this year, which sold immediately.  If you ever wanted to take your indoor exercise equipment out into the fresh air, this is the way.  Described as looking a lot like a preying mantis, it will probably elicit a variety of reactions out on the roads!  This combination elliptical trainer/bike weighs about 37 pounds, has eleven speeds, can do 25 MPH and climb hills, while exercising older or beat-up limbs and joints safely.  The three models range from $1800 to $3500.  Looks like fun.

1 comment:

  1. Bikes are one step up on walking. Due to economy so many have to ride and learn to endure on two-wheels. The basic structure of pedals and chain and wheels and handlebar and seat have not changed for hundreds of years because it started as a good design. Don't plan on carrying 500 lbs. but could carry a large screen with a few bungee cords.