With the approach of the Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour (it happens in Cape Town on 14 March), I thought it would be fun to showcase a couple of groundbreaking two-wheeler concepts. Top of my list is a weird machine conceived and built by a Yale University mechanical engineering class that features a spokeless rear wheel.
Believed to be the first of its kind, the bike appears to violate all kinds of rules. The design uses a gear placed on the inside of the wheel’s rim to grip the teeth of an industrial timing belt fixed to the inside of the wheel. Its lack of spokes meant that the bike had to structurally reinforced by adding a heavy frame, says team member Derek Zhao. The class chose to build the bike because its design was counter-intuitive and challenging, according to class instructor Vern Van Fleet, a mechanical engineer at the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation.
Actually, there’s another spokeless design that looks rather interesting, but as far as I know, it has not progressed beyond the “Hey, that’s out-ra-geous!” stage: it’s Bradford Waugh’s Nulla concept, an interesting bicycle that uses a similar gear-drive mechanism and dispenses with spokes (both fore and aft), much of the frame, and probably every vestige of common sense.
Check out the picture and drool.
Next up is the folding bicycle by British designer Thomas Owen, a concept that aims to address the problem of urban congestion. In open mode, it’s a comfortable and stylish bicycle with a “revolutionary power assist system” (so far unspecified). When folded, the bicycle becomes a smooth, light and compact case free of all dirty and protruding parts. Will it ever move from the concept stage to the factory? Er, no.