Pedal power: Martin Skegg and Michael Oliveira-Salac meet a man on a mission to change the way we travel. Photographs by Louis Girardi
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or Ben Wilson, bikes are the transport of the future, though not necessarily in the form we usually recognise them. The 22-year-old design graduate has been reconstructing the principles of two- (and occasionally three-) wheel design. Pooling influences from car customisation to skateboarding to the urban environment, he has produced a series of stunning modern vehicles. The aim, according to Wilson, is to "change people's preconceptions about what self-aided transport is".

He started out by customising bikes, based on what he had seen on the West Coast of America where kids were doing to bikes what their parents were doing with low-rider cars. Most of these designs are totally impractical and mainly for show. When Wilson moved on to bike design and manufacture he wanted products that worked. Initially, this proved somewhat difficult. The shape and design of his Low Rider Recumbent bicycle is definitely head-turning but as he admits, "it's not the most practical bike in the world". In fact, the prototype was nearly impossible to handle, but adjustments and fine tuning have made it more functional.

or the design of the Urban Scooter, Wilson undertook some research and found that people wanted something sturdy, with the fun of a skateboard but easier to manage. He also found a strong nostalgia for the push scooters they had ridden as children. The result is a grown up scooter - a cross between a skateboard and a BMX bike - that is sturdy and safe (complete with brakes) that anyone can use. It is the ideal way to get around town.

His next project is the the Downhill Racer, a low-slung bike which looks rather like a sled on wheels. When recently exhibited in a gallery window, its radical styling had passers-by stopping in their tracks. In its present state it is a bit unstable, so the plan is to put another wheel on the front and to use it as a kind of grass sled, for racing on hillsides.

Although the Downhill Racer is designed largely for recreational purposes, Wilson is firmly committed to bikes as a practical form of transport and a viable alternative to cars. He expects rapid progress in electrically powered transport within the next five years and is investigating the possibilities of enhancing his own vehicles with small motors.

In the meantime he is looking for support to expand his manufacturing capability, to move away from the hand-built commissioning process, and maybe giving us all the chance to own a piece of cycling form, function and fun

or enquiries and further information call 0181-449 6810. Ben Wilson's designs are on show in `Winning: the Design of Sports' at the McLellan Gallery, Glasgow until 5 April

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