Cycling - ride out of shape

A new generation of bikes might look weird, but they could help you get fit, ski down a slope or just make cycling in the city more fun. Luke Blackall hops on

Every bike shop has one slightly futuristic model that even the gearier-than-thou staff don’t seem quite sure what to do with. Rather than take it for a test drive and risk toppling off in front of the fixie crew and the Lycra-clad racers, we usually opt for a nice sensible diamond shaped hybrid that won’t attract a second look in the cycle lanes.

The latest funny-looking pair of wheels to hit the stores is the ElliptiGo, a mixture of a traditional bike and a cross-trainer. It’s one of a number of nontraditional bike shapes currently being marketed to tempt exercise fiends away from the gym and their normal cycles.

The ElliptiGo certainly manages to confound people in the in the open air – a half-hour ride around Hyde Park managed to elicit strange glances from passers-by, cheeky shouts from school children and envious enquiries from other cyclists. Once you’ve mastered the art of not tumbling off the nearly two-metre-long bike (and ignoring the gawping pedestrians), it is a swift and straightforward ride, giving the same slightly floaty feeling you get from a cross-trainer. Inclines seem easier to manage as you are already standing up, although on your first downhill you find yourself leaning back to a saddle that isn’t there.

The overall feeling is like cycling, only harder – the makers say that while a fit person might need to be out for 90 minutes to get a good workout on their bike, you can get the same effect in just 45 minutes on the ElliptiGo. That’s not to say the bike is solely for those with Chris Hoy and Lance Armstrong- like levels of fitness.

This bike has become most popular among an older and more injury-prone clientele. Particularly those with injuries to their backs or joints that stop them from running or using regular bikes. It may look radical, but those who keep up with cycling trends will recognise that the machine is the latest in a long line of challenges to the traditional diamondframe shape of the bicycle. In the 1970s, with its unusual riding position and back wheel that was larger than the front, the Raleigh Chopper became a must-have for children in the UK. And it has recently been enjoying a resurgence, with an owners’ club and annual meeting bringing riders together.

In the 1990s the Trek Y-Foil turned heads with its lack of seat tube (the link between the saddle and the back wheel). At the same time, Scottish champion cyclist Graeme Obree was challenging design norms with the bikes he used to set a series of records. But since the “safety bicycle” designs that emerged from the UK in 1885, no designer has ever succeeded in producing a lasting competitor to the diamond-shaped frame. Not least because the sport’s governing body, the UCI, insists that racing bikes must adhere to the traditional shape and have two wheels of equal diameter. Bella Bathurst, author of the forthcoming The Bicycle Book, believes the shape fits our bodies perfectly and is here to stay.

“Basically, it works,” she says. “It fits the human frame, and quite simply, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. It’s like a pencil, unless the shape of the hand changes nor will the shape of the pencil.” Tell that to radical Danish manufacturer Biomega. The firm is challenging the received wisdom of bike design using new technology and materials to create some extremely odd-looking new rides. One of their models is the MN, which they call “the most innovative city bike ever built” and looks like it has been ridden straight off the set of a futuristic film.

More radically, the Canadian company K-Track does away with the front wheel, replacing it with a ski and puts the back wheel on a caterpillar track so that the bike can be used on the snow. California firm Pi Mobility produces an electric bike with a sleek, bow-shaped frame, which is kind to the environment while still letting you burn calories. Taking it a step further again is the Yike Bike, which is a foldable, electronic bike, with handlebars fixed behind the seat (to view an i staff member trying it out, go to ind.pn/fdqrfI).

While recumbent bikes might not have converted the mainstream, manufacturers in the UK are reporting growing sales and they have also found a place among those with injuries and disabilities. Chains, meanwhile, are being replaced on some bikes by belts, which require no lubrication and to have less chance of falling off on your way to work.

Then there are those challenging the the materials bikes are usually made from. Magni Vinicio sells beautiful wooden bicycles, inspired by da Vinci drawings, which are meant to restore “the beauty of the bicycle’s wooden origins”. And there’s the Bambike, with a frame constructed entirely out of bamboo from the Philippines. Perhaps weirdest of all is the Airbike.

Developed by scientists at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space group, the Airbike is made entirely from nylon. Those behind it claim that it is as strong as steel and aluminium, but weighs 65 per cent less. The most remarkable thing about it is that rather than being built in a factory or workshop, it was designed on a computer and then printed from layered nylon powder, becoming a fully rideable bike.

Whether any of these off-kilter contraptions will reach bike-lane ubiquity depends on a lot of things, not least of all their price – the ElliptiGo starts at $2,000 (£1,241). But if they can add a bit of much-needed colour to the nation’s cycle racks, they’ll be well worth it.

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Corleone, played by Al Pacino, goes back to his family's Sicilian roots in the first 'Godfather' film
film
News
Kim Kardashian speaks on the Today show about her step-father's transition
PEOPLE
Arts and Entertainment
Kermit and his doppleganger Hyalinobatrachium dianae
film
Sport
Wenger and Mourinho square-up to each other earlier this season
All the action from today's Premier League, including Everton vs Man Utd and Chelsea vs Arsenal
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

    £26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

    Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

    £24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions