Henry Grabar is a staff writer for Slate’s Moneybox and a former fellow at CityLab. He lives in New York.
The Dandy Horse returns with a new name and a new mojo.
In 1817, the Baron Karl Drais of Mannheim invented a device that would change the world. Drais had studied architecture and physics at the University of Heidelberg, and he wanted to create a machine that a man could ride and move with his own power. The result was a seat balanced between two wheels, which, if kept at a reasonable speed, would seemingly defy gravity and stay upright. Karl Drais had invented the Luftmaschine, otherwise known as the Dandy Horse.
Drais died in poverty, and his invention was eventually modified to produce what we recognize today as the bicycle. Like sharks, bicycles haven't evolved much. The two-wheeled, pedal-driven, chain-clicking, hand-braking bicycle is a universally recognized model of consistency. People have experimented with bicycles with one wheel, or three, or with no brakes at all, but the standard-issue bicycle prevails.
But now, out of Drais's own Germany, comes a model that no one (to our knowledge) has tried since the heyday of the Dandy Horse. Designers Juri Spetter and Tom Hambrock have come up with the Fliz Bike, a knowing tribute to Baron Drais that seems ride-ready for the streets of Brooklyn. The name comes from the German word Flitzen, which means "speeding," and the project is currently a contender for the James Dyson Award for international student design. As one YouTube commenter points out, it could difficult going uphill.
Here's the design:
And here's a video of the Fliz in action:
All Fliz Bike images courtesy of Fliz Bike.