John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Out of the Netherlands comes this unusual design for a streamlined commuting recumbent.
Recumbent bicycles aren't for everyone, what with the loss of balance control, difficulty in starting and the sometimes cruel put-downs from the non-recumbent masses. But for someone who loves the ungainly contraptions, here is one that's a little bit different – muscled and formidable like a motorcycle, with a classic racing fairing to match.
The City Speeder, which was recently featured on the great site Bicycle Design, comes from the conceptual workshop of Roel Verhagen Kaptein, an industrial product designer from the Netherlands. Kaptein whipped up these renderings of his curious recumbent for the International Bicycle Design Competition in Tapei, hoping to impress the world with a new kind of commuter bicycle. He writes:
The city speeder is a recumbent bike made for commuting in a fast and comfortable way. The streamlined body makes the bike fast and keeps you comfortable and dry. The streamline baggage compartment can hold your backpack, suitcase or can be used as a child seat. The design layout makes that you can use all standard parts for the driveline.
The City Speeder's boxy exoskeleton looks tough enough to take a couple hard knocks from zig-zagging urban traffic, and those super-thick wheels should make riding over bumpy pavement or gravel a cinch. However, a couple of Bicycle Design's commenters are pointing out what they perceive as flaws:
Gunnstein Lye: As a recumbent cyclist I’d say this could work well as a bike, but I would not want it as a city bike. Bents are generally not very good in start/stop situations, slow moving traffic, and manouvering tight spaces. High bottom brackets and high seats as on this one makes it worse. On the open road it could excel, though. I have a bike with very similar geometry and love it for long distances. In the city I use an upright (wedgie) bike.
Impossibly Stupid: I don’t understand how it’s supposed to keep you dry. The only thing that is covered is your legs, but only from the top. And, as I’ve mentioned before, every time I see a seat like that with zero air flow, all I can think of is the rivers of sweat that would be flowing down my back and pooling in the seat.
For what it lacks in an ability to keep a butt dry, though, the City Speeder makes up for with its unusual appearance, quite unlike anything else on the road today (save for maybe this “Flevobike Electric Greenmachine”). Similarly rejiggered recumbents are something of an obsession for Kaptein; he also has designed a flattened “Evolution Bike” and a classic chopper that looks like a Harley fighting with a giant praying mantis.
Images from the portfolio of Roel Verhagen Kaptein.