John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Here's how to become the most popular person in your 'hood, especially among large, sweaty men.
Want to know how to instantly become the most popular person in your 'hood, especially among large, sweaty men? Fire up this portable grill on the back of your bicycle, and watch everybody come running like you're the ice-cream man (if the ice-cream man had a side trade in savory, grease-dripping goodies).
The "Backbrat" is the ambrosial invention of Mathias Hintermann, a Los Angeles-area product designer who grew up in the fertile cervelat fields of Switzerland. One day, Hintermann was considering two facets of modern urban culture – more and more young people are cycling in groups, and groups sure do love outdoor grilling – when the meat gods slapped him upside the face with a bolt of fat-marbled genius: Why not combine these two things into a grill for a bike?
And thus the birth of this elegant cooker on wheels, perhaps the first cycle that adds calories to the rider. Though it's durable enough to handle high heats, the weight stays low thanks to a design employing silicone, fiberglass and a polyurethane insulator. The grill pan, meanwhile, is big enough to accommodate a sausage party of bratwursts, thuringers and frankfurters (no veggies allowed!):
Hintermann conceived of a convenient locking system that keeps the grill from flying off on pothole-cursed avenues and blinding hapless pedestrians with showers of hot cinders. OK – he probably didn't have in mind that you'd be grilling while pedaling. But if you're not, I'd argue you're not enjoying this wonderful invention to its full potential.
Simply mount a stationary "fixer" onto the back rack and slide the rest of the contraption on top of it, including the charcoal briquets that cook the protein. By staying away from methane tanks, Hintermann avoids the specter of little mushroom clouds going off around the city as distracted, salivating bikers smash into car doors and curbs:
The designer is targeting his movable grill for the market in Germany, whose citizens consumed an average of 5.9 pounds of bratwurst each in 2011. Here's a tip, Hintermann: Pair your product with a bespoke leather holder for a growler of doppelbock, and you've created a bicycle that people will never want to get off of.