5 Weird and Wacky Bikes
Sure, the aptly named Circular Bike might not actually be mobile, but it sure makes a sweet statement piece. Artist Robert Wechsler built the canary-yellow, carousel-like contraption from nine salvaged bikes. The modular Circular Bike can be dismantled, moved, or reassembled altogether. It often sits in public places, where its wacky, whimsical appearance invites curious passersby for a giggle-inducing spin.
Image by Robert Wechsler
Yes, you read that correctly: a square-wheeled bike (which is actually a trike—most call it a bike, though). In 1997, Stan Wagon, a mathematics professor at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota designed a square-wheeled ride that can roll smoothly—but only on evenly spaced bumps of a special shape, known as an inverted catenary. A catenary is the curve that a rope or chain forms when supported at either end. (Imagine the cables on a suspension bridge.) A road made of upside down, catenary-shaped bumps placed side-by-side create the perfect surface for Wagon’s bike, which you can ride in the lower level of Macalester’s Olin-Rice Science Center.
Image by Stan Wagon, Macalester College
The Sideways Bike puts a radical spin on a prim and proper horseback riding practice. Rather than straddling the seat, the rider actually sits sidesaddle style. With the front and rear seating independent from each other, the rider maneuvers by shifting his or her lower body rather than turning a handlebar. The bike drifts from side to side while the rider sits upright. In fact, creator Michael Killian says that the sideways bike can be used as a snowboard trainer. Watch Killian slalom on his Sideways Bike below:
Video by Patricia Killian
On the seven-seat Conference Bike, you’ll never doze off during a meeting again. The circular seating arrangement gives you no choice but to interact with fellow passengers. Each pair of pedals is connected to a round shaft by a chain linked to the rear wheels. That way, everyone contributes equally to pushing the bike forward. One person maneuvers the bike by turning a central steering wheel. San Francisco artist Eric Staller originally built the apparatus as a gallery piece, but the buzz it generated convinced him to sell it as a bike. The Conference Bike website reports that 300 bikes are being enjoyed in 18 countries—as a corporate team-builder in Amsterdam and San Diego; a tour bike in Berlin, Baltimore and Minneapolis; and a bike for the blind in Dublin and Florida. Check out the Conference Bike in action in San Francisco's Misson District below:
The Fietscafe lets work off your beer belly—while drinking. This mobile pub seats up to 17, but don’t fret if a night of bar hopping leaves you feeling sluggish; only five people actually need to pedal. A bartender pours Amstel beer, while a sober driver does the steering. Although Fietscafe was originally built as a parade float to promote a Netherlands pub, now it’s also used in bar crawls and tailgating. Since then, 63 of these party pedals have been sold in the U.S., Germany, and Belgium.
Image by Fietscafe © www.fietscafe.nl
--top image by istockphoto/princigalli
Melissa Pandika is an editorial intern at Sierra and a graduate journalism student at Stanford University. Her interests include environmental health and justice, urban environmental issues, and conservation biology. She has a soft spot for cetaceans.