Monday, 12 November 2007

Foldable ride-able Abike

Solving the problem of a folding bike but how to get it home afterwards, I discovered the A-bike invented by Englishman, Sir Clive Sinclair, developed with engineer, Mr. Alexander Kalogroulis of Sinclair Research. He also patented the circular band brake system and twin chain gearing system. Sir Clive Marles Sinclair [from Wiki] (born July 30, 1940) is a well-known British entrepreneur and inventor of the world's first 'slim-line' electronic pocket calculator in 1972 (Sinclair Executive) and the ZX80, ZX81 and ZX Spectrum computers in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Weighing in at 5.7kg, the frame is made from nylon reinforced with glass fibre similar to that used in the aerospace industry, according to A-bike Central, also site of a useful user forum. Interestingly, although the wheels look very small, the pedal power required isn't all that much different from a regular bike, and because the chain system is fully enclosed, you don't have to worry about getting your catching your clothes on the mechanism. It is completely oil-free and enclosed so it won't make you dirty either. It is reviewed in Gizmag as the world's smallest and lightest bicycle. Presently, the A-bike seems popular (and maybe only available in) Japan, the U.K. and Hong Kong. Indeed, so popular, that HK customs seized a shipment of 23 counterfeit A-bikes!

Several forums and blogsites testify to the infectious curiosity this re-think of conventional bicycle design attracts:

My caravan seems to have an infectious influence on bike madness, evident in Ben's blog (4/10/06) in which he, while living here, completely refitted the cranks and gearing of a folding bike (much bigger than mine ... hee, hee). Taking after many other A-bike owners, I felt compelled to do some modding of my own, sacrificing a small amount of lightness by changing the seatpost to a much longer (and suspension) model and exchanging the cute hard, tiny A-bike saddle that neatly wraps around the frame when folded for a more ergonomic (i.e. 'normal') saddle to avoid crippling pain and ridiculously short journeys! I am glad to report that this works very well. Still some practice is required to assume the steady tracking provided by larger wheels and pebbles look like mountains, gutter and drains like crevasses in proportion to those little tyres. I also added the rear red flashing light for night-time visibility (the least I could do in this land of narrow dimly-lit streets, blind corners and no helmets), cable lock and headlamp. This afternoon marked my maiden tour after modding the seat, into the autumnal local foothills and farms for a leisurely burst of afternoon sunshine before the temperature plummeted to a nocturnal 7 degrees.

This little cycling adventure coincided with arrival of double CD re-release of Richard Lerman's 70s-80s Bicycle Music on the Japanese EM label, recommended by Simon Hayman, in which Lerman used tuned spokes and ensembles of riders to produce a kind of mobile gamelan music.

Despite the 85kg weight restriction, here's an interesting picture of a famous Hong Kong magazine designer who has ridden his for many months and looks confident in traffic!