I usually don't write about other people's bicycles but these two are so different that I think they deserve a closer look.
Helen Skelton's Antarctic bike
You probably have heard this news already. Helen Skelton is attempting to reach South Pole by bike (and a kite-ski as well). In order to fight hurricane winds and sand-like snow surface, Hanebrink/Fortune prepared a special bicycle for her, which actually looks a lot like their regular electric all-terrain bicycle, sans electric power, of course. They claim that the goal was to keep the bike design simple and maintenance-free. I am not going to describe it in detail since you can read more about it here. In general, it features 20" wheels, Brooks saddle, extra-large Power Grips on pedals (to fit Helen's polar boots), a long-travel suspension fork, and a single mechanical disc brake in the rear.
Helen's polar bicycle (Source: bbc.co.uk)
Looks interesting, but what makes me wonder is if a suspension fork is really needed on this bike, which was supposed to be as simple as possible. Suspension means extra maintenance.
Also, the size of wheels seems a bit surprising, since I would think that larger wheels will be easier to ride. However, since each tire is really fat (wide) and weighs about 3.5kg (8lbs), larger diameter tires would be even heavier. Maybe this is why wheels are so small.
Marek Jurek's folding bike
This story is also very new but you may have not heard about it yet. Marek Jurek is a person from Poland who was not happy with folding bicycles available on market (Bromptons, Dahons, etc.) and decided to build one himself (The need is a mother of all inventions). He completed the first prototype that looks like this:
Marek Jurek on his bike (Source: gazeta.pl)
What you see a ultra-short wheelbase, large-wheel, front-wheel drive, folding bicycle. I have to admit that the design is definitely original. Jurek's bike has 29" wheels and cranks mounted to the front hub (with a single-speed planetary reduction of 2.8:1). But it is not your childhood's tricycle since front wheel does not turn. Instead, the whole bike frame is articulated. Steering is controlled by two steel cables running from the handlebars to the frame pivot. According to Jurek, his bicycle has some unique advantages over regular city and folding bikes:
- it has a much more comfortable riding position that is somewhat similar to the one on a recumbent bike, yet more upright,
- it has large wheels and is faster than most small-wheel folding bikes,
- it has a very short wheelbase and is extremely maneuverable,
- it is much easier and faster to fold than all folding bikes - all you need is to grab the frame and the whole bike folds in half.
Jurek's bike, folded (Source: gazeta.pl)
Those (discussion in Polish) who had a chance to ride this prototype bicycle claim that indeed, it is easy to control on turns and maintaining a straight riding direction requires only a brief learning. Interestingly, in order to facilitate turning, Jurek's bike features rotating pedal platforms:
Rotating pedal platforms on Jurek's bike (Source: forum.masa.waw.pl)
I think the design is really smart and innovative but it would be great to see it equipped in fenders, some guards on both sides of the front wheel to keep mud and water off rider's pants, a rear (or front) rack, and maybe a 3-speed front hub. It would be great to see this vehicle in production.