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Special, Unusual, & Alternative Bikes

This is an informational guide -- we don't sell any of this stuff.


Trikes

Exceptional balance & cargo-hauling capability.

Pedicabs

For moving people.

Bike-Car

Four wheels and seats two!

Special-Needs Bikes

Recumbents

Incredibly comfortable -- like a lounge chair with wheels.

Semi-Recumbents

Halfway between an upright bike and a true recumbent.

Velomobiles

A reverse-trike (two wheels in front) for easy balance. Completely enclosed which keeps you out of the rain, and which reduces wind resistance to make for very fast speed.

Solar Bikes

TRIKES (TRICYCLES)

Trikes have many advantages over regular bikes: You can stay on the seat when you stop, you can haul massive loads with big trailers much easier, older or nervous riders don't have to worry about tipping over, and riders with only one arm or one hand have a much easier time.

Trikes are usually better than bikes for hauling large loads with a trailer. Many trikes even have a cargo box built in, such as the one in the photo at right.

Web Guides

Workbike.org is the definitive site for information on carrying loads by human power, all over the world.

BikeRoute.com has a list of recumbent trike makers.

Manufacturers

Higley Metals deserves special mention for making a $329 trike kit, which converts any bicycle into a tricycle. You simply remove the rear wheel of your bike, and attach the trike kit. Nice!
Human Powered Machines | Largo Scooters (electric trike) | Lightfoot Cycles | Mohawk | Trailmate | Twike | Windcheetah | Workcycles | Worksman [ReBike seems to have fallen off the face of the earth]


PEDICABS (Rickshaws)

Pedicabs are giving rides to people, but there's nothing that says you can't use them to move all your belongings across town by bike. There are only a handful of manufacturers and they tend to be quite expensive -- $3000 and up.

Some manufacturers: Bikes at Work, Lightfoot Cycles, INSSA, Main Street Pedicabs, Organic Engines

Other retailers: Bicycle Revolution, Vegas ATV

 


BIKE-CARS (FOUR-WHEELED BIKES)

Bike cars are four-wheeled bikes, for 1-6 riders (depending on the design). They're not really any faster than regular bikes, mostly because of the added weight. They're ideal for riders with special needs, those who have difficulty balancing, or those who are especially fearful of falling off a two-wheeled bike.

Manufacturers: Just Two Bikes .|. Lightfoot Cycles .|. Quadracycle .|. Rhoades Car .|. Trailmate

Lists of Manufacturers: BHSI's List .|. BikeRoute's list

Franchises: Wheel Fun Rentals

 


RECUMBENTS

A recumbent is a reclining bike where you sit in a bucket-type seat with a back support, and your legs are out in front of you.  It's like riding a La-Z-boy.  Recumbent bikes are incredibly comfortable. They're not popular yet because they're only made by small outfits rather than by companies with big factories, so most of them cost more than regular bikes. (The cheapest is the Sun EZ-1, which starts at around $650.)  Four well-known Austin biking figures ride recumbents as their main bike (Tommy Eden, Mike Librik, Amy Babich, and Michael Bluejay).

Also see our guide to How to Get a BikeE onto a city bus rack.

More info: Why Recumbents? .|. Comparison of Recumbents to Upright bikes .|. BikeRoute's Recumbent Guide .|. Recumbent Cyclist News

Dealers: Easy Street Recumbents (512-453-0438).

Used Recliners Online: BikeRoute Classifieds

Some manufacturers: Bike-E (fan site for this defunct brand) .|. Lightfoot Cycles .|. ReBike .|. Sun .|. Vision .|. Windcheetah .|. Buddy Sports (Tandem)

Article about converting a regular bike to a recubent: Mother Earth News

Fast recumbent for under $1000: Lightning Thunderbolt

Fully-faired two-wheel recumbents: Lightning F-40 | The world speed record for a bicycle was achieved on a fully-faired recumbent, over 60mph. In July 2006 Freddy Markham rode averaged 53.4 miles an hour on one.

Velomobiles (fully-faired recumbent trikes; like a little bicycle car): See Velomobiles, above

Fairings: Mueller (retailer, info)  |  The Hostel Shoppe (retailer)
How to make a fairing: Warren B.'s guide and Russell D.'s guide

 


SEMI-RECUMBENTS

Unless we're mistaken, it wasn't until 2005 that anybody made and marketed a semi-recumbent, to marry the comfort and safety of a recumbent with the larger wheels and shorter wheelbase of an upright. And now there's lots to choose from, such as the semi's made by Rans (at right), Day 6 (below), and Giant.


VELOMOBILES

Velomobiles are fully-enclosed recumbent trikes. They're awesome for touring because the fully-faired enclosure reduces wind resistance, allowing them to go very fast, even when hauling extra gear for touring. The downside is that they're very expensive ($5000+), and so far as we know manufactured only in Europe, so shipping to another location adds to the already high cost.

Resources: North American Velomobilist website | Velomobile Guide | Velomobile.info .|. Velomobile Prototypes

Dealers: VelomobileUSA

Some manufacturers: Aerorider .|. Alleweder .|. Cab-Bike .|. Fietser .|. Flevobike .|. Go-One .|. Leiba .|. Leitra .|. Tri-Sled .|. Velemobiel


ELECTRIC BIKES

Electric-assist bikes have a small motor to help you get up hills or help you go a little faster. They don't do all the work for you; you still pedal, it's just easier to pedal when you have the motor assist. You turn the motor on when you need it with a button on the handlebars. The motor is typically powered by a small battery which you can recharge by plugging it into the wall. You can either buy a complete bike along with the motor, or you can just get the motor and attach it to your existing bike.  A good site covering electric bikes is Electric-Bikes.com.


SOLAR BIKES

I don't know of any company making an off-the-shelf product, but this blogger details how he made his own. His site is excellent and contains lots of data about how to figure how much farther you can go with the solar assist.


ELECTRIC SCOOTERS

Mark our words: When the oil crunch hits, the biggest change won't be hybrid cars or more bikes, it'll be electric scooters. Here are stores selling that sell electric scooters online:

Electric Scooters store | Scooters & Mopeds Unlimited


TANDEMS

Tandems are bikes for two or more people. Note that CycleMorph makes a special unit that attaches to any normal bike to turn it into a tandem instantly.

Manufacturers: (also see BIKE CARS, above)

Bilenky
CycleMorph

Green Gear
LoveBike
Trailmate

Santana
 (3- to 5-person tandems)
Buddy Sports (recumbent)

Other Resources: BikeRoute's list .|. BikeRoute's Classifieds

Special-Needs Tandems: The Bike Rack, Love Bike, View Point


SEVEN-PERSON BIKE

Redefining "unusual" is the Cycle Seven, a seven-person bike.


TRAILERS & RACKS

Trailers

  • Workbike.org is the definitive site for information on carrying loads by human power, all over the world.
  • Check out BikeRoute's Comparison Table of various trailers. Very handy!
  • BOB trailers are quite popular. They're inexpensive (compared to other trailers), lightweight, and have only one wheel.
  • The Xtracycle is an interesting way to get cargo capacity: You remove your rear wheel, attach an extension frame to your bike where the rear wheel used to be, and then put the rear wheel on the back of the extension frame. It adds about 5 pounds extra weight & 15 inches to your wheelbase, and increases your cargo capacity by about 200 pounds by giving you an easy way to strap-on heavy or bulky objects behind you and out of the way.
  • Re-Cycled Bike Trailer. Download the complete plans and build a trailer yourself.
  • Manufacturers: BicycleR Evolution.|. BOB Trailers .|. Human Powered Machines .|. Xtracycle

Racks & Baskets

Racks & Baskets: ANT Bikes makes a line of rugged and high-capacity racks and baskets with cargo-hauling in mind .|. Here are plans for building a shopping-cart bike

Heavy-duty Racks: Tubus is a German-made rack that's rated at an impressive 90 lbs.

Surfboard carrier.  Yep, you can carry your surfboard on your bike.


CARGO BIKES

Cargo bikes have special racks or trays to carry large and/or heavy objects. I think that trikes are better for this kind of application because you don't have to try to balance a lot of weight on just two wheels, but cargo bikes are certainly popular among their proponents.

Manufacturers: Bilenky


SPECIAL NEEDS BIKES

The "Duet" model combines a wheelchair with a bike. And it's not cheap, starting at $4000. (Dealer: Flaghouse)

Also see the entry below for arm-powered bikes, for people who can't bike with their legs.


ARM-PEDALED BIKES (Handcycles)

These are actually trikes, and many look kind of like a wheelchair in the back with a third tire out in front, and a pedal set in front of the rider at chest level. They're designed for cyclists who can't pedal with their legs, or those who want an upper-body workout.

Manufacturers: The Bike Rack .|. SpinLife.com .|. Freedom Ryder .|. Lightfoot Cycles .|. BikeRoute's list


FOLDING BIKES
Manufacturers: BikeRoute's list of manufacturers .|. Bike Friday .|. Breezer .|. Brompton .|. DownTube .|. Green Gear .|. HomeRight .|. Human Powered Machines .|. Linear .|. Montague (see the review of Montague) .|. Strida


SHAFT-DRIVE BICYCLES (Chainless)
Bikes that use a shaft drive instead a chain. Runs quieter, cleaner, and supposedly more efficiently. Manufacturers: Dynamic Bicycles .|. Sussex


BELT-DRIVE BICYCLES (Chainless)
Bikes that use a belt drive instead a chain. Supposedly more reliable and without messy grease. Manufacturers: Strida


ROWING BIKES
Pedal with both your arms and legs at the same time. Manufacturers: BC Bikes


WATER BIKES
Yes, you really can use your bike to propel an inflatable boat. (WaterGames.com)

 


COMMUTER BICYCLES
Most modern bikes are geared towards racers, mountain bikers, or tourists, so it's nice to see bikes made for commuters. Eric Anderson recommends the Bianchi Castro Valley, modified with Nitto Dove handlebars and a Jannd Expedition rack or a Tubus rack.


BICYCLE MACHINES
Maya Pedal makes pedal-powered blenders, water pumps, cofee depulpers, metal sharpeners, washing machines, woodsaws, eectricity generators, and more. Wow!

Here are instructions on how to build a bicycle-powered washing machine.

Here's a picture of a prototype bicycle lawn mower.  (If anyone knows of bike-powered mower that's available retail, please let me know!)

TreeHugger has an article about a trike to help harvest crops.

Here's an exercycle that generates electricity.

Pedal-powered washing machines have been designed by an Indian girl and by a British inventor.

 


This bike doesn't really exist, but it sure looks cool, huh? Check out the rest of the bikes in this series.

OTHER UNUSUAL BIKES
Someone actually made a dog-powered scooter

Hammacher Schlemmer sells a tiny miniature bike.

Some guys in Corvalis, OR make really funky bikes.

And some folks in San Francisco make chopper bikes.

Here are some wacky, wacky unicycles.

Here are pictures of more funky bikes, especially tall/high bikes:

http://www.atomiczombie.com/
http://www.geocities.com/Pipeline/1367/tallpix.htm
http://bikerodnkustom.homestead.com/watson.html
http://www.dclxvi.org/chunk/meet/tall/index.html
http://www.dclxvi.org/chunk/meet/chopper/tall/index.html


OTHER RESOURCES
Mike Librik has written an excellent comparison of many different kinds of bikes.


COMPONENTS
Patrick Goetz writes: I use "old-fashioned" handlebars on my bikes for ergonomic, comfort, and safety reasons. The standard straight mountain bike handlebars almost everyone uses are uncomfortable, unergonomic, and fundamentally unsafe, as the bicyclist is forced to lean over the bicycle, head thrust forward, hands contorted into a relatively unnatural position. [This isn't true if the bars are raised high enough. -Ed.] In fact, I think that the lack of general availability of comfortable and practical handlebars is a major contributing factor to why so few people are bicycle commuters.

Since I recommend retrofitting your bicycle with bars like this, the best one's I've found are available through Rivendell for $18

It would be nice if bars like these were available in an extra strong deluxe version, but since they're considered to be a fetish accessory in this country this inexpensive Taiwanese bar is the best one I've been able to find. I snap them in half every couple years and then just throw a new one on the bike.


BIKE BRANDS
Here are some interesting tidbits about various brands of bikes.

Huffy. As of the late 90's, Huffy was the largest manufacturer of bikes in the world, making mostly cheap bikes for department stores. The company had financial troubles in 1999 as a result of competition from foreign manufacturers, mostly in Asia, so it closed its last two U.S. plants in 1999 and moved its manufacturing over to China -- and then came under fire from activist groups for using sweatshop labor. In July 2001, Huffy was set to buy Schwinn, which was going bankrupt. This served as an interesting juxtaposition: the best-known manufacturer of crappy bikes buying one of the better-known manufacturers of quality bikes. But in September Huffy dropped out of the bidding and Schwinn was sold to Pacific Cycles. -- Huffy is traded under the symbol HUF.

Schwinn, founded in Chicago in 1895, was the dominant bike-maker for much of the 20th century. By the 1950's, one in four bikes sold in the United States was a Schwinn. The company lost much of its market share in the 1980s after failing to capitalize on the mountain-bike craze and losing its appeal to younger bikers. It filed for bankruptcy in 1992. Schwinn/GT came back in the mid-1990s after it was bought by Scott Sports Group and Zell-Chilmark Fund LP in 1993. In 1997 it was sold to Questor Partners Funds. As of 7-01, its bikes were second in market-share behind Trek Bicycle Corp., according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association. In 9/01 it was sold again to Pacific Cycles, which is predicted to move the Schwinn brand from its longstanding home of bike shops and into department stores, at lower prices and, many observers fear, lower quality. -- The preceding from a 7-17-01 and 9-12-01 AP article.

When the Schwinn family ran the company it got top-heavy, but it was a company run by and for bike lovers. The second owner made sweeping changes, but very much kept it a bike lover's company. The third owner, described by one insider as "a bunch of arrogant Harvard MBA types," ran it into the ground, leaving suppliers stranded with bikes and sub-assemblies ordered but not paid for. The wreckage, i.e., Schwinn's and GT's names, sold in bankruptcy proceedings for roughly $80 million. The buyer was Pacific Cycles, a Madison, Wisconsin firm that has moved to a position of total dominance in the department store market (to Huffy's undying regret). Pacific sells bikes under its own name, under the Mongoose nam, and soon under the Schwinn name. These new Schwinns won't be made by union labor in Chicago. -- John Schubert, Adventure Cyclist, Jan./Feb. 2002.

Kronan makes comfortable cruiser bikes, based on the original Swedish army design from over seventy years ago.

Last updated: May 2013

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