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Special, Unusual, & Alternative Bikes
This is an informational guide -- we don't sell any of this stuff.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Franchises: Wheel Fun Rentals
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.
Dealers: Easy Street Recumbents (512-453-0438).
Used Recliners Online: BikeRoute Classifieds
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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:
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)
Redefining "unusual" is the Cycle Seven, a seven-person bike.
TRAILERS & RACKS
Racks & Baskets
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.
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
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
Pedal with both your arms and legs at the same time. Manufacturers: BC Bikes
Yes, you really can use your bike to propel an inflatable boat. (WaterGames.com)
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.
Maya Pedal makes pedal-powered blenders, water pumps, cofee depulpers, metal sharpeners, washing machines, woodsaws, eectricity generators, and more. Wow!
Someone actually made a dog-powered scooter
Mike Librik has written an excellent comparison of many different kinds of bikes.
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.
Here are some interesting tidbits about various brands of bikes.
Last updated: May 2013