The YikeBike is a light, foldable, easily portable, electric bicycle. It is a radical redesign of the traditional bicycle. Christchurch inventor and entrepreneur Grant Ryan developed the YikeBike.

Bicycle design

The bicycle is the most commonly used form of transport worldwide. More than 2 billion people use a bicycle every day. Until the YikeBike, there had been no radical changes in the actual design of the bicycle over the past 150 years. Basic bicycle design had only changed through the optimisation of bike features, for example, on-going changes had been made to the design or the materials used for tyres, gears, brakes, seat, handlebars, frame, drive sprocket and chain. These changes have gradually improved the rider’s experience and widened the range of bicycles available.

A modern problem

The name ‘mini-farthing’ reflects the shape of this new bicycle, as it is a bit like the old-fashioned penny-farthing bike. The penny-farthing is the British bicycle dating from the late 1800s, named after two coins – the penny (the large wheel) and the farthing (the small wheel).

The YikeBike

The YikeBike is the first commercial production of the mini-farthing bicycle design.

Riding a YikeBike is very different from the way you ride a traditional bike. The bike rider sits upright, high on the seat and holds on to handles at the sides. Acceleration, braking and indicating are controlled through these handles. The rider can zoom along at a top speed of 23 km/h.

When not in use, the YikeBike folds into a compact shape (17 cm x 69 cm x 57 cm). As the YikeBike is very light, weighing only 11.2 kg, it is then very easy to carry or store.

Design features

Portability

 

The YikeBike is light and folds up into a compact shape for easy carrying. Grant Ryan chose to use carbon fibre for the original YikeBike (the Carbon). Carbon fibre is a composite material consisting of polymer resin (the matrix) and carbon fibres (the reinforcement). Carbon fibre is both light and strong. With the YikeBike folded into its compact shape and only weighing 11.2 kg, it’s easy for the rider to carry and store it. However, carbon fibre is an expensive material. A Carbon YikeBike currently costs around NZ$4600.

Electric

Being an electric bike, there is no gearbox, chains, pedals, brake levers or cables. This benefits urban commuters as there is little chance of clothes getting damaged or dirty. The small electric motor (weighing only 450 grams – less than a block of butter!) and the battery sit cleverly in the space inside the larger wheel. This keeps the bike compact and light. The battery can be charged at a standard power point. This makes it easy to tuck the bike under your desk at work and plug it in to recharge.

Safety

As this was a new bicycle design for use in urban environments, safety was a key consideration. The YikeBike is the first bicycle in the world with electronic anti-skid brakes. These give it smooth braking and a short stopping distance, reducing skidding in an emergency-braking scenario. Further safety features include built-in LED lights that are on all the time so that the rider is visible to other road users, as well as indicator lights, brake lights, rear lights and hazard lights.

Recognition

The radical design of the YikeBike drew immediate recognition. In 2009, the year the YikeBike was released, TIME magazine named it one of the 50 best inventions. The YikeBike was included in the 2011 Guinness Book of Records as the smallest electric bike. Other design and enviro awards have been picked up along the way.

For the future – a big hairy goal

 

Grant Ryan’s aim, his ‘big hairy goal’ as he describes it in the video story, is to create something that could become the most commonly owned transport device in the world. The YikeBike is currently being sold in 40 countries worldwide and shipped to over 165. There are now three YikeBikes – the original Carbon (released in 2009), the Fusion (released in 2011) and the Synergy (released in 2013). This is a bicycle designed for an urban commuter to be used in conjunction with other forms of public or private transport.

Activity idea

Invention or innovation?
TIME magazine included the YikeBike in its list of the 50 Best Inventions of 2009. They wrote: “An innovative bicycle-design concept derived from the old-fashioned penny-farthing, the YikeBike is a folding electric bicycle out of New Zealand.” Do you think the YikeBike is an invention or innovation? What criteria would you use to decide?

    Published 10 May 2013