The Latest Dutch Bike Innovations

A couple weeks ago I wrote about a pedal powered snow plow from the USA. Now I’ll make it clear that, as stodgy as they can be, the Dutch will not be outdone in the area of bike innovation.

Let’s begin with the Monsterfiets. That’s “Monsterbike” for those of you who haven’t yet noticed that “fiets” = “bike” in Dutch and that the Dutch have absolutely no problem with appropriating words from other languages, especially mighty, media-friendly Engels.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that every Burning Man and Kinetic Sculpture race features two dozen “bikes” more amazing than this one. However the Monsterfiets seems to have piqued the interest of the Dutch and the above YouTube video has been watched almost a million times. I suppose, a la South Park, builder Wouter van den Bosch must be headed to Canada to collect his You Tube popularity paycheck.

I suppose the most remarkable thing about the video is that nobody seems to find the Monsterbike remarkable. “Sure, whatever. I see a billion bikes every day. So what if yours looks like a kid’s tricycle with a bigger front wheel.” I guess we call that “nonplussed”.

Moving right along we see that the Dutch also build carbon fiber bicycles, though somewhat differently than the Taiwanese and Chinese build them for all of those megbuck racing bike brands. Tjeerd Veenhoven’s Ordinairy Carbon Bike

…is made by mounting parts of a bike into a jig and running carbon wires drenched in epoxy resin between them. After a while the resin sets and the parts are united again.

Before you go wild with critical commentary about the technical merits (or lack thereof) of this design note that Veenhoven makes it very clear that this project is not about ultimate performance. That is, ultimate performance as if the average owner of a €10.000 racing bike, sausage-compressed into his favorite pro team uniform could ever explore such a bike’s capabilities. No, this bike is a creative reaction. In Veenhoven’s words:

This project was partly conceived to react on the so many beautiful bikes that are designed and produced at this moment. They all are real pretty but some or most lack any innovation. Of course, especially when it comes to bike design, a lot is happening and prices are (sky)rocketing, but with this bike I at least made myself think about redesigning the basics, regardless of the end result.

I’m very happy that I’m not the only one disappointed with the cookie-cutter bike industry laser focused on marketing hype laden micro-innovation with little relevance to most people who (would otherwise) ride bicycles.

Somehow though I can’t avoid seeing the possibilities of this concept as a smugness-free version of the bamboo and carbon-fiber bikes hand crafted in various developing nations. I certainly don’t mean to diss Craig Calfee’s admirable project but Veenhoven’s bike makes the bamboo part seem rather gratuitous. Can’t one fashion some suitable fork pads, a head tube and a bottom bracket shell… and then just string it up with resin impregnated hemp or other locally grown fiber?

Thanks to my friend Selby Gildemacher, singer and guitarist for “The Geert Wilders“, amongst other creative enterprises for passing the above tip along.

Meanwhile some engineering students at Technical University Delft have been tinkering with theit “Vrachtfiets” (Freight Bike… sounds a little familiar).

The Vrachtfiets is of course a modern take on the classic bakfiets, with a few advantages and a few disadvantages. Looks like a good start in any case. I particularly like the double rider configuration instead of the current standard solution of adding an electric motor. Finding a friend or even picking up a pedestrian to help pedal is far more reliable and lower maintenance than a motor wired to a bunch of electronics and a pack of highly tuned batteries that’ll certainly need an expensive replacement in a couple years.

Will it be a commercial success? No, it’ll almost certainly disappear into the annals of innovation history but it is a thought-provoking design exercise.

This last entry doesn’t even have wheels, travel on roads or have any practical function whatsoever. However you do pedal it and it’s certainly creative so it thereby merits inclusion. Meet Steve Ellis’ Ice Bat, a propeller powered ice racer. Invented by an Englishman in the Netherlands the Ice Bat requires a speed skating track, most of which are also located in the Netherlands

My initial thoughts here are, in stream of consciousness order:

  • That looks like fun. I want to try it.
  • How do you stop it?
  • Can we make them go faster with gearing and/or variable-pitch propellers?
  • Isn’t it disadvantageous that part of the prop’s flow is obscured by the rider?
  • Wouldn’t it be wise to have at least a little bit of protection around that propeller?
  • How about Ice-Bat death races with knives on the propeller ends and so on?
  • The first Ice Bat competition will take place on Saturday 15 January in Assen. Thankfully they’ve chosen an individual pursuit format to avoid any competitors getting sliced and diced during heated passing maneuvers. More info about the Ice Bat can be found on David Hembrow’s blog, where I found it in the first place. Thanks David.

    eddy-fr8-kids-snow

    And since it’s winter and blizzarding everywhere in the western hemisphere here’s yet another gratuitous image of a cyclist just going about his business with the kids on a bike in Amsterdam. Yep, it’s one of our best fans Eddy again, on his galvanized Workcycles Fr8 with Massive Rack. Eddy has graced these interweb pages before:

    How the Amsterdam Papa Rolls
    Eddy’s Rogue Loopfiets Strikes Again
    Eddy’s Galvanized Fr8
    Bike on a Bike Fr8 Style

    Recommended way to carry the kids? Well, given the safe cycling environment and Eddy’s cycling experience I suppose it’s fine. Like it or not this sight is commonplace here. Outside of NL or DK I think you’d better use your own judgement to assess the situation.

    Happy cycling!

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    6 Responses to “The Latest Dutch Bike Innovations”

    1. iamnotacyclist Says:

      Great post Henry. These are super interesting bikes. However it makes me happy to see that whatever you do – nothing beats the simple standard bicycle.

    2. Stephan Bianchi Says:

      Very Interesting. Add soap, water and dirty clothes and the fatpenny-farthing could easily do your laundry as you ride.

      Speaking of very interesting… but stupid, the following shows a “Dash” bike selling on ebay. It has two crank axles geared to each other and two chains so the pedals rotate in opposite directions. Good, I guess, for people with extremely limited leg movement. Looks like they’ve put it into production, but are still trying to figure out who to sell it to.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jaYyNNgzNO0&feature=related

    3. henry Says:

      Hi Stephan,
      Haha, that’s a great idea. You just have to keep the spokes clean so you don’t get the clean clothes dirty while pulling them out of the tire tub.

    4. Candi Says:

      Hi Henry,

      Great photo! I can’t imagine biking in that weather! I live and bike in sunny Florida! I have checked out your site before and I really like your posts. I was wondering if you accept any advertising or sponsored links at all. I work for a site called Biking.com, and I would love to have a link on your site!

      Please let me know if you have any opportunities available.

      Thanks!

      Candi

    5. Mary Westmacott Says:

      OMG! now thats ridiculas, But I love it ! keep ‘em coming x

    6. cosmo Says:

      ENORMOUS!!

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