Hy­dro­foil bike to take off

Cambridge Edition - - OUT & ABOUT - JO LINES-MACKENZIE

New Zealand’s first hy­dro­foil bike is about to lift off.

Manta5 is a six-year dream of a cou­ple of en­trepreneurs.

Guy Howard-Wil­lis and bike de­signer Roland Alonzo, who’ve set up shop in Cam­bridge, have pro­duced a mo­torised bike which can be used in fresh and salt­wa­ter.

A pas­sion for cy­cling led Howard-Wil­lis to be­lieve that what­ever you do on land, you can repli­cate on the wa­ter.

The hy­dro­foil bike can do nearly 20kmh now, but with a bit more re­search and de­vel­op­ment, the pair hope to get it go­ing a lot faster.

‘‘I would like to dou­ble that speed, but maybe that is wish­ful think­ing. But I be­lieve what­ever you aim for, you are go­ing to get some­where close to that,’’ Howard-Wil­lis said.

Howard-Wil­lis thinks it has much more po­ten­tial than just as a plea­sure ve­hi­cle.

‘‘I’ve got a dream that it could be­come an Olympic sport. Is that a dream too big? I don’t know, but that is what I’m aim­ing for,’’ Howard-Wil­lis said. It’s rea­son­ably easy to ride. ‘‘Some­one asked me would they would be able to ride it. I asked them, can you ride a bike, can you swim? Then you can ride this.’’

There are two pro­to­types. One is man­u­ally op­er­ated and one is a pedal-as­sisted mo­torised ver­sion. Howard-Wil­lis hopes the lat­ter will be the more pop­u­lar.

For the first two years, the pair’s wives were the only ones who knew about the project.

Their test­ing was largely done un­der­cover. In the early stages, they used the Win­tec swim­ming pool in Tau­ranga at night. They then shifted their base to Cam­bridge. ‘‘We of­ten go to Kara­piro, as that is a good test­ing place for us.

‘‘Even though we try to do it in se­cret ,we went to Kara­piro and the row­ing eight were out there and [their test rider] got on and rode straight past them. It drew their at­ten­tion and a cou­ple had a go and re­ally liked them.’’

Howard-Wil­lis wouldn’t dis­close how much he’s spent on the pro­to­types, but ad­mit­ted it was a lot. How­ever, the en­gi­neer­ing ideas are sound.

‘‘It’s very much like a plane. The pro­pel­lers are on the front of the wing, so same prin­ci­pal, re­ally.’’

They also em­ploy two car­bon­fi­bre hy­dro­foils sim­i­lar in ap­pear­ance and pur­pose to aero­foils used by aero­planes.

The man­ual bike is about 14kg and the mo­torised one about 20kg.

The foils come off and the bikes can fit in the back of a sta­tion­wagon.

Howard-Wil­lis wa­ter cy­cling will prove great ex­er­cise and be safer than road cy­cling.

‘‘Ev­ery time I go out, I wear flu­o­res­cent cloth­ing, lights on the front and back and it’s not safe on the road. It puts a lot of peo­ple off. With this, you can just keep go­ing.’’

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