Hydrofoil bike to take off
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.’’