The world’s safest bi­cy­cle

Roll cage has rider pushed aside, not crushed

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - AL­WYN VILJOEN

AS trans­port writer, my lack of re­spect for airbags is a mat­ter of public record.

I’ve pointed out airbags do not “deploy”, but ex­plode, us­ing very hot toxic gasses to do so and in­jur­ing those who sit too close.

Among my ac­quain­tances, airbags that ex­ploded in low-speed bumper bash­ings had turned a man blind for months; bro­ken the face of women too small to sit far enough from the steer­ing wheel; and caused sec­ond de­gree burns to a guy’s arms through his leather jacket. In­stead of airbags, I ar­gue the roll cages, bucket seats and har­ness seat­belts we use in ev­ery race car would cost less and they have — un­like airbags — a proven record of sav­ing lives in high-speed crashes.

EN­TER THE ROLL-CAGE BA­BEL

The world’s first bi­cy­cle to fit a roll cage and bucket seats has there­fore caused a big blip on my radar for fu­ture trans­port trends. Built by Crispen Sin­clair Tech­nolo­gies and Ba­bel Bikes, it is called the Ba­bel Bike and the com­pany is cur­rently tak­ing pledges on Indiegogo to start de­liv­er­ing its semi-re­cum­bent pedal ma­chines in May next year.

Semi-re­cum­bent bikes en­able a cy­clist to push with both the back and the legs to ex­ert more power on the ped­als, but ev­ery New­ton me­tre of torque is needed, as the non-elec­tric Ba­bel weighs in at a hefty 21 kilo­grams.

This weight is made up by a cus­tom-made safety seat, a rac­ing car’s roll cage, seat belts that cross over the cy­clist’s chest, steel foot pro­tec­tors, rearview mir­rors, a loud car horn, auto-on LED headand tail lights as well as in­di­ca­tors, haz­ard lights and brake lights. Sin­clair, the son of 1980s Bri­tish in­ven­tor Sir Clive Sin­clair, states on his com­pany’s web­site the idea for what he calls the world’s safest bike came to him af­ter he “bounced off the side of a turn­ing van”.

He said more than six in 10 cy­clists in the UK die be­cause of trucks and buses cut­ting across the paths of the al­most in­vis­i­ble bi­cy­cle.

“Overnight I came up with the idea of a safety cell for a bi­cy­cle. It would be sim­i­lar to the roll cage that rac­ing cars have … and de­signed so that you will be pushed away by a turn­ing truck or bus — not crushed by it.

TRUCKS JUST PUSH IT ASIDE

Sin­clair said their tests of pro­to­types showed how — for the first time ever — the bi­cy­cle won in a test against 38-ton trucks. He said when the truck hit the shell of the Ba­bel Bike, it was sim­ply pushed aside with its test dummy se­curely trapped in­side, “in­stead of be­ing crushed un­der­neath the wheels”.

Sin­clair and Ba­bel Bike have teamed up with fac­to­ries in China and Tai­wan with the aim to make a mil­lion of their roll cage cy­cles.

To fa­cil­i­tate pay­ments, the group is of­fer­ing credit op­tions so that the bikes can be bought with 36 monthly pay­ments. In the UK, the monthly re­pay­ments work out less than the bus fare for the av­er­age con­sumer, but the strong pound will yet see in­ven­tors pay Sin­clair the sin­cer­est form of flat­tery by im­i­tat­ing his idea with a flood of Ba­bel Bike im­i­ta­tions.

For those who want the orig­i­nal, a pledge on Indiegogo of £1 999 (over R35 900) will get one, while a Ba­bel Bike as­sisted by a Shi­mano 250 Watt elec­tric mo­tor with an 80 km range costs over R54 900. Re­tail prices will be about R63 000 for the elec­tric bike and £3,499 and R45 000 for a leg-pow­ered Ba­bel.

‘I came up with the idea af­ter I bounced off a turn­ing van.’

PHOTO: YOUTUBE

Be­ing re­cum­bent, the Ba­bel Bike en­ables the cy­clist to push the ped­als with more power.

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