Mountain Biking UK
A British-built downhill bike designed with disabled riders in mind
Project Enduro four-wheeler prototype #2
There’s a good chance you won’t have seen a mountain bike like this before – four wheels, double-wishbone suspension all round, a carbon fibre bucket seat, specially developed Hope brakes, custom tuned coil shocks… and no drivetrain. Fuelled by gravity alone, it’s the second prototype to come out of Swansea-based Project Enduro, a British consortium tasked with building a proper downhill bike for disabled riders. Four wheels good Although it’s stuffed full of innovation, the concept of a four wheeled, gravity powered bike isn’t new. In fact, the origins of Project Enduro go back to the homemade go-karts kids used to cobble together out of whatever happened to be in the shed. But it was John Castellano’s Cobra – a full-suspension DH weapon raced by disabled rider Jon Davis against able-bodied rivals in the 1990s – that dragged the idea out of the realms of shed tinkering and closer to the mainstream.
A Canadian bike builder, Stacy Kohut, developed the idea and put it into production with his R-One Fourcross. For the first time
disabled riders had an off-the-shelf bike that would get them out there into the hills. But Kohut stopped trading a few years ago. It was time for something new – and project director Calvin Williams, who’d had to use a wheelchair a few years ago following an accident, spotted an opportunity.
Project Enduro was put together with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and help from the Welsh Government. Bringing together engineers from Gower College Swansea and Swansea Metropolitan University, as well as industry partners including Hope Technology and Loco Tuning, the aim was to build a commercially viable bike that could be put into production and sold. So, although this machine is still at the prototype stage, you should be seeing it out on the trails in future.
“The design brief was to use components that would be familiar to mountain bikers,” says Calvin – the idea being to simplify maintenance and keep weight down. Getting the suspension right was key, because able-bodied riders have up to a couple of feet of “suspension” in their arms and legs. And as well as soaking up bumps effectively, it needed to be packaged to allow the rider to self-propel (by using their arms to turn the rear wheels) and gain easy access to the carbon seat, made by United Aerospace. “The bike needs to meet the requirements of a range of disabilities, including different levels of spinal injury and a variety of amputations,” says Calvin. “And it needs to be suitable for able-bodied riders too.”
The first design used a double wishbone up front and a swingarm at the rear, but proto number two has a double-wishbone set-up at both ends. The cunning geometry gives the rear end a positive camber that helps cornering, while use of Ackermann steering geometry up front improves grip in the turns. Hope have come up with a new brake calliper design with double bleednipples, as well as providing the Pro 2 EVO DH hubs and Enduro rims. Tyres are Maxxis Minions all round, because “we don’t need drive, only cornering performance”.
So unusual is the design that three patents have been applied for – one covering the rear wishbone packaging around the seat, one for the chassis and one that Calvin would “rather not explain”. “It’s a game changer in suspension design that’ll dramatically improve safety and performance in rocky terrain,” he says. No manufacturer has yet been announced, but it’s hoped there’ll be both mid-range and Elite level bikes – with prices to match – and that riders will be able to spec uprated brakes, seats and so on. We can’t wait to take it out for a ride…