All-ter­rain fold­ing wheel

Pot­holes are no prob­lem on these bi­cy­cle rims

The Witness - Wheels - - FRONT PAGE - ALWYN VILJOEN • alwyn.viljoen@wit­ness.co.za

In 2013, we de­voted this front page to the ex­pand­ing wheel de­signed by Malaw­ian Ac­k­eem Ng­wenya, then a masters stu­dent at the Royal Col­lege of Art and Im­pe­rial Col­lege in Lon­don.

Ac­k­eem had set about to rein­vent the wheel by do­ing away with the road and called his de­sign a “Road­less Wheel”.

His aim was to make a wheel that could be thin to slice through mud, or thick to spread its weight over sand — all to make it eas­ier for peo­ple in his ru­ral vil­lage to push heavy wheel­bar­row loads to their homes.

Ger­man de­signer An­drea Mo­cellin had a sim­i­lar al­tru­is­tic mo­tive when he de­cided to also rein­vent the wheel by mak­ing one that can fold into a smaller shape.

Three years and count­less mod­els later, he has patented a 26-inch wheel that col­lapses to less than one third of its height into a large rugby ball that can eas­ily be stowed.

When un­folded, mag­nets en­sure the wheel keeps its round shape, and Mo­cellin said he spend a lot of time to make sure the over­lap­ping seg­ments of the wheel run with­out bumps.

He used air­less tires which he said are “en­tirely com­fort­able in ev­ery con­di­tion” and added the tread pat­tern can be al­tered for dif­fer­ent sur­faces.

While he is al­ready work­ing on a fold­ing bike to ride on this wheel, Mo­cellin told New Atlas he hopes his patent will be used on wheel­chairs, whose oc­cu­pants al­ways worry about dam­age to their wheels when stow­ing them on a train or bus.

“Peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties who wish to travel have no choice – they must take their wheel­chair with them, and trav­el­ling with a wheel­chair is very dif­fi­cult, be it on an air­craft, or in a car, on the un­der­ground, any­where.

“Help­ing peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties to have an eas­ier life is one of the key goals of the project, and I ex­pect that once the in­ven­tors of the world have seen the com­po­nents I have de­vel­oped, there will be some in­ge­nious so­lu­tions de­vel­oped in short or­der.”

He said ap­pli­ca­tions for his ideas also in­clude any type of ve­hi­cle that has to trans­ported to its place of work, like land drones bike carts, trol­ley and even cool boxes that need higher wheels to move over rough sur­faces, but small wheels when stowed.

But a fold­ing bi­cy­cle is the next main aim.

“At first, my goal was to de­velop the wheel to the point where it worked per­fectly, and now I have a fi­nal pro­to­type that works, my next stage is to de­velop the fold­ing bi­cy­cle to work just as well as the wheel.”

Mo­cellin him­self has big plans for an in­ge­nious bike that folds down to scooter or a trol­ley.

“I many times got re­ally an­noyed with ex­ist­ing fold­ing bikes be­cause when they are small and light, they in­vari­ably have small wheels, and that se­verely lim­its what they can do.

“In an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment, there are gut­ters and steps and cracks in the pave­ment and ob­sta­cles that are a prob­lem for small wheels ... and I also wanted the speed and prac­ti­cal­ity of a large wheel.

PHOTO: AN­DREA MO­CELLIN

This 26-inch wheel col­lapses into egg-shape ball that can be fit­ted with side wheels and used to roll other de­vices, like stand-on scoot­ers or even a cooler box.

PHOTO: MO­CELLIN

Ger­man de­signer An­drea Mo­cellin plans to built a bi­cy­cle with 26-inch wheels that can drop down to be­come a stand on scooter with the wheels col­lapsed into their egg-shape and fit­ted with side wheels, or even fold up to be taken on buses or trains.

PHOTO: FILE

Ac­k­eem Ng­wenya with his ex­pand­ing wheel.

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