All-terrain folding wheel
Potholes are no problem on these bicycle rims
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.
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.
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.
Ackeem Ngwenya with his expanding wheel.