In celebration of the 200th birthday of the bicycle, we wanted to share some of the unique design manipulations that the bicycle has received over the years. Some of these are on display in museums, some you can still purchase and ride today – there’s even one that costs over $100k.
10 seated Tandem by Orient – 1896
Created by Charles Metz for the Orient Company in 1896, this 10 seater tandem bike is one of a kind. When operating at maximum capacity, this bike was able to reach speeds up to almost 80mph! (We can’t help but cringe, because helmets were hardly used during this time period) We imagine turning with this bike was a chore and you would need a team of riders who worked well together to make it travel efficiently. One of these bikes can be found in the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
Conference Bike – 1991
We know, it’s technically a tricycle, and as much as we wanted to keep this post all about two-wheelers, this bike… erm, trike, was too unique to leave out. Created sometime around 1994 by artist Eric Staller, the Conference Bike was conceptualized in hopes of bringing people together on a bike ride. It seats up to 7 people with 1 of those people steering and the other 6 pedaling. We were delighted to find that the tech empire, Google, encourages the use of Conference Bikes for meetings. After looking over the Conference Bike’s webpage, there were a few other fun riding machines we think you would enjoy discovering.
Recumbent Bicycle – 1901
Henry Jarvis filed his patent for the “Longrider” recumbent bike in 1901. Years down the line, the “Shortrider” was also invented, but didn’t see as much popularity. The laid-back frame geometry, U-shaped handlebar, and seat with a padded back make it unique to other bike designs. And while the recumbent bike looks more comfortable than today’s modern bikes, it doesn’t offer the same amount of control in comparison. Recumbent bikes are still manufactured today and have a small, but loyal following. The timing of their creation unfortunately competed with the automobile and didn’t win out.
Sideways Bike – 2010
We *had* to include a video of how this bike works, because its design is so unique. Also known as the “Snowboard Bike”, the Sideways Bike operates with all the parts of a regular bicycle, but it rides similarly to a snowboard. In other words, you use your core muscles to steer the Sideways bike more than you use your arms. The handlebars are also unique, since they’re essentially halved and then repositioned to help keep you balanced.
Amphibious Bike – 1932
It kind of looks like one of those solar system models that I had to make in 5th grade using styrofoam cylinders, but unlike that project, this bike actually serves a purpose. Made around 1932, the amphibious bike was designed to ride on land and water. Since then, there have been many different arrangements used to carry out this surf and turf bike, including one that the Myth Buster men made. We don’t think this prototype design is very practical, but it’s definitely unique.
Foldable bicycle – 1893
A few different people have been credited with the creation of the foldable bike, but the first mass produced one was called the Dwyer Foldable Bike. This bike was widely used by military members in Europe as a means for quick transportation that they could carry with them nearly anywhere. They just folded up the bike and wore it on their back like a ruck sack. Though folding bikes are still around, they saw a sharp decline due to the static nature of the trench warfare in WWI and the increasing popularity of the automobile.
StridaBike – 1985
The Strida bike, created around 1985, was born out of necessity to provide commuters living in over-populated cities with a bike that they could ride on congested streets, then fold up and take anywhere. Its A-frame, belt drive, and ability to fold up make it unique. Riding this bike is still intuitive, it’s just compact.
Penny Farthing – 1872
While the Penny-Farthing has its own chapter of history in the evolution of the bicycle, it is a unique design compared to the classic bicycle design that has been used for over 100 years. A large wheel in the front dominated the smaller back wheel used for extra stability. The Penny-Farthing did not use pneumatic tires, had a front wheel that often measured past 40″, and was susceptible to causing riders serious head injuries from the small back wheel flipping over the front wheel if a bump was hit in the road or track.
A favorite unique bike around our office, the ElliptiGo, was created in 2006 and was the first of its kind. It offers a low-impact workout that’s easy on your joints, and the standing position you take when riding it seems like it would help increase the awareness of your surroundings. Not only does it look unique, it also redefines how a bike can be ridden and enjoyed. (Photo courtesy of Andreas Johansson)
Aurumania’s 24kt Gold Bike – 2008
A 24kt gold plated bike encrusted with Swarovski crystals, because why not? Named Aurumania, this Swedish, completely handmade, fixed-gear bike operates like any other traditional bike. It just costs $103,000, so we would suggest putting it on display somewhere (unless you have caboodles of money to ride away). There were only 60 made, 10 of these were adorned with 600 Swarovski crystals and 50 without the crystals. As simple as this bike is in design, there’s no doubt that it is unique compared to the bikes in your garage.
Is your favorite unique bicycle design featured here? We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below!