has anyone ridden a yike-bike?


More under-the-radar cleverness from the country that commercialised the bungee-jump:

YikeBike is a statement about using smart technology to solve the problems of our increasingly congested, polluted, stressful cities. It is the first commercial expression of the mini-farthing concept, created up by a bunch of successful entrepreneurs, engineers and dreamers. We sat down to try and answer:

  •  What is the simplest way to get from A to B with the aid of a machine?
  •  What is the smallest wheel you can have to get a stable, safe, comfortable ride?
  • Can you make something small enough to be able to go with you anywhere in a city?
  • Wonder if we could make a unicycle dramatically easier to ride and fold?

We were intrigued by creating something that could dramatically change urban transport, enabling city dwellers a fast, safe and easy way to navigate their environment.

The result was the mini-farthing concept and its first expression, the YikeBike. It employs state-of-the-art technology, engineering and industrial design to create a new class of personal transport.

I continue to wonder whether we might see a technology so lightweight and reliable that it would become universal for short-distance travel to the point of eliminating the need for local bus services — at least in low-density markets.  I'm not sure this is it.  Recycling a 19th century idea, though, is certain appealing.

Downside: It starts at US $3595, so we're a bit away from mass production.

27 Responses to has anyone ridden a yike-bike?

  1. Cascadian February 16, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

    This is even dumber than the Segway, which at least has some unique uses for disabled people.
    Why do people keep creating expensive inventions that replicate the functionality of bicycles?

  2. Simon February 16, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    The invention you’re looking for is a bicycle. Attempts to reinvent bicycles always fail because they are focussed on the wrong thing.. Bicycles are fine – what needs changing is the road environment to make it seem appealing and safe for cyclists.

  3. Plattypus1 February 16, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    What Cascadian and Simon said. The bicycle is a proven technology that has remained essentially unchanged for the past 50 years. It is simple, cheap, reliable, easy to repair, and provides reasonably healthy individuals with significant mobility at extremely low costs.
    I keep seeing these doodads that do basically the same thing, and yet cost a few months’ salary- and, because they’re electrically-powered and computer-controlled, they probably aren’t all that eco-friendly either. (I mean, compared to the car, sure… but not compared to a bike.)

  4. EngineerScotty February 16, 2011 at 4:41 pm #

    I was thinking of the Segway, too, when I saw this. When “ginger” was first being hyped (and before its inventor managed to drive one off a cliff), there were breathless claims that it would necessitate the “redesign of cities”, it was so transformational and wonderful.
    Except–that cities don’t get redesigned for modest improvements in technology; a product that needs for this to happen is likely to fail, at least at its ambitious goals. And for a good while after the Segway was introduced, it was stuck in transport limbo, with questions as to what codes of law applied to it and where it would be allowed to operate (or be carried). Similar issues frequently vex power-assist bikes of various sorts (many of which require a license to operate), and I expect the YikeBike to encounter similar issues.
    The YikeBike is moderately faster than the Segway, though both are much slower than the average speed of a garden-variety bicycle.
    Like the Segway, this might find a niche where it is useful. That niche might include displacing transit for short trips for users with certain mobility impairments.

  5. EngineerScotty February 16, 2011 at 4:58 pm #

    Correction: It was the owner of Segway, Inc. (Jim Heselden), and not inventor Dean Kamen, who was killed in an accident in which he was riding a Segway that rolled off a cliff. Kamen had previously sold his interest in the company to Heselden in 2009.
    The incident actually points out one other barrier that new devices (such as Segways and YikeBikes) have to overcome: unrealistic expectations of safety. After Heselden’s accident, there was a lot of “is the Segway safe?” articles in the media, with horror stories of people getting hurt while riding them and pronouncing them unsafe. AFAIK, there has been no report as to whether the Segway malfunctioned, or whether Heselden had simply operated it in the wrong place. However, what I do know is this: Were he on a bicycle that plunged off a cliff, hardly anyone would use the incident to challenge the safety of bicycles–this despite the fact that falls from the things injure (and sometimes kill) thousands each year. Likewise for automobiles–tens of thousands of people die each year in car wrecks, and only rarely is the manufacturer blamed, and only when it’s an obvious design flaw (such as a stuck accelerator) which causes the driver to lose control.

  6. Rob February 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    I’m going to take this in a different direction. I know what my kids will say about a “mini-farthing” device — for $3600 they would gladly keep their farthing under control. Perhaps someone needs a new marketing approach?

  7. Zoltán February 16, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    If we do see the elimination of local buses because of some extremely good human-powered technology, then quite a lot of the disabled seemingly are absolutely stuffed.
    This is something I often think about those people that campaign for cities based entirely around bicycles and nothing else (or yike-bikes, for that matter). Such a city would be hugely exclusionary of those that aren’t able-bodied in the necessary way.

  8. Brent February 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm #

    I hate to rag on the Yike too much, because it does represent a really clever re-imagining of the bicycle. Its greasy bits seem to be well-hidden, and it folds up nicely for portage. But, of course, for all of the Yike’s benefits, it’s probably just easier to buy a Brompton.

  9. Joseph Alacchi February 16, 2011 at 6:21 pm #

    This is as retarded as the Shweeb and Segway. Redesigning cities for stupid technologies is never going to happen.

  10. Bradley Wentworth February 16, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

    Zoltan I think a city that made itself more bike friendly even at the expense of local bus services would be more than welcomed by disabled people. First of all, para-transit and accessible taxis (which generally operate completely separate from local services) would remain in place for anyone needing assistance for every portion of their journey. Second, streets, curbs, intersections, doorways, elevators, buildings, etc. that are all designed with bicycle access in mind are also ideal for wheelchairs, powered or otherwise. Motorized wheelchairs are frequent users of bike lanes here in Toronto, and while they’re only supposed to use the road if the sidewalk is unsafe, I welcome them regardless. More mobility is better! Finally, any city built to bike scale means a wide range of goods and services is available in every neighbourhood, always a plus for anyone with limited mobility.

  11. anonymouse February 16, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    The humble local bus has one insurmountable advantage over this contraption: it keeps you dry when it’s raining. It also can keep you warm when it’s cold out and keep you cool when its hot out.

  12. Corey Burger February 16, 2011 at 11:43 pm #

    I see an expensive, proprietary electric bike that you ride in an unstable position. Trying fixing the road before you try and “fix” what isn’t broken – the bike itself.

  13. Sean February 17, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    The 10km range of the Yike Bike makes it pretty much useless – that only allows a 5km round trip. Electric bikes can at least be pedaled when the power runs out.

  14. GD February 17, 2011 at 2:49 am #

    the major question is whether this contraption is foldable enough to be easily taken onto transit – for that little fact makes one world of a difference, as bicycles, as great as they are, are not.
    Though all the objections above are valid, it might dramatically increase the feasibility of long-distance commutes across a metropolis for users who are further than a kilometer (or whatever distance you feel is a barrier) away from the next (user-friendly) public transit stop. The questions is: how many people are in this position, and is the transit system itself then able to get them where they want to be quickly enough?

  15. Anon256 February 17, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/02/15/solowheel-self-balancing-unicycle-is-as-easy-to-ride-as-it-is-to/ tries to solve the same problem and doesn’t seem any more or less practical (though is somewhat smaller and cheaper).
    What is the current level of development of unpowered folding bikes like? All this expensive stuff with motors and gyroscopes is not a bad thing but seems orthogonal to the more important goal of having usable transport that is small and light enough to carry with you everywhere.

  16. Matt T February 17, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I’ve seen zero yike bikes on the streets of New Zealand. Yet I’ve seen velomobiles, and I’ve seen electric bikes (I have two electric bikes myself). I’ve seen recumbent bikes and trikes, I’ve seen long tail bikes. I’ve seen Segways. I’ve seen Penny Farthings. I’ve seen sail powered skateboards, but I’m yet to see a mini-farthing or whatever they’re called.
    An electric bicycle without pedals is just a wheelchair (and the irony is I get annoyed by people who tell me that electric bikes are just for the disabled). I pedal on my e-bike, and not much less than I do on my normal bike, but I just go further faster, and it’s more fun.

  17. Richard February 17, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

    It is rather surprising that a lot of really bright people keep making the same mistake. It is not the vehicle that it important, it is the infrastructure. Without safe places to ride yike-bikes and Segways, they really are of little use to the average person. This is the same challenge that bicycles face as well. The automobile faced the same problem when it was first invented. It took several decades to create the infrastructure that made automobiles practical for everyday mass transportation.
    So instead of people always trying to re-invent the bicycle, it would be much better to lobby for better facilities for bikes and other light-weight low speed electric and human-powered devices.

  18. Danny Howard February 17, 2011 at 2:42 pm #

    Okay, I ride my bicycle most days, because the local transit vehicles accommodate them, but bicycles are imperfect creatures that seem stunted in time, innovating only to serve the needs of a high-end niche market.
    * Bicycles are lumpy
    * Bicycles require you to hunch over
    * Bicycles get flat tires
    I have often day-dreamed of a bicycle-like device on which one could sit upright. Maybe something with squishy rubber tires that don’t require inflation. Something that folds . . .
    This looks like a step in that direction, maybe.
    I’m just saying, it is okay to try and innovate in bike design, to make something more practical.

  19. Simon February 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    @Danny – “high-end niche market” – I guess you’re not familiar with countries where cycling is a mass-market thing and where bikes do not require you to “hunch over”. Such countries usually have vast numbers of small bike repair shops, meaning that flat tyres mean just a short walk to the shop, and a short wait until the tyre is fixed.

  20. anonymouse February 18, 2011 at 12:36 am #

    @Danny I agree, there’s definitely much that can be improved with bicycles, but the basic concept is brilliant in terms of its simultaneous simplicity (and thus cheapness) and efficiency. For the cost of one of these contraptions, you could buy 48 bicycles, enough to just throw your old one out when it gets a flat tire and switch to a new one. Plus, the “yike-bike” seems like a pretty dangerous design if you need to perform a sudden stop: you’re already forward of and above the center of gravity of the thing, and you’ll probably just go flying off and onto your face. And it’s not like you’ll be able to even catch yourself with your hands, since those are on the handlebars somewhere in the vicinity of your butt. And that is one of the big reasons that the “ordinary” was abandoned in favor of the “safety” bicycle.

  21. Tom Ed White February 18, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

    @Anon256 I use a kick scooter designed for adult commuting, small enough that everyone on the bus could carry one on board. Under 10 pounds. Economical Fast enough that I can participate in urban rides with bicyclists. It seems to me that it solves so many problems simply and elegantly. http://www.xootr.com

  22. Anon256 February 19, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

    @Tom Ed White: What is your theory as to why such scooters aren’t more commonly used?

  23. zilfondel February 20, 2011 at 1:01 am #

    Uh, I already have a bicycle. It gets me places. And I’ve owned one since 1985.

  24. DC resident February 26, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    I have a bike, but this is not the same thing. It’s a folding electric bike. Unlike my bike, this one can fit on crowded trains – in DC for example, you can’t take a non-folding bike on the metro at rush hour, and I believe some commuter train lines don’t allow full-size bikes on board at all. Also unlike my bike, this is electric, and would be particularly attractive to commuters who want to take public transit into town and then finish their trip by biking to work (without showing up to the office all sweaty and red). Not everyone needs one, but some people might.
    There are other folding electric bikes on the market, but this one looks like a particularly well-designed one.

  25. YikeBike Owner February 28, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    Bikes are great but the whole point of the YikeBike is how small it folds. You can take it on the bus, train, plane and never need to leave it outside. Also great in summer as you don’t get so hot and sweaty.

  26. Electric wheelchairs June 5, 2011 at 11:15 pm #

    are you kidding me! how can a person balance this thing :S

  27. Miles Bader May 7, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    @DC resident / YikeBike owner
    If there’s room on your trains for everybody to be carrying one of these “yikes”, then your trains aren’t really crowded… (the things are small but they’re not that small).