Lest we forget that bicycles come in all shapes and sizes, I was interested to see two recent, radically different takes on the diamond frame's lesser-known cousin: the recumbent.
First up, congratulations to Rob Cotter of Organic Transit for surpassing his $100K Kickstarter goal with some three weeks left in their campaign for the ELF, a "solar/pedal hybrid vehicle" for urban settings and medium-distance commutes. "This three-wheeled electric assist velomobile fills the niche between a bicycle and a car and offers advantages over both."
Where the Faraday Porteur e-bike was deliberately designed to look like a normal bicycle, the ELF is a different beast. The form is defined by a pod-like fairing over a chassis in which the wheels are in "tadpole configuration," but the major innovation lies in its solar-powered, 750W neodymium magnetic motor, which gets a whopping 1800 MPGe, or "1800 miles for the energy equivalent of one gallon of gas."
At $4,000, the ELF is just $200 more than the Faraday, though I'd argue that they have different target audiences—or rather, consumers with different taste within a broad category of commuters and early adopters. Both are examples of successfully crowdfunded, street-legal electirc-assist vehicles, a category that is among most promising candidates for a sustainable solution to the nation's urban transit woes, namely the first-and-last-mile problem.
The second recumbent of note, on the other hand, is the physical manifestation of cyclist Graeme Obree's near-pathological obsession with speed. As promised in my first, largely biographical post on the "Flying Scotsman," Obree would probably be considered delusional were it not for the fact that he has actually set world records on homemade bicycles.
Over the past nine months or so, Humans Invent has been chronicling his quest to set the human-powered landspeed record: Obree had finished the frame in May, and he has since unveiled a prototype—it looks something like a diminutive, earthbound dirigible—and conducted his first field test.
In the interviews, Obree expressed disappointment at the fact that the conveyance wasn't ready in time to make its American debut in September, at the annual World Human Powered Speed Challenge at Battle Mountain, but he's optimistic about his bespoke brainchild, affectionately named the "Beastie."
Both Organic Transit and Obree have also done a nice job of documenting their respective processes, on Kickstarter and Humans Invent, respectively, but the similarities stop there: one need not see into the fairing (which, incidentally, is mostly transparent for both vehicles) to realize that the two recumbent bikes are as different as, say, a Sprinter and an F1.