Awesome Stuff: Refining The Wheel

from the how-we-roll dept

Even up here in Toronto, winter is starting to give way to spring. Among other things, that means getting around is becoming a lot easier — and a lot more fun. It's the time of year that cities start to fill up with people on bikes, boards and blades, all of which are things that people keep on tinkering with, coming up with new improvements and twists on old ideas. Whatever your manual wheels of choice, here are three innovative new ideas that could change the way you roll:

Wheels In Your Pocket: The ABGO
Sometimes, circumstances preclude you from bringing your chosen ride along somewhere. It can be downright infuriating, as you realize how woefully slow your legs are without some mechanical assistance. Enter the ABGO, a short-distance quick-fix that fits in your pocket.

I'm sure some people will have the reaction that this is pointless, and ultimately it's hard to pass judgement on something like this without getting to try one out — but as a cyclist, the sight of this immediately spoke to all my memories of crossing a distance without my bike and wanting nothing more than to roll. There have been various attempts at wheeled shoes over the years, but none that are very compelling. If it works even reasonably well (and the video suggests it does once you get the knack of it) it could actually fill a nice little gap: a wheeled device that isn't bulky like a skateboard or hard to get on and off like rollerblades.

Wheels Where You Want Them: The Beercan Board
About 10 years ago, I worked in a skateboard store for a couple of years. I was never very good at the sport itself, but I sure got lots of practice putting them together, and at convincing skeptical parents to stomach the price tag. Two things I noticed about skateboards was that there is very little variety in their configuration, and also that they all break — often quickly. The Beercan Board changes both those things.

It's not the first aluminum longboard, but it's a great design, and its central feature is pretty innovative: sliding mounts for the trucks, so the wheelbase can be easily adjusted. Judging from the video, it looks like it's accomplished with a combination bolt that allows quick changes without removing the whole assembly (and of course without drilling new holes, which is the only option on most boards). Neat.

Wheels That Work Better: Loopwheels
Folding bikes and other compact cycling options have been around for a long time, and they can be excellent for certain uses — but there's just no denying that the riding experience is much more frustrating and tiresome on those little 20" wheels. The Loopwheel is a shot at alleviating that problem.

As the project page admits upfront, this is nothing less than an attempt to reinvent the wheel. Using springs instead of spokes could open up a whole new level of suspension for compact bike designs that aim to keep size, weight, and bits-that-stick-out to a minimum. The creators claim a distinct advantage over suspension forks, the current solution for compact suspension: Loopwheels offer tangential suspension that cushions impacts from all directions. Again, it's hard to say how big the difference is without trying it, but that assertion makes sense based on the design, and in the video the wheels appear to be quite effective. Nothing could make small wheels as luxurious to ride on as big ones, but any innovation that succeeds in making folding bikes more pleasant is bound to be a hit.

That's all for this week's awesome stuff — thanks for coming along for the ride.

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Filed Under: awesome stuff, bicycle, skateboard, transportation, wheel, wheels

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    btrussell (profile), 27 Apr 2013 @ 8:36pm

    Oh! My! God!
    "Awesome" stuff?

    Like, couldn't we, like, find a like like word that was,like, less used than "like." That would, like, be, like, awesome like, man.

    Or like at least like change it to like:

    Ahh! Some stuff.

    "No.7 Awesome

    Are we stuck in the '80s?"


    Or should we like just go with like:
    OMG! WTF! LOL!
    That would be like QL.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Apr 2013 @ 3:53am

    I really like the loopwheels, but it's interesting that the guy has applied for a patent when on the kickstarter page he actually posts many pictures of prior art drawn from the patents themselves, for which he repeats the idiom that they never got anywhere because the technology wasn't there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ady (profile), 29 Apr 2013 @ 12:10am

    well, if you look closely it's not only the materials that have changed in the past 100(-ish) years since those initial drawings were made, but also the actual spring and hub connector design that he uses.

    His invention has both ends of the spring clamping points on the hub and off-center (one end a bit left of the hub center axis and one right) to add more lateral stability to the wheel.

    If you look at those drawings, all the previous designs have almost linear blade springs that originate on the hub and terminate at (or near) the rim of the wheel.

    In loopwheel's design the wheel rim is only tangentially connected to the middle of the blade spring which then loops back to the center hub.

    However, about the patents... i think the chinese will re-patent their patent (as they do with much everything else) and will do it even faster if they source any parts from China without a NNN contract written (non-disclosure/non-use/non-circumvention).
    Chinese patent law (and trademark law too) uses the "first-to-file the papers" principle and not first-to-invent ("first to use" in trademarks).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Apr 2013 @ 4:27am

    I wonder... I'd need to ride for 12-15 km to reach my workplace and my city is not what one would consider flat. For such distances I'm inclined to think a 20" wheeled bike is not an option. However there are folding bikes with bigger wheels and the system seem good enough to fit these bigger wheels too. I hope this gets to develop and offer real improvement.

    As for the mini-skate it's all god and dandy but once you meet the slightest bump on the ground.. As people say, you'll bite the dust. I find it very limited and niche.

    The skate sounds interesting but wouldn't it be dangerous? I mean, can't the board become a blade in cases where you fall? At least the wood will break and snap. Also I'm unfamiliar with skateboarding but won't the board break mostly when you "abuse" it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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