The cycling world is one full of innovation and daring design, but we’ve found some examples of where the thinking should have been kept tightly inside the box.
While they may have seemed like a good idea at the time, the dustbin of history has had to make room for legions of doomed cycling concepts among all the Betamax, New Coke, and Galaxy Note 7s.
So, for your reading pleasure, here are five of the weirdest and most wonderful failed cycling designs.
What every bicycle needs is for the handlebars to be more like steering wheels… said no one, ever. But that’s exactly the non-problem the Sprick Active concept bicycle failed to solve.
Built in 1983 as an advertisement for the book “bicycle art”, it was designed by Mercedes engineer Odo Klose. Cumbersome, and made mostly of plastic (including the wheels), this comfort bike thankfully took a bum steer into oblivion.
There were a lot of good things about the 80s – The A-Team, rolled-up jacket sleeves, the Blackbird spyplane – but bringing down the average was the Itera Plastic Bicycle.
A Swedish attempt to modernise the bike by replacing metal with injection moulded plastic composite, it only took three years before the project ended in a technical and commercial failure. In line with the Swedish love of flat-packery, the bikes were delivered in a state of disassembly with tools provided in the box. Not only was the giant two-wheeled, 3D jigsaw complicated, but the bikes were notorious for arriving with many parts missing, hastening their journey to the big bike shop in the sky.
Unfortunately (or, maybe not), Schwinn’s retro-futuristic Aero-Space concept bicycle design, never made it into production. Had George Jetson fancied an afternoon on the singletrack, he would probably have felt quite at home on this sleek steed.
Designed in the 1960s, complete with windshield and floating seat mounting, it’s a bizarre creation that’s strangely stylish despite its obvious flaws.
The Bowden Classic is a pretty extraordinary machine, despite its commercial failure. Not only was the design way ahead of its time for 1946 (check out those swooping front forks…), but the original concept also included a shaft drive instead of the now ubiquitous chain and a dynamo to give power on hill climbs.
Designed by Benjamin George Bowden – who only died in 1998 – the Spacelander’s slick curves were a vision of the future in the 1940s that largely came true in the 1960s… except, without the Spacelander itself.
The Velo-Torpille, or torpedo bike, was developed in 1910 by French eccentric Étienne Bunau-Varilla. It may look, well, ridiculous, but its aerodynamic housing actually managed to crush many of the world’s long-standing cycling records and remained unbeaten right up until the 1930s.
Must’ve got pretty hot in there, though…