A Strandbeest Bicycle

“If you’re asking ‘why,’ you don’t get it.” So said [JP] when he told us about his strandbeest bicycle build. After all, who in their right mind would graft a complex multi-leg mechanical walking mechanism to the rear end of a perfectly good bicycle? But to expand on his sentiment, to not understand his creation is to miss the whole essence of our movement. Sometimes you just have to make something, because you can.

3D printed strandbeest bike proof of concept
3D printed strandbeest bike proof of concept

If you aren’t familiar with the strandbeest, it is the creation of Dutch artist [Theo Jansen]. Complex skeletal walking machines powered by the wind, that in the case of [Jansen]’s machines autonomously roam the beaches of the Netherlands. Hence the name, from Dutch: “Beach beast”.

[JP]’s strandbeest bike came together over 8 months of hard work. It started with a conceptual CAD design and 3D print, and progressed through many iterations of fine-tuning the over 400 parts required to put four legs on the back of a bicycle frame. It’s an impressive achievement and it is fully rideable, though we suspect we won’t be seeing it at the Tour de France any time soon.

He’s posted several videos of the bike in action, you can see one of them below the break.

The strandbeest seems to exert a fascination on the world of hackers and makers, we’ve covered a great many projects inspired by it. Just a selection are this remote controlled example, a huge spider-like rideable machine, or at the other end of the scale a papercraft strandbeest.


20 thoughts on “A Strandbeest Bicycle

  1. Cool, but I wonder how hard it is to peddle, also what kind of terrain it would work on? Makes me think that if you add a gas bike motor to this thing you’ed have some kind of weird Kettenkrad (WWII German Motorcycle/Halftrack), wow I’ed love one of those!

  2. 4 legs, the only form aided by the front wheel which is at least stable on most flat (not smooth) surfaces. Since only 2 are doing ground contact and are load bearing, the wheel is the third.
    Otherwise they are the worst reinvention since the wheel.

  3. I’m not sure the Jansen leg mechanism is really a good choice for a bicycle. I think the Ghassaei leg mechanism looks like a better fit — like the Jansen mechanism, it’s two cascaded four-bar linkages, with one main pivot/axis directly above the footprint, and driven by a common crankshaft more-or-less level with that, but the whole mechanism is more compact, with the axis between 1/2 and 2/3 the height from the ground (when scaled for the same step length).

    Instead of having all that structure to support the main axis up in the air, I think it can go right in the frame dropouts (with one leg between the dropouts, and one cantilevered out each side), and the crankshaft would then be within the rear triangle, instead of above the seat stays. You may need to sacrifice 10%-20% of step length and height (or just accept a nose-down attitude), but I think that’s manageable. If you do it right, it should look like a drop-in wheel substitute, though you’d actually have to widen the dropouts to use a 1/2″ or so axle instead of the standard 10mm. I think three legs should work, with the center one timed at 0, and both sides at 180.

    That said, [JP]’s built one and I haven’t, so take my thoughts for exactly what they’re worth.

  4. Tested.com had a lovely segment about Jansen and his creations, which he thinks about as living creatures. Someone asked him if he thinks they’ll ever get complex enough to reproduce. His response: They already do! By inspiring students, hackers and engineers to make their own copies :) What a lovely way to think about it.

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