Hackaday Prize Entry: Bellcycles are Open-Source, Compact, and Unique

What do we want in a bicycle? It should be able to be constructed at home, even if your home is a New York apartment. It should be Open Source so our friends can make their own. It should be compact so it won’t clutter up our little apartments. It should be unique instead of another me-too. [Alex Bell], of Bellcycles, is showing off his bicycle on hackaday.io and it fills all the requirements.

The unusual shape drastically reduces the size, turning radius, and storage footprint from a traditional bicycle. It shares the large front wheel design of the penny farthing. Unlike the giant wheeled penny-farthing, the rider is much closer to the ground so it doesn’t require a special technique to get on. In fact, dismounting the cycle is as easy as standing up since there is nothing in front of the rider which is great news for urban commuting.

If practicality takes a back seat to peculiarity, check out this Strandbeest bicycle and if you’d just rather stay in your apartment, you can still take a worldwide cycling tour in VR.

44 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Bellcycles are Open-Source, Compact, and Unique

  1. Ease of handling with the top pivot and performance during braking would both improve if the trail of the front wheel was increased, so that the point where the tire touches the ground is farther behind the wheel pivot. This increases stability at the cost of greater turning effort. This unconventional frame would probably need more trail than conventional bicycles.

    Braking may not be as much of a problem as some commenters believe, because the rider’s C.G. is between both wheels, not on top of the front one.

    1. It’s not just about where the center of gravity is (although it’s still inarguably in a bad place), but the fact that you have nothing to brace against when you need to come to a stop, and I mean NOW. On a normal bike, you can almost effortlessly brace a huge portion of your weight against the handlebars, to the point that, on most bikes, you could flip the thing over long before even a relatively weak person’s arms gave out.

      On this things, your arms are in a terrible position to do the same thing, never mind your torso and legs. I’m willing to bet you couldn’t even come close to the same stopping distance as a normal bike. On mine, with a 200mm disc brake, I can go from 25-0mph in less than 30ft. While I think you’d struggle to hit that kind of speed on one of these (and, even if you were on a hill to do so, there’s no way it would be safe to do), there’s no way you could match that kind of braking performance.

      Although, that last bit might be what they’re banking on; if you can’t really go any faster than ~15mph, it doesn’t matter as much that you can’t slow down all that quick.

          1. That’s what I mean. And 25mph is 40 km/h, that’s insane even if you’re properly equipped and on a road bike going downhill. And I have certain difficulty believing people who claim that it’s their normal riding pace. If it is indeed so however, more power to them, but this bicycle is simply not for them.

    1. I remember a similar one from early nineties with skateboard wheels on the front! It had no bars to steer though, only a handle under the seat and you had to lean in order to turn.

  2. This with some sort of backpack mount, so you could get to a hill, lean back to have your bike ‘unfold’ beneath you, roll down the hill, automatically slowed to a sane speed (because as other commentators have pointed out, you don’t want to try and stop this thing quickly) and upon reaching near the bottom, lean forwards again to carry on walking normally…

    Would be awesome.

  3. TBH, looking at that video the operator/cyclist looks neither relaxed nor comfortable. If this really was a great design I’d expect him to be. I won’t be rushing out to build one any time soon in any case. The design doesn’t look al that stable in steering geometry either. Not nearly as self correcting as a normal bicycle in any case.

  4. TBH, looking at that video the operator/cyclist looks neither relaxed nor comfortable. If this really was a great design I’d expect him to be. I won’t be rushing out to build one any time soon in any case. The design doesn’t look al that stable in steering geometry either. Not nearly as self correcting as a normal bicycle in any case.

  5. Here’s a thing that really annoys me: the inclusion of the buzzphrase “open source”. How are ordinary bicycles not open source? They have been around plenty long enough for any patents to long, long expire. The source code for bicycles is already “open” and has been for quite possibly a century now.

    1. For an open source project, I would expect the following to exist:
      – blueprints, incl the 3d/2d project files
      – bill of materials
      – instructions for how to build

      And preferably that:
      – the parts are easy to source
      – requires no specialized tools
      – a relatively low degree of skill be needed to construct.

      To my knowledge, no existing bike come near this?

    1. I kind of have a back burner project of a folding reclining bike (Because most of those, you can’t even fit on a regular bike rack.) … got a flux core wire welder earlier this year, so capability to do it getting closer.

  6. I think electric unicycles are the best thing for commuting and taking your dog out. I bought one little over two years ago and have used it daily after that. This summer I had to replace the battery pack, and it still works like a charm. I have used it in every kind of weather. Ice, snow, slush, water 10 cm deep and sunshine. Nothing has gotten inside it and it’s small enough to fit under your seat in public transport.

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