While inclement weather and exertion are certainly factors, one of the big reasons that many people don't commute by bike is the fear of getting hit by cars. London-based Crispin Sinclair Innovation has set about addressing that fact, with its new Babel Bike. Offering features such as a protective cage around the rider, it's being promoted as "the world's safest bicycle."
Development of the Babel Bike is being led by Crispin Sinclair, son of famed inventor Sir Clive Sinclair – the latter is the man behind such products as the 1980s Sinclair ZX line of home computers, the Sinclair C5 electric vehicle, and more recently the tiny folding A-Bike. He also designed a partially-enclosed electric bicycle known as the X-1, which never reached production.
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The semi-recumbent Babel Bike – which will be made in both pedal-electric and fully human-powered models – used the X-1 as a jumping-off point.
"Some of the ideas for the Babel Bike came from the X-1 – it got me thinking 'why not do something safer' and also more designed to pedal," Crispin Sinclair told us. "The X-1 was 'electric-only' and its pedals were there mainly to get you home in an emergency. The Babel Bike is designed to be pedaled, with electric assistance when wanted."
Along with its roll cage, other safety features include a seat belt, steel foot protectors, a car horn, rearview mirrors, and a lighting package that includes automatically-activated head- and tail lights, turn indicators, hazard lights and brake lights. In tests on prototypes, the bike's cage reportedly allowed it to be pushed away when hit by heavy transport trucks, as opposed to being crushed beneath them.
Some of the Babel Bike's other specs include an 11-speed Shimano hub transmission with Di2 electronic shifting (8-speed hub and mechanical shifting on the non-electric version), an internal sealed drivetrain, Shimano hydraulic brakes, a handlebar smartphone mount, and an optional security package that includes a Kryptonite U-lock which doubles as one half of the foot guard when not in use.
The non-electric version tips the scales at a hefty 21 kg (46 lb).
The pedal-electric model adds a 250-watt Shimano STEPS motor, powered by a removable 36-volt 11.6-Ah lithium-ion battery. A four-hour charge should be good for a range of 50 to 80 miles (80 to 129 km), depending on the level of electric assistance chosen. The bike's top electric-assist speed is 20 mph (32 km/h) in the US, or 15.5 mph (25 km/h) in the EU.
"Safety is crucial for cyclists, as I myself was hit by the side of a left-turning van, who had failed to indicate," said Sinclair. "I want more people to enjoy cycling but the lack of safety, especially in busy cities, deters them from getting on a bike. Babel Bike is specifically designed to prevent the most common accidents occurred to cyclists, so hopefully it will encourage more people to get pedaling."
He is currently raising production funds for the Babel Bike, on Indiegogo. A pledge of £2,999 (about US$4,430) will get you an electric model, while £1,999 ($2,950) will get you the non-electric – assuming all goes according to plans. The planned retail prices are £3,499 and £2,499 ($5,170 and $3,690), respectively.
The bike can be seen in use, in the pitch video below.