Bicycles haven't really changed much in over 100 years. Of course the materials used, technologies employed, and safety equipment utilized have all improved a great deal, but two wheels, one of which is linked to pedals by a chain, is still the basic layout. The old adage of "don't fix what isn't broken" applies here in no uncertain terms, but that doesn't mean engineers and designers can't toy with the idea of changing things up a little. The Fliz changes things up a lot ... not necessarily for the better, but it's a fun concept regardless.
The Fliz (which refers to the German word "flitzen" – meaning to whiz or dash) harks back to the days before the bicycle design we know and love was almost universally settled upon. It has more in common with the Laufmaschine (or hobby-horse) invented by Baron Karl Drais in 1817. Like the Laufmaschine, the Fliz has no pedals, instead relying on a scooting motion made by the rider. You're essentially pacing (half-walking, half-running) but traveling faster and further than you would normally, thanks to the presence of two wheels.
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Where the Fliz differs greatly from Drais' invention, which was truly innovative at the time it was realized, is that rather than sit on the frame, the rider hangs from it in a harness system – which we've seen before with the StreetFlyer. They're bent forward at all times, with their hands resting on the handlebars and their head sitting through the front of the frame. That frame is made from a glass and carbon fiber laminate and designed for people around 1.85 meters (six feet) in height. The belt is custom-built for each user and allows for a fast and easy release thanks to the five-point fastener.
The video at the end of this article shows how the Fliz is operated, with the rider running to build up momentum before placing his or her feet on the treads located near the back wheel. The designers of the Fliz claim it provides a "comfortable, ergonomic ride between running and biking." The unique frame is designed to relieve pressure on the crotch, while the harness is designed to distribute the rider's weight evenly.
The Fliz has already come in for criticism from certain quarters, but it should be noted that this hasn't been designed to replace the bicycle, bur rather as another option for those seeking to get around in urban environments. The designers began by looking at the Laufmaschine and thinking about how they could remove what they saw as any negative aspects to the design. The Fliz is the result, and could be useful for those unable to ride a conventional bicycle for whatever reason.
There are some obvious question marks, such as the inability to traverse steep hills, and safety concerns associated with the rider's head being essentially wedged inside the frame. Despite these issues, the Fliz is in the running for a regional James Dyson Award in Germany. Fred Flintstone is sure to approve.