The balance bike isn't a new idea, but it's one that's been gaining steam over the past several years. Balance bicycles and hybrids like the Wishbone Bike and ZumZum have been popping up regularly, positioned as learning tools for young children. Entrepreneur and inventor Tom Mackenzie believes the balance bike can be an effective commuting tool for adults, too. His Levicle is a simple, compact folding bike that gives your legs the power and glide of wheels.
In attempting to find a functional balance between the bicycle and the kick scooter, Mackenzie got inspiration from an unexpected source: the grocery shopping cart. One day while shopping, Mackenzie did what many children (and some adults) have done at one point or another – glided his way down the aisle on the cart. He didn't stand on the cart, instead leaning his upper body weight on the cart while skipping forward with his legs.
Mackenzie set to work designing a sit-down bicycle that could recreate that feeling of grocery cart "levitation." After working through several prototypes over the course of about three years, including an original single-wheel design that he recalls as being "genuinely scary to ride" Mackenzie came up with what he describes as the "world’s most versatile, fun and easy to use commuter vehicle" with help from bicycle designer Dylan Filbee.
We're not sure that we see the Levicle as being the most versatile or fun commuter vehicle in a world where gravity is so often working against us, but it definitely looks easy to use. The design is super-compact, lightweight and simple thanks to the loss of a lot of hardware that weighs the usual bicycle down – large wheels, drivetrain components, etc. It features a 12-in pneumatic front tire, a small, scooter-style rear wheel and a very simple folding frame connecting the two. The adjustable seat takes a load off, unlike a stand-up kick scooter.
Thanks to its folding frame, retractable handlebars and adjustable seat, the Levicle compacts down to a size of 28.3 x 14 x 7.6 in (720 x 356 x 193 mm). That makes the 11-lb (5-kg) aluminum bike easy to transport on public transportation, in buildings, etc.
Besides sheer simplicity and portability, Mackenzie lists several other advantages. He says the compact dimensions eliminate the crouched position of a standard bicycle, meaning less back pain. He also says that the Levicle accelerates more quickly than a standard pedal bicycle from a standing start and maneuvers more easily through crowds. The large front wheel is designed to better negotiate rocks and other road obstacles when compared to scooters with small wheels, and the simplified design requires less maintenance than a bicycle.
The Levicle is available in two models: a kids' version and an adult commuter version. Both versions can be adjusted for a six+ year-old or an adult with the adjustable seat, the main difference being the lack of front V-brake on the kids' version and the front slick tire on the adult model. Mackenzie imagines the kids' version being used around the park and schoolyard and the adult version being more of a serious urban commuter.
We can't see many cyclists trading in their full-functioning bicycles for a sit-down scooter, but the Levicle might find an audience with kick scooter riders, skateboarders and others. Mackenzie is hoping enough people will dig it to net him NZ$25,000 (US$16,660) on Kickstarter, where he's offering the adult and kids' two-wheelers starting at pledge levels of NZ$199 (US$135) each. If all goes according to plan, deliveries will start in December (for the NZ$239+ first limited edition model). Shipping to Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Europe, New Zealand and the US is included in the base pledge.