Outrageous urban bike is crafted from 90% recycled trash
German motion plastics specialist igus and Dutch bicycle startup MTRL have partnered to create a bike that's fashioned from recycled plastic trash, including the frame, forks, wheels and gears. The igus:bike is due to ride out toward the end of the year.
igus has been working with plastic for more than half a century, its tribologically optimized plastic compounds finding use in automotive, agriculture machinery and robotics industries. In 1990, its self-lubricating motion plastics technology was used in a full-suspension mountain bike for the first time in the US.
We've seen a number of efforts over the years to fashion bikes from plastics, though these have tended to be mostly design studies, one-off builds or exhibition projects. And even then, non-plastic components often feature heavily.
Frank Blase, igus CEO, first had the idea for a corrosion-free all-plastic bicycle while on vacation in Florida in 2009, after discovering that rental bikes were often short-lived due to exposure to sand, wind and salt water.
An investment in, and partnership with, bike rental startup MTRL (previously Dutchfiets) followed in 2019, and the long road to development began. The eventual aim is to produce a bike made from 100 percent waste plastic, and the collaboration is almost there.
Currently 90 percent of the igus:bike is fashioned from plastic, including the chunky looking molded frame, planetary gears, freewheel, bearings, pedals and wheel rims. Even the rim brakes are plastic, though brake pads will need to be installed. It's estimated that around 16 kg (35 lb) of plastic waste will go into every build.
All plastic components "have integrated solid lubricants and ensure low-friction dry operation," rider power is transferred from the crank to the rear wheel by a Gates Carbon Drive belt and the rims are wrapped in Continental tires.
The single-gear bike is being designed "to have an extremely long service life and can be passed on from one generation to the next." Low maintenance is promised too thanks to an absence of grit-attracting wet lubricant and easy hose down cleaning. And at the end of its life, igus intends to operate an upcycling service.
The igus:bike is still in development but a working prototype is now rolling into trade fairs, such as the Hannover Messe where the plastic bike debuted this week. The technology concepts and components are also being made available to other bicycle manufacturers for incorporation into future models.
The first series-ready urban ride inspired by the igus:bike prototype is expected to go on sale from MTRL towards the end of this year, with an adult urban model made from recycled plastic material costing around €1,400 (~US$1,500) – though a slightly cheaper variant made from virgin plastic will also be available. Models employing several gears, as well an ebike, are also planned.