New toys for land and sea in 2014
In January, Gizmag traveled around Germany to the Boot Dusseldorf and ISPO Munich shows to take a look at the latest in everything from monolithic yachts to tiny sports sensors. We've already covered many of our finds, but both shows were so filled with new gear and innovation, we've combined some of the remaining ones into one big gallery. Here is some of the latest, most interesting hardware for enjoying water and land.
SeaBob F5 and F5 S
Stuttgart's Cayago AG showed its latest SeaBob water sleds at Boot Dusseldorf. The F5 is an agile craft that uses an ultralight, high-strength polymer body to keep its weight down to 64 lb (29 kg). The vessel's 2.5-kW electric jet drive shoots riders across the water at speeds up to 15 km/h (9.3 mph) and under the water at up to 11 km/h (6.8 mph). The F5 can dive up to 131 feet (40 m). The lithium-manganese accumulators offer enough power for about 60 minutes of play time and charge in as little as 1.5 hours. A high-performance variant, the 4-kW F5 S, boasts speeds of up to 20 km/h (12.4 mph). The F5 retails for €7,845 and the F5 S for €10,780 (US$10,765 and $14,800).
We first covered Loopwheels suspension bike wheels from Jelly Products Ltd. last April. The wheels replace typical bike suspension components with a unique, in-wheel spring system that absorbs bumps and impacts. The 20-in wheels are available now, starting at £323 ($540) for the front version, and the company plans to get a 26-in wheel ready around September of this year. It also has a 29-in version in the works.
The ISPO Munich show gave us a chance to do a quick test ride on a folding bicycle outfitted with 20-in Loopwheels. Our first impression was that the wheels were super-playful; it was easy to load up and spring-leap into the air, and the wheels almost begged to bunny hop down the hallway. They also felt stiff enough to roll normally without affecting pedaling or momentum, but we were concentrated on flat ground and didn't get to climb any hills.
On the downside, the in-wheel suspension bottomed out much more quickly than we were expecting – do a wheelie or drop a curb and you'd feel the hard bottom (to be fair, the Loopwheels website says that wheelies and jumps are outside of the intended uses). Another issue we experienced during a brief sprint outside was the loaded spring and front wheel rotation occasionally interfering with each other, causing a jolt back. This seemed to happen when loading for a wheelie with too much speed, so it didn't affect regular riding, but it was notable, nonetheless. We assume it's something that you'd learn to avoid after practicing with Loopwheels for more than the 10 minutes we had.
Our test around the show floor and parking lot was too limited to draw any final conclusions, but we got the idea that the wheels would be great for situations where regular suspension is not available (i.e. a stiff folding bike like the one we were riding). The wheel suspension seemed ample for road commutes where you're not barreling through pot holes with regularity. On the other hand, the design seems like it will need more work to replace existing suspension options on the likes of mountain bikes. The wheels offer some advantages for jumping and tricking that could make them fun for BMX-style bikes, but they also have some quirks. We'd recommend fully testing the wheels before buying, but unfortunately testing opportunities are currently limited to Jelly's Nottinghamshire headquarters and bike shows that it attends. Its 14-day return policy is only valid for unused products.
Introduced last September, the Spark is the latest Sea-Doo on the water. This colorful vessel seemed to show up all over the Dusseldorf floor, as it made a compact, eye-catching accessory for third-party manufacturers and retailers. The entry-level model is the most affordable PWC on the market, according to Sea-Doo's parent company BRP, and its US$4,999 starting price is aimed at getting more people into the sport. BRP also reckons the Spark is the lightest personal watercraft on the market, thanks to its minimalistic Exoskel architecture and proprietary Polytec composite construction. The Spark comes in two- and three-person models and offers two Rotax 900 engine options for up to 50 mph (80 km/h) of speed. That sounds like a winning combination of design, speed and price to us.
The only item on our list that can spike adrenaline on both water and land, the Gibbs Quadski is part four-wheeler, part personal watercraft. Unfortunately, the Quadski was a bit too big and wild for the Boot Dusseldorf test pool, so we only got to look at what we assume is a thrilling transformer.
A BMW Motorrad four-cylinder engine provides power for the Quadski's combination of land and water drive systems. Drivers can wheel through the dirt and keep rolling right into the lake, pressing the conversion button to pull the wheels up and off the ground within about four seconds. The water jet system picks up where the rear wheels leave off, immediately shooting the craft forward and leaving nothing but wake behind. Unlike more utilitarian amphibious vehicles, the Quadski is all about fast fun, offering speeds up to 45 mph (72 km/h) on both land and sea. At US$40K, it's a hell of a lot more of a purchase than a Sea-Doo Spark, but it offers double the fun for a truly unique combination of land and sea adventure.
SkyTechSport Ski & Fit
The SkyTechSport Ski & Fit is part interactive video game, part invigorating exercise machine. The impressive system has a massive display and sound system that throws users right into the middle of a ski race course. You fine-tune your snow technique and work your muscles while sliding around on either skis or a snowboard, shooting down virtual slopes and carving around gates.
At ISPO Munich, SkyTechSport revealed its latest simulator system, which is built around a replica of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Downhill course. Unlike past Ski & Fit machines, which were tuned for the slower speeds of slalom and GS, the new machines recreate the different G-forces, vibrations and compression effects of fast, furious downhill racing, more accurately simulating Olympic-level downhill racing.
On the video side, SkyTechSport GPS-scanned the entirety of the Olympic course. Not only can users carve through every turn and hit every jump, but they enjoy an accurate digital replica right down to the surrounding trees. The company says that several Olympic teams even used the simulators to prepare for Sochi. It is currently planning on GPS-scanning additional famous mountains and ski runs, including Zermatt and Beaver Creek.
In addition to selling retail units to businesses and consumers, SkyTechSport has training studio locations in Munich and Beverly Hills.
The German-made Baraquda made us do a double-take because it looked like a jet ski at first – it's 7 in (18 cm) shorter than the Sea-Doo Spark – but then we noticed the cockpit with side-by-side seating in place of the usual sit-atop, tandem seating common on PWCs. The Baraquda BAQ 261 also has an outboard motor in place of a water jet system. The little boat is available with either 15- or 30-hp motors, offering top speeds up to 70 km/h (44 mph). The company explains that the trimaran-style hull ensures stability and performance. With a starting price of €3,490 (US$4,785), it occupies the same fun-and-affordable territory as the Sea-Doo Spark. The boat wasn't a brand new debut, but we ran into it for the first time in Dusseldorf.
The ISPO BrandNew room, dedicated to innovative gear brought forward by newer start-ups, had a strong focus on bike gear. The Loopwheels bike we discussed above and the Troytec Revolution were the most interesting of that gear, but there were several smaller pieces that also caught our attention.
Hailing from Alberta, Canada, Pub Pedals took home the BrandNew Award for accessories. The smart accessory pedals are designed to temporarily transform clip-in egg beaters into flat, casual platform pedals, so you don't have to put on your bike shoes if you're just rolling down the street to the store or a friend's house (or pub). Just slide the pedals on and off as needed.
Another interesting cycle-related accessory, the Pangolin from Colombia-based Cyclus Manufactura, is a backpack made from recycled inner tubes. That alone isn't all that unique, but what is, is its armadillo-inspired shape. Cyclus doesn't explain any particular advantage to the design, so we're left to believe it's all about creating an eye-catching look. The folding "plates" do open the pack all the way up, which should make it easier to load and unload.
itBikes Pedal Boats
We've ridden paddle boats before, and we've seen boats that transform regular bikes into a floating pedal-paddlers. The itBike splits the difference, planting an aluminum-framed water pedaler permanently on a polyethylene hull. The Canadian company says that the bikes are very stable thanks to the large, flat hull and side flotation extenders. With a little bit of leg muscle, riders can skim across the water at speeds up to 4 mph (6.4 km/h) while enjoying a thorough workout. Like a land bike, the water bike can be steered with the handlebars. The itBike launched in 2009 and comes in single and double versions, starting at US$1,950. The bike hardware and hull can be quickly separated for easier transport and storage.
Technogym goes Google Glass
Recipient of an ISPO "Product of the Year" Award, Technogym's Google Glass- integrated treadmill is billed as the first of its kind. Using its Android-based Unity engine, the treadmill links up with Glass so the user can use voice and touch commands to control it and receive feedback on his or her Glass, as well as on the touchscreen. The Unity platform also coordinates webcam use so that one can work out with a personal trainer or friends. Beyond Google Glass, the platform is open to third-party devices and apps, offering all kinds of potential above and beyond the average treadmill.
Unfortunately the Glass at the display was flashing empty battery when we tried to test the system out, so we didn't get to dive hands-on into Google Glass training. At €17,000/$23,575 (plus another $1,500 for Google Glass), we're not going to be testing it out at home, either.
One of the only water products we saw at the ISPO show, the Oru Kayak proved a much-appreciated design, securing the Overall Winner position in the BrandNew Awards, as well as its own ISPO "Product of the Year" Award.
We've covered the foldable Oru "origami kayak" in more detail in the past, but the short of it is that the single-piece, plastic vessel can transform from a 12-foot-long (3.7-m) boat to a rectangular shoulder bag package by way of its pre-creased design. The process takes about five minutes and makes the Oru much more versatile to transport and store than an average kayak, ideal for everything from accessing distant backcountry waters to tucking away in a small city apartment. It retails for $1,095.
Take a look in our photo gallery for more pictures of these and other cool gear items, including a powerboat display from Boot Dusseldorf. Drop by the comments section to let us know which you'd most like to have for your own personal adventures.