Bicycles

Experimental e-bike is made for older riders

The Sofie prototype hits the road
The Sofie prototype hits the road
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The Sofie prototype hits the road
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The Sofie prototype hits the road

It's an unfortunate fact of life that as people get older, their sense of balance diminishes. This means that seniors have a higher than average risk of falling when cycling. They may be less likely to do so, however, if the senior-specific Sofie e-bike reaches production.

The Sofie is the result of a collaboration between three Dutch groups – the University of Twente, e-mobility company Indes, and Roessingh Research & Development.

Its frame has a steeper head angle than most bikes, along with a shorter wheelbase. Along with relatively small wheels, these features reportedly make it more stable when travelling at low speeds, which is when most falls occur.

Once the rider gets on and gets moving, a couple of other features come into play.

First of all, the motor is designed to very quickly bring the bike up to its modest maximum speed of 18 km/h (11 mph), getting the rider past that risky slow zone as fast as possible. Secondly, once the bike does get up to speed, its seat automatically rises to put the cyclist in a more efficient pedalling position – once they slow down again, the seat goes back down, allowing them to place their feet firmly on the ground when coming to a stop.

Although the consortium has approached several bicycle manufacturers about producing the Sofie commercially, there are presently no takers.

Source: University of Twente

7 comments
skee
I would buy it.
Aussie_2017
From some medicine journal articles, this "It's an unfortunate fact of life that as people get older, their sense of balance diminishes" isn't interely true. They lose balance because they back (specially lower back) and knees muscles get weaker. What make harder for them to walk than it's for a younger person. That's also the reason when a senior start taking hormone reposition they don't have this sort of problem.
yawood
@Aussie_2017. I daresay you're right about the weakening but I'd challenge your statement about that being the reason for the reduced sense of balance. I'm 72 and there is nothing wrong with my back or my knees (just ask my younger golfing colleagues who I can still outdrive substantially on the golf course). That doesn't mean that I don't have more difficulty these days standing on one leg to put on my socks and shoes because I lose my balance more easily.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
A semi-recumbent lean-to-turn reverse trike will solve these problems.
ljaques
My bursitis likes the step-thru frame. But I'm sure my pocketbook would not like the special programming to go WFO (wide open throttle) nor the extra motors and gear to shift the seat around, which would likely double the price. Personally, I'm a fan of WFO, but I'd like a stable seat. I can use my thumb (or twist grip) throttle on my own, and can foresee more problems than solutions with this scenario. It is no wonder that nobody has taken them up on their sponsorship requests.
YuraG
@Douglas Bennett Rogers, thanks for pointing to a semi-recumbent solution, but I'd simplify it to what has already been implemented as Giant's Revive. Just revive it and all those probs will be solved far more efficiently.
electricsteve
Interesting, the seat raising and lowering itself seems like a neat little addition. I currently ride a Blix Aveny and I use the throttle to get myself back up to cruising speed when I'm starting from stationary. At least I am in control that way, I don't know how I feel about the motor being designed to accelerate very quickly. Seems like it could be an issue when trying to creep forward slowy...