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Pedal Power

posted Feb 21, 2017, 1:12 PM by Dustin Thomas
I don't remember the specific moment I learned to ride a bike, but I do recall the joy and freedom my bicycle afforded me growing up. It was the best way for me and my friends to escape adult supervision and be on our own. We could ride to the store for candy. We could fly off jumps until the ground smashed the smiles off our faces. We could even ride around town picking up aluminum cans, turning them in for 5 cents each. We could do anything we wanted!

Eventually I got a car. Now the bike seemed silly and childish. Why ride if I could drive?

For me, that attitude continued largely through my twenties and early thirties. Sure, I used my bike to get around campus in college, and I occasionally went mountain biking when my knees hurt from running, but that was about it. I wasn't a cyclist by any stretch of the imagination. When I graduated and got a job, I drove to work. Cyclists became a nuisance. I realize that is unfair to say, but that is how it seemed most of the time. Like a lot of things, a few "bad apples" can ruin the reputation for everyone - you know, the guys who ride down the middle of the road like they are a car but refuse to obey any sort of rules or guidelines that even new drivers grasp instinctively. Unfortunately, the few idiots are much more noticeable than the vast majority who proceed with RESPECT(change) and common sense.

A few years ago, my wife got me a fat bike for my birthday. I was inspired to really get out and ride again. I started hitting the trails. The trails that I often ran on became challenging outings for my poor balance and new muscles. I looked for nordic trails to ride on during the winter. I now work from home so riding to work would be silly, but I do use the bike to make trips to the store so I am occasionally kinda like a bike commuter. I still wouldn't call myself a cyclist, but I do like to ride my bike - mostly off road where my pickup wouldn't go anyway.

The more I ride my bike, the more interested I become in the power of pedaling. I've heard that the bike is the most efficient means of transportation humans have been able to create. It doesn't feel like it when I am slugging up the hills, but that may not be the most scientific test. I recently tried out one of Hobie's MirageDrive Kayaks. Wow, those are fast! That experience, combined with the joy I've found on my bike, inspired me to look for other creative uses of pedal power:

Scubster pedal powered submarine

I love scuba diving and exploring underwater, so probably my favorite pedal powered vehicle (from a purely conceptual perspective) is the Scubster. It's a personal submarine that you can pedal around the shallows (currently a 20ft max depth and 6 mph top speed). You will be completely wet and reliant on scuba gear for breathing so it's not like a "real" submarine but it's still very cool! I remember reading something a few years back about a Russian scientist who was trying to make a 2-person enclosed submarine that moved via pedal power. I'll keep my eyes pealed for an update on that... (Source - Via)

AeroVilo Atlas
AeroVelo Atlas

AeroVilo's Atlas is a pedal powered helicopter. I've seen some pedal powered planes and always thought they were pretty darn cool. A helicopter is markedly cooler. AeroVilo is all about human powered transportation and could probably dominate my entire list of coolest pedal powered stuff if they wanted. Don't expect to tour the world just yet though: AeroVilo claimed a $250,000 prize by finally completing the Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition with a qualifying flight of 64.1 seconds and a maximum height of 3.3 meters. Garage space may be an issue too (isn't it always) with the Atlas's "wingspan" of over 150 feet. (Source - Via)

Japan's Sky Coaster
Sky Cycle

More coaster than roller, the Sky Coaster at Washuzan Highland Park is still very cool. You and a partner can pedal side-by-side on an elevated track that approaches 50 feet above the ground. There aren't any loops or corkscrews, but the apparently dilapidated track combined with the lack of any sort of safety rail should provide considerable thrill. I am not sure if it's thrilling, but the bizarre music that plays on the Park's website is certainly something too. (Source - Via)

Boise Bike Bar
Boise Bike Bar

Any ode to pedal power wouldn't be complete without mention of beer. The Boise Bike Bar allows you and 13 of your friends to pedal around a growing number of Idaho cities, drinking your problems away while pedaling the calories away. It's a win-win. The bar comes with a "captain" - aka designated driver, and has a few non-pedaling seats if you need to take a break. (Source)

More to come...