Monthly Archives: March 2015

The #Bergmönch bicycle/backpack — hike uphill, ride down

Even the youngest cyclists know that it’s fun to ride downhill. The bummer is that you have to start by getting to the top of a hill in order to enjoy it. Sometimes that’s a long slog in the saddle. Sometimes it’s a ride in a helicopter. And sometimes, it’s a Bergmönch.

"Bergmönch" means "Mountain Monk." I'm not sure why this is supposed to communicate "weird backpack."

“Bergmönch” means “Mountain Monk.” I’m not sure why this is supposed to communicate “weird backpack.”

This is a German bicycle/backpack, designed for those who want to hike uphill and ride down at the end.

I don’t see any distributors but you can order one directly from the company for $1500. For that price, it seems as though they ought to include a place to sit.

Bergmönch. For those who like to ride, and don't care to sit.

Bergmönch. For those who like to ride, and don’t care to sit.

Hydraulic brakes for inline skates

Generally speaking, beginning skaters use block brakes and experienced skaters don’t use brakes at all, preferring to t-stop or just run off their momentum. Alternatives have been tried, including a number of dynamic braking systems triggered by leg placement back in the late-1990s, but they all failed in the market because the benefits of being able to brake with both feet on the ground, side-by-side were outweighed by the additional complexity and expense.

Enter hydraulic brakes for inline skates, which are far more complex and expensive than those earlier experiements ever were.

Cherish this image, you'll never see these in real life.

Cherish this image, you’ll never see these in real life.

I admire the home inventor who tinkers on a project until he solves it. It’s a great tradition. But the boffin behind this project has gotten ahead of himself if he thinks it’s worth anywhere near the €335 he’s charging. That’s more than a pair of basic skates costs. And worse, it works with only four models of skates (Rollerblade Speedmachine, Rollerblade Tempest, K2 Radicalskates, and Fila skates with 100mm or 110mm wheels). Of these the Speedmachines are no longer being sold and the Tempest was recalled for risk of mechanical failure.

Look at the happy customer.

Look at the happy customer.

And a final puzzle about these brakes — the manufacturer posted a video on youtube showing them in use, but the video never shows a person slowing down or stopping!

The Sky Cycle of Washuzan. Is it worth a trip to Japan? Yes, yes it is.

In southwest Japan, for reasons unknown to man, there is a Brazilian-themed amusement park. Deepening the mystery, one of the attractions at this park is pedal-powered skyway. It looks like this:

I want one of these in my back yard.

I want one of these in my back yard.

It’s apparently terrifying and beautiful, which may be how Japanese people view Brazilian people.

Here’s a first-person film of the the ride, from Japanese television.

Credit ultimately to @Mulboyne on Twitter, who posted a picture of this ride online.

"Daisy, Daisy you’ll look sweet Upon the seat Of a bicycle built for two."

“Daisy, Daisy
you’ll look sweet
Upon the seat
Of a bicycle built for two.”

The @MorpherHelmet folding bicycle helmet for those who are brave, but not *too* brave

I have an instant visceral reaction against the idea of a folding bicycle helmet. But after some yogic deep breathing, I can see the idea working, maybe. It’s not like the helmet physically prevents a car from crushing your head, it just holds styrofoam pads in place to absorb some of the impact. No reason for it to be rigid when off your head as long as it can hold the pads in place when it’s on.

Thus, the Morpher.

The Morpher, in open and shut configurations

It’s crowdsourced, and I certainly wouldn’t buy one in advance of seeing the safety test results, but reasonable people can disagree on that.

The argument in favor of the Morpher helmet is that if it's easier to carry, it will be more frequently used.

The argument in favor of the Morpher helmet is that if it’s easier to carry, it will be more frequently used.

A Unicycle That Ate an Inline Skate

Our friends from Hungary have come out with a scooter with one big wheel and one small one, that you clamp between your legs.  It is almost a unicycle, but does not have pedals and is almost a modern backwards penny-farthing.

Called a GaussWheel they have a seven minute video on their site – which is incredibly boring.  I could not even make it through the first minute.  The only reason for this video IMHO is to spend the investors money on traveling around the world.  It does look like they had fun making the video.

Moments from GausWheel Spirit Double Bass film12

On the positive side, it is for sale now and does not contain a motor.  There are four models available, the base model sells for $200 and the top of the line goes for $500, but to get a brake, you need to spend at least $400.  I guess with the first two models you supposed to just fall… or something.

The brake seems to be a handle between you legs, which you need to bend over to pull.  It seems like a great way to face plant.  I’m guessing they have good dentists in Hungary.

They have some pretty detailed but meaningless specs on the difference between the models.

I’m guessing there is a warehouse in Hungary full of these things.  Hopefully the GaussWheel is put together better than their crappy website.

GausWheel Spirit Double Bass film10

How to save $20,000 on a bicycle

Specialized makes some nice bikes. Their mountain bikes are classic, and the “Allez” is a solid training bike for road racers. They also make a $20,000 bike called the S-Works McLaren Tarmac, which is designed for rich idiots.

It looks like this

Two wheels, handlebars, pedals. Yup, it's a bike. Wait --- no pedals! $20k and no pedals.

Two wheels, handlebars, pedals. Yup, it’s a bike. Wait — no pedals! $20k and no pedals.

and its riders look like this

Take a close look at the guy in the center, I'm about to make a mean joke about him.

Take a close look at the guy in the center, I’m about to make a mean joke about him.

Here’s the wheeledThing secret to saving $20,000 on your bicycle — buy a regular bicycle and skip the Frosted Flakes™.

“The Monolith” is another electric skateboard

I remember during dotcom 1.0 when fifteen startups were announced for every possible business idea conceivable under the technology of the day. Somebody beat you to market with the first online underwear store? Brag you had the first online *organic* underwear store, or the first online underwear store “with a portal model.” It didn’t help, but it made investors feel special.

The good people behind “The Monolith” seem to be trying the same thing. They’re not first to market (see for example the Fiik electric skateboard, which we discussed here a few months ago). So they brag it’s “the first and only skateboard with motors in the wheels”. Why does this matter? It doesn’t.

Looks like a skateboard.

Looks like a skateboard.


They claim it will go 24mph, which is obviously a lie. Well, maybe on a downhill. You control it with an iPhone app, assuring that people will die. Good thing it’s going to cost $1399, so nobody will buy one. Actually, it’s a kickstarter so it probably won’t ever even be produced.