In 1818, Karl Drais invented the Laufmaschine (running machine) which functioned without pedals. His machine is classified as a velocipede, defined as a “bicycle propelled by pushing the feet along the ground”. It is considered as the immediate precursor to the pedaled bicycle. An image of Drais’ invention is shown below.
In modern day 2013, a team of German designers sought to redesign the iconic Laufmaschine. The result: Fliz (a name derived from “flitzen“ meaning to “whiz or dash”). Fliz is a concept bike without pedals. Instead, it uses the motion of running to travel faster and further than normal due to its wheels. It certainly is an innovative take of the Laufmaschine but a design analysis reveals that it has its flaws, too.
The Fliz’s major feature of difference from the Laufmaschine is design-related. Instead of sitting on the bike, riders are hanging from its frame. The frame itself is made “from a glass and carbon fiber laminate”, making it lightweight. The electric yellow color gives the bike a sleek appearance and makes the bike seem almost like a bee buzzing around.
The harness system allows riders to hang from the frame and is designed to serve specific purposes: comfort and convenience. It contains a 5 point belt system that replaces the traditional seat. The rider is tethered to the Fliz using the belt which is designed for comfort. The belt reduces pressure in the groin region, distributes body weight and allows for adjustment of body position. It is also tailor-made for each rider and can be unlocked easily due to the 5 point fastener. The team states that the belt “provides a comfortable, ergonomic ride between running and biking”.
The Fliz also contains other functional aspects. The wheels allow users to travel at greater speeds than that of walking or running. When traveling at moderate speeds, riders can place their legs on the treads located on the rear wheel. This allows for relaxation after the legs have propelled the bicycle. The overall design of the Fliz also has certain advantages. Due its streamlined shape, riders can easily navigate through pedestrians in “overcrowded urban space”.
Despite its positives, the Fliz has raised a number of doubts about its design. Firstly, people find the design of the bike awkward. The lines between walking, running and cycling seem to be blurred when looking at the Fliz. Secondly, the bike is more of a burden in certain environments. For example, if one was traversing a steep hill, one would rather walk than ride the bike. Only in downward slopes is Fliz an advantageous means of travel. Thirdly, safety concerns have been raised. While riding the bike, riders’ heads are either directly under the frame, or to the left or right of it. If the bike has to halt suddenly, the rider’s head could collide with the frame, causing injury. Also, the odd positioning of the head and the torso (which is forced to lean forward) could result in body pain. Mainly though, a lot of people are asking ‘do we really need the Fliz’? Although it provides greater speed, most people would rather prefer walking or using a conventional bicycle as opposed to this odd-looking vehicle. Moreover, not everyone can ride the Fliz anyway. The bike is only ideal for people whose height is roughly 6 feet.
The Fliz concept is a fresh look at the bicycle. There are people who cannot ride conventional bicycles due to physical reasons, and this could be a potential solution for them. But to replace the conventional bicycle, Fliz most likely faces an insurmountable challenge.