Before the Segway’s launch—back when it was called Project Ginger—a group of Kiwi inventors was figuring out how to make something better. Meet Project Garlic.
Even before the Segway’s launch, back when it was still operating under its code name Project Ginger, a group of Christchurch inventors was busy figuring out how to design something better.
Their answer, Project Garlic, aims to be the simplest way to get people around a city. “We looked at the Segway and thought it was cool technology, but that 45 kilograms was a bit of overkill to move someone around,” says project leader Grant Ryan.
They started with the simplest device they could find—the unicycle. To make it easier to balance and ride, a small stabilising wheel was added at the back. An electric motor and braking system was installed in the hubless wheel and the steering, controls and indicators were incorporated into a steering column around the back of the seat.
The resulting design led Ryan to coin a term for a new class of vehicle: the mini-farthing. “The penny-farthing was the norm for 20 years before we moved into the modern bike. I think there is a nice symmetry to it,” Ryan says.
The first commercial mini-farthing is the YikeBike, a ten-kilogram bike that travels eight to ten kilometres on a 20-minute charge at speeds up to 20 kilometres per hour—and then folds into a shoulder bag in 15 seconds. No parking, no locking, no petrol.
It’s perfect for dense cities where it can be carried over a shoulder, taken on public transport and recharged when necessary in a café. Europe is the first target market, so in September the YikeBike was launched at an industry show in Germany. In the first weeks, Ryan says, the company had received nearly 300 enquiries from people interested in stocking the lightweight ride. “It seems to have clicked with people,” he says. “I thought it would take much longer.”
Maybe the time is just ripe for the YikeBike. “Last year was the first year in history where more people lived in cities than in rural areas, and that trend is just going to continue,” Ryan says.