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Road Cycling

A Helicopter, A Tree House and A Submarine: You Won’t Believe What You Can Build Out of a Bike…

7 weird and wonderful pedal-powered contraptions

Bet the Beatles didn't see this coming...
Not everyone got to live in the yellow submarine

In our current climate of responsible travel, carbon offsetting and renewable energy it has finally become fashionable to care about the environment.

Which is just as well for those of us who are passionate about adventure sports – without widespread eco action we wouldn’t have the beautiful creation that we love to play in for much longer.

After all, nature is our playground – from the green hill sides mountain bikers love to snow capped mountains snowboarders and skiers need or surfers’ waves.

a little mechanical knowledge and a lot of leg work has created some truly weird and wonderful contraptions

Of course like every new fashion, there’s a fair bit of money to be made out of this eco trend. Which may explain why people in recent years have put so much time and effort into designing pedal-powered contraptions to replace everyday devices.

Take these weird and wonderful eco alternatives for example:

The Pedal-Powered Quad Bike

Who said environmentally friendly had to be boring? The Athos Prototype created by Contes Engineering is essentially a pedal powered quad bike.

Featuring nine inches of air suspension, disc breaks, and a tracking differential the Athos is super stable and looks like a blast around the park, handling jumps, heavy landings and stair sets with ease.

As a small company Contes Engineering are currently doing limited runs of the Athos which keep selling out, so with the mark three model currently in development you should already have one on next year’s Christmas list.

The Pedal-Powered Hacksaw

Yeah you read that right, the pedal powered hacksaw. No we’re not sure why anyone would make one of these either but there are quite a few of them online

A lot of these videos seem to be a response to wiki mechanical engineering projects for home diploma courses.

It’s not clear whether or not this is actually saving the guy peddling any energy, but the Rube Goldberg style mechanics are kind of amusing anyway.

The Pedal-Powered Washing Machine

For those interested in living off the grid and wearing clean clothes there’s only one option, hooking your bike up to the washing machine.

There is something quite charming about a washing machine sat out in the middle of a forest but the real beauty of this piece of kit is that it keeps itself in business.

As you peddle for the 40 minutes it takes to wash a set of clothes you are sweating into the ones you are wearing, creating a never ending cycle of washing and pedalling.

It’s like a free lifetime-long spin class.

The Pedal-Powered Submarine

Looking like something out of an old school James Bond movie, the Scubster is a pedal powered submarine created to compete in the International Submarine Race which has been held biannually since 1989 and draws teams from all over the world.

This bright yellow submersible was created by a French team led by Stephane Rousson, who tried to cross the channel in a pedal powered airship back in 2008.

It is capable of diving to depths of around 20ft and reaching a top speed of 5mph but sadly doesn’t come equipped with an MP3 player for that all important Beatles soundtrack.

The Pedal-Powered TV

This could be the end of the road for the couch potato. Powering the TV with your legs is a sure fire way to stay fit and entertained at the same time because you have to cycle continuously or risk missing out on the end of your favourite show.

The average television takes somewhere around 130 watts of power to run and we can see that in the clip above, keeping up a speed of about 12 volts looks like reasonable work.

It has the added health benefit of making snacking in front the TV almost impossible too.

Meanwhile these adventurous guys tried powering an Xbox and a TV at the same time, adding a further 160 watts of power demand bringing their grand total to around 290 watts.

To put this in perspective a Tour de France cyclist may crank out around 400 – 500 watts maximum in a burst but the top level for producing sustained power from a bike is only around 300-400 watts.

This explains why the human dynamo in this clip is cycling like a mad man and sounds like he’s going to have a heart attack before the console has even completed its load screen.

On the plus side of pedal powered consoles is that gaming would definitely become more social because it would take at least four mates cycling in shifts to get through even one round of Call of Duty.

The Pedal-Powered Helicopter

Attempts at human powered flight have not always run smoothly but in 1980 the Sikorsky Prize was established by the American Helicopter Society in to find the world’s first human powered helicopter.

The rules were relatively simple, requiring competitors to create a machine capable of flying for 60 seconds or more reaching a height of three meters.

However, during the 33 years since the competition began numerous teams tried and failed to fly with only five designs actually managing to get off the ground.

The impressive machine above is the Atlas created by a team from Toronto University in 2013. The Atlas stayed in the air for just over 64 seconds and reached a height of 3.3 meters scooping the Canadian team $250,000 in prize money and a place in the history books.

The Pedal-Powered Tree House Lift

Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. Created by outdoor enthusiast Ethan Schlussler, a builder from Idaho, this bicycle lift is both a quirky and adventurous way to get up among the trees.

Cycling casually away Ethan’s counterweighted system allows him easy access to his tree house. At 28ft high it’s not for the feint hearted, but that doesn’t seem to bother Ethan as he explains in the comments to his clip:

“Of course it’s not ‘safe’, but neither is walking across the street. That said, almost every part of the system is many times stronger than necessary, and there is no single part that would make it free fall if it broke. And even if it did fall, I would most likely survive.”

The lift’s straightforward design proves to be significantly smoother and faster than some powered efforts and that’s when pedal power comes out on top, by creating a simple yet effective way of doing things that’s also tonnes of fun.

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