Thank you for joining my campaign! My name is Eric Birkhauser, I am a dad, cyclist, and designer. My formal training is in architecture and my professional focus is on transit architecture. I live in the DC Metro area, and my daily commute involves 25 plus miles of cycling on dedicated bike-paths as well as city streets. I love commuting by bicycle, but recognize the challenges inherent in doing so – e.g., fatigue, discomfort, and lack of storage for personal belongings. I also recognize that these challenges keep many people from being able to joining me in leaving behind the car and commuting by bicycle. My goal in designing the ZIPcycle is to reduce the challenges by designing a bicycle optimized for efficiency, performance, comfort and convenience.
It is still as challenging to traverse a city by bicycle today as it was in1863 when the bicycle was invented. The bicycle has remained relatively unchanged for well over a hundred years. Meanwhile, the automobile bears little resemblance to its original form. It is time to change that. It is time for the bicycle to evolve to meet the needs of the modern city dweller, and to enable the bicycle to become an integral component of transportation in American cities. The ZIPcycle seeks to do this by applying the fabrication and aerodynamic innovations now standard in the automotive industry, to the elemental and beautiful bicycle.
The goal of this campaign is to raise enough money to build a working prototype; a working proof of concept. Currently, the design is a thoroughly vetted 3D model, inclusive of all working componentry. To progress the design beyond its current virtual state, a working prototype is the next step in bringing the ZIPcycle into production.
How is the ZIPcycle different?
The ZIPcycle is the next evolution of the bicycle; increasing the efficiency and performance of the bicycle to require less input for more output. In the simplest terms, the ZIPcycle is an recumbent bicycle that has been aerodynamically optimized for less exertion and higher cruising speeds.
The standard upright bicycle hits an aerodynamic wall as it approaches 20 mph. If you have ever had the experience of riding with a 20 mph tailwind, you have experienced the disintegration of this wall. By shifting and streamlining the body position of the rider, and enclosing the drag causing elements of the bicycle in a fairing, higher cruising speeds are attainable through human power alone. The modern road bicycle and rider has roughly a drag coefficient of .80, the ZIPcycle can drop the coefficient to .14. This reduction in drag effectively means that about 40% less energy is required to maintain a cruising speed of 20 mph.
The essential components of the ZIPcycle include:
A die stamped monocoque aluminum chassis;
Linked steering mechanism, connecting the handlebar to the steering tube and front wheel fork (a mechanism found in underseat steering recumbent bicycles);
Hub shifting in the rear wheel to accommodate the necessary gearing range;
Lubricated bearings, gears, and chains enclosed within the chassis in an internal driveshaft beam (so you will never again get grease on your clothes);
Hollow tail-box, accessible by tilting the ventilated seat forward, spacious enough for a medium sized bag;
Option for an in-hub motor an lithium ion battery pack to provide hill and acceleration assist functions for cyclists in hilly and mountainous regions;
Additionally, while the intent of this concept is to preserve the traditional open-air experience of the bicycle, the chassis has been designed in tandem with a fairing, and a fairing will be a future exploration of the design.
How is the ZIPCycle fabricated?
The production version of the ZIPcycle will consist of a die stamped aluminum chassis, comparable to the modern automotive auto-body. This fabrication technique provides the best methodology for making an affordable and mass-producible product.
However, the initial working prototype will be significantly more expensive to produce. The four piece chassis will be CNC milled out of Polyurethane foam, then encased in carbon fiber and epoxy resin, and finally vacuum bagged and cured. The milling cost for the chassis is budgeted to be $10,000, with an additional materials cost of $5,000. Additionally, the working componentry, including the wheels, drivetrain, and steering assembly is budgeted at $3,000. Thus, the goal of this campaign is to raise the $18,000 needed to produce this initial working prototype. The prototype will be used for further testing and refinement, and as a baseline for the production model.
Your funding is critical to making this design a reality. While the basic design of the bicycle is unparalleled in its practicality, elegance and purity, the ZIPcycle provides a viable alternative for high mileage commuters that allows for faster and less exhausting transit. This, alternative when paired with the proper infrastructure, has the potential to revolutionize sustainable transit.
How will the ZIPcycle improve my commute?
The origin of this design is my desire to spend less time commuting on my bike and spend more time with my family. I think that this is a universal goal among bike-commuters! The average commuting bicycle cruising speed is 12 mph. Imagine easily maintaining a 25 mph cruising speed, while eliminating the handlebar strain and seat pressure of the conventional bicycle. Beyond speed, a core component of the design is maintaining the open air experiential aspect of riding a bicycle, while gaining the drag reductions of fairing enclosed vehicle.
To effectively reduce transit times, and become an effective form of active transit, the ZIPcycle must be accessible to all people. Therefore the larger goal is a sharing program, amortizing the cost over a much larger group of people. More on this can be found here; http://birkhauserdesign.com/blog/2012/9/22/heliotrope-about .
How does contributing to the ZIPcycle help me?
For your generous contribution to this project, I have variety of functional and fashionable perks.
15$ ZIPcycle sticker
25$ ZIPcycle Lunch Tote
35$ ZIPcycle T-shirt
50$ ZIPcycle Hoodie
95$ 3D Printed Commuter Handlebar Hardboiled Egg Holder
250$ 3D Printed Scale Model ZIPcycle
1000$ All items above and a ride on the working prototype
All funders have an elective option to sign up for email updates on the status of the project, as well as the option of attending a demonstration of the prototype.
If you cannot make a contribution to this project, but believe in the ZIPcycle vision, please spread the word!
Who is on the ZIPCycle team?
I am working with OEC Engineering and have the benefit of their expertise in the areas of CNC milling, composite work, and componentry. Additionally, my mentors at KGP Design Studio are lending their architectural and industrial design expertise, www.kgpds.com.