Monday, March 16, 2009

the tensegrity bicycle

roving reporter alan, a.k.a. "the first-born", fired off a breathless e-mail to me here at golden fish world headquarters regarding a magical confluence of buckminster fuller's thinking and a bicycle. at what unholy crossroads would the two meet? well the answer is in the tensegrity bicycle.

tensegrity isn't something you'd generally hear about at the breakfast table so in a nutshell, what's tensegrity? websters has rendered the collective meaning of tensegrity down to "all things working together". but tucked away inside that definition are the following ideas:
"- loading members only in pure compression or pure tension, meaning the structure will only fail if the cables yield or the rods buckle (the rods would have to be an exceptionally weak material with a very large diameter to yield before they buckle or the cables yield)
- preload, which allows cables to be rigid in compression
- exact constraint, which reduces stress localization
- mechanical stability, which allows the members to remain in tension/compression as stress on the structure increases."
which looks like this: and this:
a well-illustrated overview of all things tensegritous can be found here.

so what about the bicycle? well, using the idea of a structure stabilized by both solid tubes and wires, romanian designer ionut predescu has crafted an improbable-looking but functional machine. here it is:
constructed of carbon fiber and kevlar cables, the tensegrity bike seems to float when viewed from certain angles . . .
i think that the first few rides would be real gut-clenchers if for no other reason than looking down you'd see a wire stretching improbably between the post supporting your nether regions and the post supporting your most advanced regions. in other words, it looks like it should fold together - with you squished in-between the two! i'd like to know what it feels like over bumps, turning, in sudden stops. intuitively i think it's likely no different than a regularly constructed bike. if you get a chance to ride this let me know!


Goldenrod said...

So when are you going to get a chance to try one out, Steven? That certainly WOULD be a most disconcerting feeling!

steven said...

hi goldenrod, you'll notice that at the end of the post i suggested "if you get a chance to ride this...." emphasis on the "you" part!!! i'm sure this thing is safe and clever it just doesn't feel right. but i'd try it if given the chance! steven