Aside from its awesome good looks, there’s a whole lot to like about this bike.

A team of mechanical engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania spent two semesters designing and building what has to be one of the most innovative bikes in existence. For example, notice the absence of a chain. It’s been replaced with an electromechanical actuated clutch and belt pulley system. With just a flick of a switch, a rider can choose either a free-wheeling or fixed-gear setup. There is also a three-speed gearbox in the rear hub that is controlled by a regular push-pull cable.

Another innovation is the front hub which contains a brake drum and dynamo to provide power for various sensors and a microcomputer. An LED display, mounted on the handlebars, shows real-time information such as speed, distance travelled and cadence (pedal revolutions per minute). Other data can be stored on a secure digital (SD) card and analyzed later to evaluate the bike’s performance.

All of the components are housed inside a light-weight aluminum and carbon fibre frame. In addition to providing protection against the elements, this design gives the bike a clean, aerodynamic look.

The Alpha bike is a one-off prototype whose revolutionary technology could eventually find its way to the marketplace. To learn more about this ambitious student project, click here.

Alpha: Possibly the Most High-Tech Bike Ever from Core77 on Vimeo.

Article first published May 5, 2011.

Stan Megraw

Stan is a writer/researcher, a PhD graduate of McGill University and was a member of the CurioCity team for several years. As a kid he dreamed of playing hockey in the NHL then becoming an astronaut with NASA. Instead, he ended up as an environmental research scientist. In his spare time Stan enjoys working on DIY projects, cooking and exploring his Irish roots.

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