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Commuter, Concept 21 779

I mentioned in my last post that Mark Sanders shared a few entries from the recent “commuter bike for the masses” competition in his keynote presentation at the Taipei Cycle Show. I just realized that one of the entries he included in his presentation is one that I had not yet posted.

Skua is a velomobile trike concept that was submitted by Adam Lazenby. I have to admit, when I first saw Adam’s boards, I was definitely swayed by the nice form and excellent renderings, especially the one showing the concept in the rain. The Skua made my top ten list, but I felt like the fully reclined recumbent position might be off putting to many of the targeted users (current non cyclists). In some ways, this full fairing design looks more like a land speed record oriented HPV than a vehicle that would appeal to those who don’t currently ride any type of bike.

Rear wheel steering has advantages and disadvantages, some of which were discussed in the comments section of a recent post. I won’t rehash those points here, but I do like the way the fixed front wheels allow for a tightly enclosed front end on this concept.

For a further explanation, I will let Adam explain the Skua concept in his own words:

Skua: Giving the Car Some Competition

Automobiles are effortless. Their interiors are comfortable, dry and climate controlled. They allow the occupants to bring cargo. In order to encourage the world to use their own strength as a form of transit we must first encourage the world to get out of their cars. Why not create a bicycle that possesses these same qualities? Why not give the car some competition? That is the mentality behind the Skua (skyoo-uh), to provide the cyclist a smooth, dry and climate controlled ride that requires minimal effort.

This style of vehicle has been in existence for some time and is generally referred to as a velomibile. Velomobiles are essentially recumbent tricycles with aerodynamic body work. The Skua pushes the concept further.

Most velomobiles have exposed front wheels to allow the cycle to steer. This creates drag. The Skua is able to tightly close in the front wheels by using a trailing linkage rear wheel steering system. The two front wheels drive the bicycle. The shell of the Skua is thermoformed plastic from film and foam coextruded sheets. Gracefully forming the sheets yields an appealing, aerodynamic and sound deadening ride. Competition for the car has arrived.

While I am posting, I will mention this link to the press release of the final results of the International Bicycle Design Competition. Check back for more from the Taipei show next week.

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  1. Welby March 21, 2009 at 7:07 pm -  Reply

    We should do the young design students a favor and let it be known that rear-wheel steering is a waste of time.

    There’s a reason the only vehicles that use rear wheel steering are forklifts that move so slow.

    It’s dynamically unstable. You can’t break the laws of physics. And no, using a negative-rake fork to “cancel it out” doesn’t work either – look up something called “pole-zero cancellation”.

    Just look at Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion car. Didn’t work for Bucky either.

  2. Champs March 21, 2009 at 8:03 pm -  Reply

    Apart from the rear steering as a non-starter, the enclosed bike is going to prevent drenching the rider with rain in exchange for drenching him or her with sweat.

    Certain aspects of bicycle use (or any outdoor athletic activity) are just counterintuitive to the outsider and it has to come down to education.

  3. Anonymous March 21, 2009 at 9:41 pm -  Reply


    I cant wait to see the other fifty design entries…

  4. B. Nicholson March 21, 2009 at 9:47 pm -  Reply

    I have a Quest velomobile ( with aerodynamically enclosed front 20″ wheels (ackerman steering, I think) and a Shimano 100 28 speed power train with 500 watt power assist ( After you get used to the small size of it, it works well as a second car and gets about 300 mpg-equivalent, more if you pedal!

  5. Anonymous March 22, 2009 at 5:34 am -  Reply

    crap concept

  6. Anonymous March 23, 2009 at 8:16 am -  Reply

    “Those who don’t remember the past are condemned to repeat it” – George Santayana

  7. Crush the Commonwealth March 23, 2009 at 11:57 am -  Reply

    One more in a long list of bicycle shaped design objects that will do ZERO to get more people on bikes.

    Promoting the concept that more people will ride bikes if they are more like cars is counterproductive. This only serves to make people believe they only have to wait just a little while longer for the low effort, completely enclosed $450 velo-car will be released.

    This isn’t happening. Ever. The inherent simplicity of the bicycle is what makes it appealing. Designs have been trying to make bikes more car like for years, always with the same results; expensive, fragile, heavy contraptions that are dangerous to ride on public roadways.

    Spend more time designing infrastructure to make bike riding more appealing to the masses rather than all these designs for design’s sake.

    And rear wheel steering? Really? For Real? Seriously? Is there any basic physics or engineering taught to designers these days? An obvious amount of work went into these bike, all for naught.

  8. pjotr320 March 24, 2009 at 9:47 am -  Reply

    There is a rear wheel steering system that works. It’s used on the ‘Velayo’ velomobile from Germany. I think it has patent pending.
    As far as I know, that’s the only r.w.s. that works.

  9. Anonymous March 24, 2009 at 12:06 pm -  Reply

    Yesterdays news, but interesting. Several have been totally enclosed since the early 1980s Vector. Rear wheel steering has gone through all the dampers, clutches, steering adjustments since the 1990 Thebis– not a factory velomobile nor did they make the main stream.

    With proper ventilation several companies are fully enclosed already, and are available now (and have been for years).

    This is a tremendous transportation possibility, but will remain a “niche” transportation, and will unfortunately miss the mass-transit needs altogether.

    I love the concept, drove a rear-steer, tilt-steer, a variety of trikes, and currently drive an enclosed velomobile kit, but I have to face reality: I have enjoyed this “niche” travel for almost 5 years; but very much doubt this type of vehicle will be more than a “niche”

  10. Anonymous March 26, 2009 at 12:03 pm -  Reply

    This will never get a body on it. Like quoted here everything not done by the high end Velomobiles is on this one..

    It’s a roll over waiting to happen. Tight turn radius is an issue with this type of vehicle anyhow.

    Hopefully the designer will realize from all this feedback that its beter to change course now.

  11. Mike March 26, 2009 at 9:52 pm -  Reply

    The current land speed record holder the Thrust SSC has rear-wheel steering.

  12. Elrey March 29, 2009 at 1:31 pm -  Reply

    Mike posted: “The current land speed record holder the Thrust SSC has rear-wheel steering.”

    But we should note that the Thrust SSC is not designed to turn. It is a straight-line record machine.

  13. Anonymous April 2, 2009 at 1:50 pm -  Reply

    Those of us that commute to work though the Canada winter should be able to appreciate a three wheeled covered design. Ice and sub freezing temperatures cause riding to be a bear. Even the best of us crash a few times each winter.

    Though I doubt rear wheel steering will ever work, I am glad that some people are still willing to play with the idea of covered cycles. After all, the majority of the population thought the automobile was a silly idea at first. Now they are accepted to the point of over saturation.

  14. patentist April 3, 2009 at 12:25 pm -  Reply

    As Tina Fey would say “I want to go there.” That looks like a cool velo, and my winter commuting on a trike makes me lust for something over my head.

  15. Ron April 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm -  Reply

    The vehicle looks very sharp.

    One thought. Every automobile and bicycle that humans are trained to use have front wheel steering (there’s a reason for this, and that’s a no-brainer) Rear wheel steering is now a mirror or inverse of front wheel steering in that, if you turn your handlebar or control wheel to the right, the vehicle moves left and the opposite happens when you turn your bar to the left. This can be confusing to a new person and may have significant learning curve, especially to be comfortable making quick moves in an emergency situation (such as when trying to avoid a collision)

    Some also mentioned the possibility of a roll-over in a high speed tight bend cornering situation. That may be possible. The rear is only supported by one wheel. What the students should try to do is get a differential gearing for the front axle and see if that improves this problem.

  16. Shining Raven April 22, 2009 at 3:42 am -  Reply

    As pjotr230 already said, there is a velomobile with front drive and rear steering in Germany, the Velayo. Webpage at Production is starting right now, and the vehicle is commercially available, not just vaporware.

    I have test-driven the prototype, and there seems to be no problem at all with the rear steering. On the other hand, because there are two front wheels, in principle a differential would be required, in fact only one of the two front wheels is actually powered. The concept here would have the same problem: complicated differential, or only one-wheel drive.

    A more serious problem I see with the concept is the view through the canopy glass in the rain and at night. The Go-One velomobile, which also has a similar canopy adopted from a glider (sailplane) apparently has serious problems at night and in the rain, and many people have to drive it with the canopy partially removed under these conditions – the concept presented here presumably would have the same problems.

    So in my opinion, it is certainly feasible, but has serious disadvantages, as the experience with similar existing velomobiles shows.

  17. Anonymous June 1, 2009 at 1:06 pm -  Reply

    Pretty cool, butt only seats one.

  18. Anonymous June 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm -  Reply

    Ok, but still not better than a Model A or Model T.

  19. Anonymous June 1, 2009 at 1:07 pm -  Reply

    Can you get a side car?

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