Imagine an extreme sports tricycle with eight-foot-in-diameter wheels that tilt inwards at the top to form a pyramid, with a miniature wheel at the front for balance, and at the machine's center, a roll cage in which the rider stands and pedals. That's right, stands. Ladies and gentlemen, (drum roll) meet the Patent Pending HyperBike.
The cycle's image is reminiscent of Leonardo Da Vinci's drawing, The Vitruvian Man, a pen and ink drawing from 1492 in which a naked man stands in the center of a circle within a square, his arms and legs apart. The symbol of the circle within the square
expressed Da Vinci's belief that the workings of the body were a microcosm of the universe, and the man within them symbolized the balance between the material and spiritual worlds.
The HyperBike's creator, Curtis De Forest is a tall man with a leonine mane of streaked grey hair, who has twinkling eyes, and a bass voice that whispers and reverberates. Over lunch this week at Nichol's Restaurant in East Hampton, warmed by the hearty fare and ready fire crackling in the corner of the room, the inventor said, "I dream about it all the time. I dream about taking it cross country to the Salt Flats for Speed Week, followed of course, by an Air-Stream, with lots of great food!"
All his life, Mr. DeForest tried to figure out his life's purpose. Finally, one day a friend explained he had an inventor's personality, and suddenly everything became clear. "I set out to create a machine that," said Mr. De Forest between bites of seared, rare salmon, "would promote good health and good posture, could travel great distances at top speeds, did not use fossil
fuels, and was safe and good for you. The HyperBike is what the bicycle should have been."
"Within the framework is a roll cage that could potentially withstand a 200 mph impact. That kind of impact already exists in race cars. The fact that the rider stands ensures stability. Getting nicked by a Mail truck would be the equivalent of a fender bender, whereas if you were riding a conventional bicycle, it would be a wipeout."
Mr. De Forest says he was inspired by the design of a racing wheelchair. "They're unbelievably fast and have a low center of gravity." The transmission, on the other hand, is a copy of a tractor transmission, which allows for a zero radius turning axel, with good braking capacity and safe turning capability. Within the roll cage, there is a harness attached to a strap-on back bar that emanates from the base. You can lean and squat while cornering."
"The HyperBike is not designed to make sharp turns," said its inventor, "under normal circumstances, you shouldn't have to. Any risk you might take as a cyclist would be lessened, in other words, you won't fly off, and should someone hit you, you are protected by interior air bags."
The HyperBike has got NASA interested. So interested, that one of it's outreach programs, SATOOP, the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program has agreed to give its creator 40 hours of intellectual investment per engineering question, until the product is brought to market. "What that means is," said Mr. DeForest smiling broadly, "I get the best person in the country to answer my questions; someone who is on the cutting edge of things. It's what I've dreamed about."
Where did this kid, originally from Huntington, Long Island, get these sorts of ideas? "I grew up as a Science Fiction lover and a cyclist," he said. "At one point, I wrote a sci-fi screenplay that wasn't very good but the main character rode around on a HyperBike. In the movie, the bike could also fly," said Mr. DeForest and let out a belly laugh. "Now that the first prototype has been completed, I dream about the advertising! I see it as a two word headline with an image of the HyperBike. So far I've come up with 'Silent Revolution,' 'Spin This,' and 'Equilibrium Found.'
"I also see two HyperBikes in every home for travel during warm winters like the one we're experiencing now, it could be used to store electricity and then transfer it to your Tesla electric car, or you could get a gym and fill it with stationery hyperbikes. You'd create enough electricity for a whole block!"
As our coffee arrived, we were well into HyperBike World. So I asked, "And what is the next step?" Without blinking he said, "In every invention there are three levels to the prototype: 1) the working model, 2) the engineering model, and 3) the mass production model. I'm on step two. I need the right sort of financing to get to step three."
Coming from the idealist and dreamer that Mr. De Forest appears to be, I took his honest reply to mean he planned to create a planetary partnership in which everybody on earth wins. With NASA involved, and who knows where else?
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