Bicycles are no longer just for riding. Introducing six innovative updates that help bikes float on water, cleanse the air, or rethink the actual mechanics of ridesharing.

“I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike …” – considering current innovations, the chorus of Queen’s 40-year-old smash hit “Bicycle Race” could definitely use a revamp: Over the past few years, the pedal-powered two-wheeler has been redefined, reinvented, and repurposed for a surprising variety of novel use scenarios. Today’s reinterpretations of the bike purify the air while on the move or even explore brand new frontiers out on the waves. We’ve compiled a quick overview of six concepts that underscore why the notion of single-use bikes might soon sound almost exotic.

Smog Free Bicycle


Three people driving Smog Free Bicycles
Copper coils in the handlebar boxes of the Smog Free Bicycles clean polluted air.
Photo: Studio Roosegaarde

With his studio, Dutch design artist Daan Roosegaarde has been working on the interface and interstices of art and technology since 2007. And the 38-year-old pioneer seems to have a pronounced soft spot for bicycles. Take his cycle path between the towns of Nuenen and Eindhoven, a 600-meter stretch dotted with a bright simulation of Vincent van Gogh’s iconic painting “The Starry Night”, illuminated by countless of twinkling lights in the pavement.

His latest project involves a collaboration with Chinese bike-sharing company Ofo and pursues a revolutionary idea: Their joint project, a Smog Free Bicycle, promises to take in polluted air, cleanse it, and then expel it clean and pristine. How it works? Copper coils in a small box on the handlebars electrically charge airborne particulates and retain them with the aid of filters.

It’s the same technology already operating in Roosegaarde’s Smog Free Tower, albeit on a smaller scale. His impressive tower is capable of scrubbing a cool 30,000 cubic meters of air per hour, yet requires little more energy than a standard electric kettle. The bikes’ power supply is even more sustainable (and traditional): two legs and a little exercise.


“Oh boy!” This year’s global Obike launch in cities ranging from Munich to Melbourne was followed by a buzz: Vandals decided it would be fun to throw the yellow-gray sharing bicycles into streams and harbors, stack them up at the roadside, or simply suspend the brand new bikes from nearby branches and scaffolding.

Why was this even possible? The true strength of the brand-new Singapore-based bike-sharing scheme is also its most glaring weakness: Obike works without fixed stations or locations. Users can rent or leave the bicycles anywhere they like. At the same time, Obike’s new strategy is an obvious and positive one: By letting the users themselves decide where and how to use the product, they also reach remote and outlying districts that are often ignored by established sharing schemes.

Rental is easy via a fuss-free smartphone app. Anyone not bothered by the fact that Obike stores their traveled routes using inbuilt GPS can try the shareable alternative at the relatively cheap rental rate of 1 euro for 30 minutes.


A bike made out of recycled paper? Wait, wouldn’t that collapse under my weight? And what happens if it gets wet? The team at Greencode is used to questions like these. The Mexican startup has been experimenting with an environmentally friendly bicycle for about four years – successfully. Since the beginning of November 2017, the city bicycle GC1 has been available for sale. At around 150 dollars, the vehicle is affordable – keeping in mind that this bike consists entirely of recycled materials. The bicycle frame is made of paper. A special coating guarantees that even the strongest rainfall won’t damage the vehicle.

The frame is said to be able to carry up to 110 kilograms. The flat-proof tires are made of recycled rubber. The manufacturers claim that even the delivery packaging of GC1 is a hundred percent reusable – when folded right, it can even be turned into something useful.

But how long does such a paper bike last? The bikes manage to complete approximately 12.000 kilometers, the mechanic parts last for two years – at least according to Greencode’s promises. We are eager to see the first long-term test.

H1 – Hammerhead

With the H1 gadget, the developers of startup Hammerhead show how navigation systems can upgrade your next bicycle ride. The T-shaped indicator can be fitted to the handlebar. The device connects to the smartphone via the Hammerhead app, where the cyclist can specify his destination. A special feature: If you don’t feel like riding your bike alone, you have the possibility to invite friends to tag along. And if you want to take a look at your accomplishments after a completed tour, you can have your ride recorded.

With blinking lights, the navigation system indicates where to make a turn. Red, green and blue LED spots guide the cyclist on their way. Whether in the city or out in the wilderness: With the help of this gadget, you will certainly not lose sight of your route.

a cyclist with a bike navigation system by Hammerhead.
The next generation bike navigation by Hammerhead.
cyclist using the H1 gadget by Hammerhead
The H1 is connected with a smartphone app.


Thirroul is neither a French grape variety, nor a new software. Thirroul is a small town in the New South Wales part of Australia and the home of Trent Jansen, a self-confessed design anthropologist.

The focus of his work? Not to deny human fallibility, but to give it pride of place. “I’m mostly interested in the beauty of an idea and less in the physical beauty of an object,” he states when asked to describe his distinct approach.

The beauty of the idea behind his Cyclesigns is obvious: Jansen turns old road signs into bike lights and reflectors (and, occasionally, furniture). Since road signs are crafted from strong aluminum and coated in reflective paint, they are perfect for Jansen’s unique take on upcycling. He leaves these signs in the state he finds them – visible wear and tear is an integral part of his philosophy. Cyclesigns are available as rear reflectors or cat’s eyes for the spokes. Naturally, the attachment cord for the rear light is also fashioned from repurposed rubber, cut from old bicycle tires.

Hydrofoiler XE-1

“Many people have told us: What you’re trying to do there is impossible,” states Guy Howard-Willis, founder of New Zealand-based start-up Manta 5. “But I love nothing better than to redefine the impossible.” The result of his endeavor and sheer tenacity, the Hydrofoiler XE-1, has a strikingly simple purpose: It’s a bike that rides on water.

While his approach is new, the tried-and-tested hydrofoil technology employed by Howard-Willis has actually been around for quite a while: It was developed in the early 20th century and relies on the fact that, at rising speeds, the dynamic lift of a sub-surface hydrofoil can lift a boat all the way out of water. At optimal lift, the hull no longer even touches the surface, creating the impression of a floating vessel.

Naturally, the Hydrofoiler XE-1, available from November, reimagines this concept. Manufactured from tough, yet lightweight carbon fiber, it also features a 400 Watt electric engine. It has taken the New Zealand team six years to bring their slinky wave racer to market. The result is a joy to see – and ride.

Hydrofoiler XE-1: a bike that rides on water
The Hydrofoiler XE-1: available since November.
Photo: Manta5
man rides the Hydrofoiler XE-1 in a swimming pool
Riding on water with the hydrofoil technology.
Photo: Manta5