We may have been promised jetpacks, but at least we got flying bicycles. John Foden and Yannick Read recently won themselves a slice of blogospheric fame by unveiling the Paravelo, a sort of bicycle/parasail hybrid that can reach heights of 4,000 ft. That's three-quarters of a mile. In the air. By bike.
Foden and Read claim that the Paravelo can take off from any open space, travel 15 miles per hour on land and 25 mph in the air, and is intended both for "door-to-door" use (it folds up to fit in your home or office [!]) and for camping. It comes with a built-in tent.
The inventors are currently looking for a last round of funding to finalize the design, so, naturally, they've launched a Kickstarter campaign. They're only looking for £50,000, so I'd say the prospect of seeing an airborne bike soaring over a sky near you is a pretty good one.
The concept is exhilarating and terrifying. I want to ride one more than anything, but can't really imagine doing so without plummeting to a grisly death. John Foden, one of the inventors of the bike, assures me nothing of the sort would happen. I reached out to the co-founder of Xploreair, the company behind the fly-bike, and he explained the fascinating contraption's origins—and its future.
Motherboard: First off, the idea. Flying bikes seem like something straight out of the most excellent kind of retro future. Where did it come from?
John Foden: Both myself and Yannick Read have always been into bikes and aircraft since we where children. Combining the two has always been a dream of ours, and the fact the Wright brothers were also former bike mechanics the connection didn't seem so crazy.
Are you a sci-fi or an aviation history fan? What inspired the design?
We have always been promised flying cars in visions of the future, but it really seemed more obvious to us that the bicycle was a better candidate especially as the principle is very similar from a control perspective.
If possible, would you mass-market this product? Do you think it could catch on with consumers worldwide?
We very much see this product as offering people a real affordable option to get away on expeditions and explore. The bike offer the opportunity to cycle to work during the week and then hitch up the trailer at weekends and fly off and go "flamping" fly/camping! We are also working on an integral tent which you can see on our website. (www.xploreair.com)
Do you worry at all about the safety ramifications? This thing looks pretty exciting, and I'd love to hop in and blast off—would I come back in one piece if I did?
Flying with a paragliding wing is one of the safest ways to fly, and although the Paravelo takes some training to master it is actually quite a responsive aircraft.
What's it like up there, to be riding your bike through the sky?
Riding and Flying really gives you the best of both worlds. You can get to places that you wouldn't usually be able to, and you see your surroundings from a completely different perspective.