As you pedal around a pond or along a sunny promenade, have you ever looked down at your
bike then out across water and thought ‘what if…’ Someone has, and their whim has
been brought to life through two truly innovative modes of transport that may have our nation’s
waterways all a-slosh.
Introducing the ‘Aquaskipper’: It might look like a stretched tricycle without wheels but the
spartan frame belies a clever science. Every time the rider jumps, the force of their body-weight
compresses a fibreglass spring which causes the rear foil to fluctuate, generating forward
propulsion. Repeating the action, the rider jolts up and down like someone using a pneumatic
road drill in slow-motion. It looks anything but natural, but provides an effective means of
crossing open water as quickly as is possible without engines or a sail. It looks like a great
workout, too, even though it’s claimed that the Aquaskipper relies more on the user’s balance
and rhythm than fitness.
With paddles instead of wheels, the ‘Waterbike’ is an amusingly frank combination of transport
from two opposing worlds. In spirit it’s an upright, stripped down version of the peddle-boats we
all used once but never again because we got cold, wet and bored. The Waterbike looks as it
sounds and with no techniques to master, seems more user-friendly than the Aquaskipper - just
hop on, start peddling and stay warm and dry, until you stop, that is, when the whole operation
sinks like a trolley.
Both of these inventions look pretty cool and straightforward to use, but protocol looks more
individual as far as getting back to dry land safely goes; you’ll need someone onshore to help
you out, at least for the first few hundred outings - just don’t forget a life-jacket.
With a few minor developments, imagine the environmental boxes these bikes could tick.
They may prompt a future of eco-commuters jostling for position on the Manchester Canal.
Perhaps we’ll see the Thames divided into lanes for the morning rush hour as hordes of
aqua-skipping bankers travel to the City on buoyant Boris-bikes.
Maybe I’m overshooting potential here, but I don’t want to throw a dampener on these genuinely
innovative devices that seem to work pretty well. With the tandem rise in popularity of surfing
and cycling, hybrid craft like these were surely inevitable. Only time will tell if the
human-powered hydrofoil propels us towards a carbon-neutral utopia, or if the
Aquaskipper and the Waterbike swirl away down the plughole of pointless invention.