Bike and Fly

As a long-time paraglider pilot and environmentally conscious person, I have always wondered about how green our sport is. We can fly for hours and hundreds of km without any fuel, just powered by the sun. This is the coolest thing on earth for me, but when we look at how it starts and ends, it is a completely different picture. We use airplanes, trucks, buses, cable cars and everything civilization has to offer, and which runs mostly on fossil fuel, to get to the takeoff and get back after landing. This is cheating for me, so I have been searching for greener alternatives in the last few years.

 

The most natural setup for zero-emission paragliding is using a bicycle when not flying. Sounds great, but it creates a huge amount of technical challenges: how to take a bike with you for the flight in a comfortable and safe manner; how to manage safe takeoffs and landings with a lot of metal close to your body; how to turn from biking mode to paragliding mode quickly and easily; how to carry the paragliding gear and possibly all bivouac gear on the bike; how to climb steep mountains in bike mode.

Recumbent bicycles are a great starting point to solve all these issues because they are pretty close to a paragliding harness in terms of pilot body posture. They offer a lot of opportunities in repurposing bike parts for flying. So after four years of dreaming, flying and tinkering at the workshop, I have come up with a neat solution to all the above issues: the bike rides great; I can take all my equipment and camping gear with me on land and in the air without repacking at takeoff and landing; turning the bike into a paragliding harness and back takes under a minute; it is easy and safe to take off and land on foot and it also flies pretty well; pushing the bike uphill is easier than carrying the normal paragliding backpack on my back.

What’s next? Well, flying and riding it as much as possible. And touring. With a few rules. One: every journey starts at the door of my apartment. No support car to get me anywhere. Planes, buses excluded. Getting a lift in a remote mountain region? Maybe, depending on the circumstances. As life gives it to me. But going definitely unsupported. A 4WD in the background ignored by the camera would be the most embarrassing cheat of all. So lots of rules, but they are flexible. The idea and the spirit of the journey matter most. Like the Gliderforecast Facebook page to get the news.

10 thoughts on “Bike and Fly”

  1. Nice! Did you make the bike from “scratch” or some sort of rebuild? Any more details about the build? DIY manual?

    1. Thank you. I did it from untouched stainless tubing. I don’t like the limitations when working with rebuilds. I don’t have a DIY manual for it. I did some designs in CAD but modified and refined the bike a lot while testing.

    2. Hi Ove,
      I mostly use raw tubing to make my bikes, no old bikes sacrificed. 🙂 I don’t have a DIY manual. I design a 2D geometry for the bike to check out the obvious: rideability and ergonomics, and I work out the practical details on the workbench. My version 3 flying bike is getting ready now, so please check that out. This design is a super fun bike, great for riding and lots of space for baggage, but it was too heavy for flying for my taste. If you need any details on how to build a similar bike, let me know and I will try to guide you through the process.

  2. Szia, én is siklóernyős vagyok. 2007 ben egy ernyős balesetben lebénult a két alsó lábszáram. Tavaly kezdtem ismét repülni tandembe szekérrel majd egyedül szekérrel. Hat éve tekerek rekumbens trike-al. Az utolsót direkt repüléshez terveztem, itt a kép róla:

    1. Szia Péter! Elnézést, hogy csak most válaszolok. Gratulálok, hogy repülsz és tekersz. Ha valamiben segíthetek: tervezés, kivitelezés, csak szólj. Email, vagy messenger gyorsabb, a kommenteket csak nagyon ritkán nézem meg.

  3. Excellent. You say taking off and landing by foot, not on bike? (I only did one paragliding test fly, so excuse my ignorance of the obvious)
    How much do you feel you had to sacrifice on safety?
    I am also very much interested in the details.
    Have you considered e-bike? A mid-drive system such as revelpropulsion.com adds only about 5kg of weight. But you are limited in autonomous range, unless you increase battery size (and weight) and/or combine with solar panel.

    Some estimates for solar ebike:
    – 0.5kg/100Wh battery (website above)
    – 2 batteries of 380Wh each for a ride over 100km/1500m height (https://www.revelpropulsion.com/blog-1/2018/11/1/range-testing-and-fall-colors), or 50Wh/100m
    – solar panels: 3kg/100W (Amazon search flexible solar panels)
    See also thesuntrip.com

    1. Hi Mahe,
      Sorry for the late reply, I only check the comments when I want to write an article or do some admin stuff on the blog (approx. twice a year). I didn’t do a safety test, so I cannot give you a definitive answer on sacrificing safety. I think, that the design is quite safe, because there is no metal around my spine, neck or head. I think I would get a broken pelvis. I tried to build the bike to be stiff enough for riding but to bend on impact in case of an accident. No definitive answer here.

      Adding an e-bike system is definitely doable. I don’t like the extra weight for landing, but I cannot see other disadvantages. Electric bikes are not my thing, but adding an e-bike to this bike is definitely a good option if you like it. If you need more info, please contact me on Messenger.

  4. Hey T I had to delete my Facebook I will get a new one soon. Please contact me on this email address until I get a new one. Thanks

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