When Californian art and engineering collective Carv began developing the Strandbeest-inspired walking bike in 2014, it couldn’t have known the beast that it would create. Carv had an idea. It had a simple blueprint of a Jansen’s linkage. It had a 3D-printed model of what the device might look like, some experienced craftsmen, and a few hours to spare for a few nights each week.
Seven months and 700 man-hours later, when Carv submitted its creation to the Santa Barbara Solstice Parade, it had half of a bike with three functional legs and over 450 custom-made components. “[We] couldn’t believe the thing actually worked,” the collective wrote yesterday in a Facebook post.
Carv’s customization efforts are impressive, but its bike wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the work of Dutch artist Theo Jansen, who released his Strandbeests in 1990. The mechanical creatures are part works of art, part machines, and — according to Jansen — part lifeforms. Strandbeests (“beach beasts”) seem to be incredibly complicated, but function on a simple mechanism called a Jansen’s linkage that, when used in conjunction with other Jansen’s linkages, enable the creatures to walk.
Like land ships with legs, Strandbeests use sails to activate their joints and walk as the wind blows. Carv’s walking bike replaced Jansen’s sail with a couple pedals and a bike chain. As the cyclist pedals, the linkage the feet move back and forth, one before the other, like the legs of a shy spider.
Don’t expect to go very fast though. “One of the most common questions people ask is, ‘How fast does it go?’ or, ‘You should make it run off road,'” Jon Paul Berti, one of the bike’s creators, told Digital Trends. “It’s really not that kind of thing. It requires a flat surface to work correctly, moves at a brisk walking speed, and it does not turn well. We had some people try to ride it fast and it looks pretty nuts with the legs scuffling along that fast. I’m sure it would break if they kept it up.”
Jon Paul isn’t yet sure if he’ll make the bike available for purchase any time soon. “We’ve had some requests,” he said, “but have not looked seriously into building them for sale. I can say that we put hundreds of hours into this project, and it would be very expensive to produce that way, but if enough people really wanted one, I guess we could look into finding a manufacturer.”
In the meantime, if you crave a bike like Carv’s, looks like you’ll have to head to shop and create one yourself.