Awesome tech you can’t buy yet: Chain-free bikes and a spherical Segway

At any given moment, there are approximately a zillion crowdfunding campaigns on the web. Take a stroll through Kickstarter or Indiegogo and you’ll find no shortage of weird, useless, and downright stupid projects out there — alongside some real gems. In this column, we cut through all the worthless wearables and Oculus Rift ripoffs to round up the week’s most unusual, ambitious, and exciting projects. But don’t grab your wallet just yet. Keep in mind that any crowdfunded project can fail — even the most well-intentioned. So do your homework before cutting a check for the gadget of your dreams.

Chainless — chain-free, direct-drive bicycle

Ever wished your bike didn’t have chains? No, that’s ridiculous, you say? Well whether you wanted it or not, the chain-free bicycle is finally here. So how exactly does the chainless technology work? As its creator explains, the Chainless bike replaces the traditional mechanism with a series of tungsten gears, which won’t rust or ever need to be oiled.

But just because there are no chains doesn’t mean this bike can’t compete with the best of them — the wheels are constructed from a high density magnesium alloy, and come in three sizes: 20-inch, 24-inch, and 26-inch. And thanks to both front and rear disc brakes, the Chainless is allegedly able to stop on a dime.

Then there’s that RTS stuff, which is activated via a Shimano lever. In the company’s words, “RTS activates the back wheel to turn freely allowing rider access to unparalleled maneuverability. Tight corners are no longer a problem.”

Finally, with the Lock-N-Go mechanism, you can fold your bike in half for storage in just 15 seconds, so you can take it anywhere you need to go.

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Eva — lightweight foam snowshoes

Since its inception in 1997, Crescent Moon has been on the cutting edge of snowshoe technology, designing shoes that feel like an extension of your feet. Now, the Colorado-based company is pushing the boundaries again with its Eva All-Foam Snowshoes, a new style that the company claims will make snowshoeing better than ever before.

The footwear is designed to look and feel like a running shoe that travels on the snow, and because it’s made of foam, it is extremely light — more so than any competing molded plastic or aluminum rail snowshoes on the market.

The snowshoe has two distinct foam layers — a soft upper layer that moves with your foot, and solid bottom layer with a specialized spike plate for traction in the snow. It also features a unique rocker shape that flexes with your foot as you step. This innovative design allowed Crescent Moon to produce a snowshoe that doesn’t have the standard foot plate or rotational hinge that usually accommodates your foot.

Because of the flexibility of the foam construction, the Eva All-Foam snowshoe moves naturally with every step, allowing you to go further with less exertion, so you can just enjoy being outside.

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SnowBob — tilt-to-steer snow sled

Sledding (if you’re doing it properly) is by nature a mildly sketchy activity. You’re basically hurling yourself down a snowy hillside while loosely situated atop a vehicle that has little to no steering capabilities. Usually, the sled stays in a relatively straight line, and if you happen to head toward an obstacle of some sort, your only option is to bail — honestly, that’s half the fun. But what if you had a sled that could actually steer and change directions? What kind of fun would that be?

That’s exactly what Norwegian startup Onefoot wanted to find out — so founders Simen Fornes and Mathias Hansson set out to build a steerable sled. After years of development, it’s finally here and it looks awesome. The SnowBob, as it’s called, is basically a more refined version of the sleds you’re probably used to. Instead of just a slab of plastic, SnowBob boasts a raised platform that allows you to tilt while you ride. This transfers your weight from one side to the other and initiates a turn, thereby giving you highly intuitive control over where you go.

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MicroMill — affordable desktop CNC machine

Additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, gets all the attention these days. But despite the feverish pace at which the technology is advancing, traditional manufacturing processes still carry certain advantages; namely, the ability to work with materials other than plastic. They’re coming along, but 3D printers that print anything other than PLA or ABS are ridiculously expensive at the moment, so if you want to make something out of metal or wood, your best bet is to go with a traditional CNC mill.

MicroMill is basically a miniaturized version of the mills you’d find in a full-fledged machine shop, but with a much simpler interface, a far more compact form factor, and a drastically reduced price tag. Thanks to uber-simplified software controls, MicroMill essentially combines the simplicity of 3D printing with the precision, speed, and versatility of a CNC mill. It can mill your raw material along three different axes, and sports a number of interchangeable toolheads, so it can make parts that would otherwise require multiple machines.

At roughly $800, it’s also one of the first desktop CNC mills you can get your hands on for about the same price as a mid-level 3D printer, which is pretty incredible.

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Uo — spherical mono-wheel rideable device

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: humanity is living in the golden age of rideable technology right now. In the past few years, electric motors have become smaller and more powerful, and batteries are lasting longer than ever — two trends that have coalesced and kicked off a renaissance in personal mobility devices. There are almost too many rideables to keep track of anymore, and they seem to get crazier and more advanced with each passing month. Case in point? This ridiculous new gizmo called Uo.

Broadly speaking, it’s basically like a Segway with one wheel — and that wheel is a sphere that can rotate in any direction. So essentially, you don’t need to master any kind of turning maneuver to get around on it — you just tell it where to go with the joystick, and it goes, regardless of what direction you might be facing.

Uo does a bit of self-balancing to help you stay upright, but since standing on a sphere isn’t the easiest thing to do, the machine also sports a handle, which can be used for both balance and steering.

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