Saturday, August 23, 2014


Man, it's been a while since I last posted.  I've been packing to move off to school and it's been a bit more difficult to find interesting things to talk about (to me, at least).  I've also been learning a little more about trains as I said I would in the last post, which is coming along quite well.  I might post about that down the road.  As for the frequency of my posts once school kicks in, I'll have to drop back from the daily posting that I've been doing during the summer but will still try to post more than once a week.

Here's one of the most interesting things I found while researching about bikes a while back: the 1960 Bowden Spacelander.

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Ben Bowden was a British industrial designer who first came up with the idea for this space-age bike in the 1940s.  After a few bottlenecks, he moved to Michigan where he was able to put these into production for a short time.  The all-fiberglass frame was relatively fragile and the bike in general wasn't all that popular, with only a little over 500 being made.  While the space-age design was pretty futuristic back in 1946, by the time it was actually produced in the early 1960s, the finned cars, bullet taillights, and googie style of the '50s was already looking dated.  Back in the day, the $89.50 price tag was considered too expensive for most people to consider buying, but it's nothing compared to the >$40,000 prices that some examples command today.

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After first seeing it, I stared at this bike for a few minutes before it actually started growing on me.  However, when I realized I actually liked the thing, my interest caught like fire on gas.  This bike was just so weird, so smooth, and so cool.  The cost of owning or riding a real example was prohibitively high, but that was okay.

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I got myself thinking.  There are a few replicas out that were made with varying amounts of faithfulness to the originals and I thought since this was made out of fiberglass, it wouldn't be so hard to make at least a working, visually-similar replica.  I figured once I had the supplies, a bit of money, and access to appropriate tools, I could get a cheap single-speed, coaster brake bike and chop up the frame.  It would have to have a similarly curved front fork and I'd use either the old steel tubing and some new tubes if needed to form a basic structure for the bike.  If I was to take on this project, I'd definitely try to form a fiberglass shell to fit over the hopefully skinny frame because molding structural fiberglass like what was used for the originals would be a bit beyond my skill.

GasserGlass has a pretty good series here.  I love how he finds inspiration for hood scoops and naca ducts from looking at tub handles.  

I would probably have to eyeball and sketch up some measurements first that are exact enough for the bike to appear similar to the original, and then build the frame and make molds accordingly. From there, it could go a few ways. Depending on when I decide to do this project, I could either sculpt parts of the mold out of plaster and stick it all together for final finishing and molding, or CAD out the mold and 3D print it in pieces. The right and left halves of the bike's mold would have to be formed separately but at the same time to make sure they match up. I have access to some good equipment at school but might not have time.

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The moon discs go well with the appearance, in my opinion

Of course this plan looks pretty easy for me on paper, but there will probably be unforseen hurdles to clear, not to mention the sheer time commitment needed just to create the molds.  Anyway, me being myself, I thought of ways I could customize the bike a little or make it more practical.  I considered adding a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed coaster brake hub with the shifter semi-concealed on the frame somehow, but that might be more trouble than is worth for a bike that won't be ridden much.  Another option is the use of some kind of front wheel hub dynamo like a S-A Dynohub to power the lights.  On the other hand, I could just put battery packs inside the open spaces near the lights anyway.  Replacing batteries wouldn't be worrisome as I would keep the fiberglass panels secured to the frame with a few bolts, easily removable.  Not that I'd be riding this bike at night, or very much at all for that matter.  

Again, when or if I actually start this project, I don't actually know but a guy sure can dream!