By Andrew Liszewski
If you like the sleek look and minimal frame design of a fixie bike, but sometimes prefer the benefits of a freewheel model (like brakes, switchable gear ratios etc.) then a team of 5 mechanical engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania have just finished work on your dream ride. The ALPHA incorporates the team’s innovative new free/fixed transmission which they’ve dubbed the ‘SWIFT Drive’, as well as a fully internal drivetrain all operated by an electronically-controlled clutch.
According to the ALPHA’s website the team went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to engineering the bike’s subsystems to maximize strength and performance vs. weight, and as a result it actually weighs less than a regular steel-framed bike but can withstand far more. It doesn’t skimp on technology though to keep the weight down. There’s a dynamo built into the front hub which generates power for the onboard electronics which includes rear LED lighting and a host of sensors which provide real-time performance data to the rider via an LCD display integrated into the handlebars.
Of course since the bike is all custom made from materials like titanium and carbon fiber I’m sure the working model is probably worth tens of thousands of dollars. So let’s hope the team can patent and license their new technologies so the ALPHA can one day become a real, and moderately affordable, product.