Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The "Totally Different" Bike

"There are products that help you solve problems and products that help you enjoy life. . . LFN bike does both." Who on Earth has problems that would be solved by this contraption?

The LFN "Totally Different" Bike is on Kickstarter (the LFN stands for "Looking For a Name" -- No, really. You can't make this stuff up), but for some reason isn't anywhere close to meeting its fundraising goal with only days left to go. As of this posting, they've raised only about $1,800 of a $100,000 goal.

It's billed as "The only bike that lets you climb a mountain without the mountain." I'm not sure what mountain climbing has to do with this thing, since nothing about it makes me think mountains, or climbing -- unless it involves climbing stairs. Maybe somebody wanted to combine a stairclimber machine with a bike, not that there's any logic in putting those two things together -- I mean, when I'm on my bike, I never find myself wishing I could be in a gym on a stairclimber.

The makers say "The LFN pedal system is vertical that's why it simulates movements of running, walking, cycling, mountain climbing, and climbing stairs." OK - there's where climbing enters into it - but that doesn't exactly explain Why. And I'll give them stair climbing, but how exactly this machine simulates the movement of walking or running is beyond me. Unless the creators are members of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

The LFN does away with a normal circular crank, and instead has pedals that move straight up and down in alternating strokes - kind of like a treadle drive. Treadle drive bikes are not new (they go back to the very earliest days of bicycles, even pre-dating the safety bicycle) though the specific layout of this one is a little different than most I've seen -- the pedals move in tracks, as opposed to levers, but the biomechanical function must be similar. Nevertheless, such designs are inherently less efficient than a traditional crank when it comes to propelling a bicycle -- that is, in converting leg motion into the circular motion of a wheel.

Here's something on the subject from the late Jobst Brandt, patron saint of all retrogrouches:

"The main problem is that the invention is based on constant-velocity lever pedals, instead of circular cranks on which the rotating foot presents no inertial problems and on which the leg moves in sinusoidal motion." Brandt was referring specifically to a treadle-drive bike called the Alenax, but the critique would be the same. He continued, saying that such a drive "requires the foot to reach full speed from a stop before it catches up to the load it is trying to propel, after which it must stop suddenly from full speed at the bottom of the stroke."

Our family had this exact model when I was little. Even as a
little kid, I figured out that treadle-drive sucks.
Older readers may recall riding little treadle-drive toy cars when they were young. We had one that was passed along through all the kids in my family. What I always remember noticing, even as a kid, was that pushing those pedals straight back and forth didn't work very well. One of the problems I noticed was that if you started pushing on one pedal before the other pedal reached the very end of its stroke, the forces on the two pedals ended up fighting each other and the little car would grind to a halt. I was probably no more than 4 years old when I decided that the little car had nothing on a bicycle.

Besides - what exactly is the proposed benefit of pushing the pedals up and down in a straight path as opposed to a circular one? The Kickstarter page doesn't really explain why "totally different" is "totally better." They do, however, claim that "the slider bars (that's their alternative to a crank) have 3 times more the resistance of the pressure applied when pedaling." I'm not sure what that even means. They also claim that "with the combination of gears in the gearbox, the LFN bike can ride faster than any regular bike, but we designed it to run similar in speed as a regular bike. We don't want riders to hurt themselves with a faster speed." Call me skeptical about the speed (or potential speed) claims.

As long as we're talking about not wanting to hurt riders, here's something else I'm trying like crazy to figure out about the "Totally Different Bike" -- the totally different handlebar ergonomics:

Start with a normal drop bar, but mounted something like upside-down-and-backwards. Add some MTB bar-end extensions, pointing straight up. Then mount brake levers in the most inaccessible part of the bars where a person can't even get a decent grip or leverage. I guess it's a good thing they didn't explore the full speed potential of the LFN bike.
And of course it's also an e-bike. One with a head-scratching range of 52 mph (?)

Here's another claim made on the LFN Kickstarter page: "We guaranty that our Bike is not on the market in any country, we dreamed it, designed it, developed it, patented it, and brought it to you to get your support." Spelling, grammar, and punctuation issues aside, I do sincerely believe this claim.

There's always the chance I'm being overly harsh on the LFN bike. Maybe there are hordes of people out there who would love to ride bikes if only the things felt more like a stair climber. If that's you, then better act fast before time runs out and the Totally Different Bike ends up in unfunded Kickstarter purgatory.


  1. Haha, it's got DUI/Bum bars on it.

    It seems like you can't "pedal" it while sitting. At least, it doesn't look like it would be comfortable to do so.

    I'm thinking the downtube area is subjected to a lot more stress than a regular diamond frame. Nevermind all the corners in this frame, but you also have the weight of the rider bouncing up and down on the downtube. Better hope those welds are good.

    This whole heap of junk is hilarious.


  2. Oh thank god, the gears are steel at least......

    I Keep an Alenex at the shop, just in case anyone comes in thinking they really need something like that. One ride, and they no longer think so!

  3. the skyline is Austin! Hope i get to see someone riding around on the laughing oh i mean the LFN.

  4. I can't see that the saddle gets used at all.
    Also ... "hoards of people" - and from an English teacher!

    1. Oh my - I can't believe I didn't catch that. And after I dinged them on their grammar. How embarrassing. It will have to be corrected.

  5. There was a bike like this with lever action "pedaling" during the bike boom. It was called the Alenax Lever Drive.
    Nothing new under the sun.

    1. Yes - the Alenax was the bike that Jobst Brandt was specifically referring to in that quote about treadle-drives.