Genius or Insanity? DIY Bicycle ‘Kit’ a Strange Urban Ride

Front-wheel drive, figure-eight chain, and handlebars by your butt, Bell Cycles makes one of the weirdest—and most reasonably priced—bikes we’ve ever seen. One caveat: You must build it yourself.

urban bike

“A weird bike assembled by you, made in Harlem, NYC.” That’s the unorthodox tagline from the boutique bike-maker Alex Bell.

Is it a bicycle? A unicycle with a training wheel? Call it what you will, you’ll be sure to turn heads.

Bell invented a stub of a bike, one that puts the handlebars behind the seat and includes a wheelbase akin to a kid’s scoot-bike as an easy-to-store urban ride. It comes in a box, and you assemble it yourself from 146 bolts and parts with simple, included tools.

Bell said he invented the new kind of bicycle in his Harlem apartment. “It’s smaller, lighter, and cheaper than a regular bicycle.” He admitted it “gets lots of looks” on the street.

Complex bike chainline
Complex chainline

The Bell bike design is a front-wheel-drive model with a weird, up-twisted drivetrain and cranks. Check out that criss-crossing chain!

Tiny Urban Bike

The target price tag is just $149. But like an IKEA chair it will come in a kit with the tools and parts necessary. From there, you build the bicycle from scratch.

There’s a video of Bell building one of the bikes. He noted of the experience, “You will learn. You will feel competent and having achieved something.”

We expect you’ll feel the same way if you successfully ride it without crashing.

DIY assembly required: All the parts for the Bell bike
DIY assembly required: All the parts for the Bell bike

But this isn’t exactly designed for utility. Bell’s goal is to spark a community of people interested in experimenting and building new kinds of cycles. He is looking for pre-production testers. Those interested can subscribe on the website and, as Bell said, “we may send you a bike to test.”

Origins Of Tiny Ride

Bell is an electrical engineer and software developer. He has built a hydrogen fuel cell motorcycle, a “super-capacitor” hybrid scooter, and “countless mopeds, bikes, scooters and the like,” he said.

Now, modular urban cycles are his obsession. But why did he decide to build a bike like this, with the handlebars behind the seat?

“I live in an apartment, so I want the bike to be as compact as possible,” he said.

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And having it front-wheel-drive removes the entire middle portion of the bike frame shortening it.

Bell said he experimented with many handlebar positions but decided the handlebars under the seat were best. It places the arms and hands by your side, in the same position as when you are walking.

Modular Bike Design

The frame is completely custom, made of CNC aluminum, water-jet-cut parts. Plus, it’s all connected with aluminum tubes that are interchangeable, with no welding required to build.

The axle, which extends through the front wheel, connecting the pedals and drive wheel, is also custom. The wheels, chain, jockey wheels, cranksets, cassette, and pedals are standard, off-the-shelf parts.

small cargo bike
Extension converts Bell bike into a cargo-toting design

What’s more, according to Bell this diminutive ride can be converted into a tricycle, cargo bike, tandem, and more.

Add-on parts let you transform the frame in a few minutes from a single-seater to various modular builds by bolting on extensions and additional wheels.

Bell hopes to have the kits go on sale later this year. For now, the brand is looking for testers; contact Bell if you want to be a candidate to street-test this, ah-hem, unique, two-wheel steed.

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.