For more than a century, the basic design of the bike wheel has remained the same — a hoop of metal rimmed by rubber. But with a radical new creation this year the designer Ron Arad has made a wheel that departs wildly from the spokes-in-a-rim form. Arad’s wheel uses strips of spring steel looped and pinned together to form a circular pattern that looks like a Native American dream catcher or a flower with pedals of steel.
The wheel is getting a lot of attention. London’s W Hotel has one and is displaying it as well as allowing guests to ride a bike with the “flower wheels” until October 29th. After that the bike will be auctioned off in a benefit where proceeds go to a foundation run by Elton John.
In a sense, Arad has reinvented the aesthetics of the bike wheel. Its functionality, however, we are highly skeptical of — anyone care to try cornering on this rubber-less wheel? I think readers will agree this bike is best categorized as a work of art, but those who have ridden it claim it actually offers a decent ride. The slightly springy nature of thin ribbon steel allows for a comfortable ride, the riders claim.
Marcus Hearst, a designer at Arad’s studio, cites unexpected performance from the unusual wheel design. “It’s a surprisingly comfortable ride, and, ironically, the faster you go, the smoother it is,” he said in an interview with Fastcodesign.com. Hearst added the wheels yield a “slight cushion” as you bump down the road undoubtedly turning heads along the way.
—T.C. Worley is a contributing editor at GearJunkie.com.