The IRIS eTrike picks up where Sinclair’s C5 left off

Sir Clive Sinclair’s nephew brings new answer to urban mobility

Grant Sinclair, the nephew of Sir Clive Sinclair, has worked to bring a new electric trike to congested city streets.

Currently available to pre-order, the IRIS eTrike is reminiscent of Sir Clive Sinclair’s original, ill-fated C5, which aimed to transform urban mobility upon its 1985 introduction.

The eTrike Eco puts its rider in a recumbent-like position with a conventional 8-speed drivetrain that’s assisted by a 250-watt hub motor.

Fed by a 48v 20Ah lithium-Ion battery, the eTrike is rated for a distance of up to 50 miles / 80km on a single charge while an enclosed canopy means commuters need not shy away from the rain.

The hub motor also uses regenerative braking to top up power on the move.

The trike layout has more in common with Morgan's three wheeler than the Reliant Robin
The trike layout has more in common with Morgan's three wheeler than the Reliant Robin

An Extreme version of the same vehicle will also be sold with a 750-watt mid-drive motor, which IRIS lists as the ‘world’s fastest commuter/cargo bike’.

Unlike the original C5, which used a single wheel at the front and was generally criticised for its instability, the eTrike instead features two wheels at the front and a single rear wheel. Think Morgan rather than Reliant Robin.

The rear view camera can be configured to stream a real-time view to a docked smartphone

Its aerodynamic body blends into a hinged canopy, which then tapers into a streamline tail section.

The design is said to have taken inspiration from aero helmets and allows the higher powered of two versions to achieve claimed speeds in excess of 30mph / 48km/h.

Beneath the aerodynamic bodywork is a chromoloy steel chassis with 2x 20in front wheels and a single 26in rear wheel, each are wrapped with solid, puncture-proof tyres from Tannus.

Also incorporated into the shell is a full set of headlamps, indicators and a rear brake lamp.

Inside, there’s a cabin that’s dominated by a bucket seat along with a smartphone dock for GPS, music playback and computer functions.

Another clever feature is the rear view camera, which can be configured to stream a real-time view to a docked smartphone.

Braking the 55kg IRIS is the job of two hydraulic discs.

Sinclair's C5 was recently voted the biggest innovation disaster of all time
Sinclair's C5 was recently voted the biggest innovation disaster of all time

A crucial part of this vehicle’s success will come down to its legislation, and in the UK things are fairly clear.

The 250w IRIS Eco is classed as an electrically assisted pedal cycle or EAPC, meaning it can be ridden on cycle paths and anywhere else bicycles are allowed.

Riders 14 years old or older will be able to use an IRIS Eco without a driving licence. They would not have to register the vehicle with the DVLA and would not require tax or insurance. Wearing a helmet would also not be compulsory.

In contrast, the more powerful version would need to be taxed, registered, insured and riders would also be required to wear a helmet.

The IRIS eTrike Eco retails at £2,999/ €3,532/ $3,738 — plenty of cash, particularly considering Sir Clive's Sinclair C5 retailed for £399 in 1985 (that’s around £1,100 / $1,400 in today’s money).

But its makers are keen to point out that large discounts are available through Cycle-to-work and other eco initiatives available in certain territories worldwide. 

In truth, the eTrike differs vastly from the original C5 and anyone who knows the full story of that vehicle would probably count that as a good thing. First production trikes are expected before the end of 2017.

The IRIS eTrike in all its beauty
The IRIS eTrike in all its beauty

Oli Woodman

Section Editor, UK
With more than 10 years of experience riding mountain bikes, Oli knows the good from the bad when it comes to gear. He's a total bike nerd and loves few things more than fettling with spangly riding bits. Also, he seems to have a talent for crashing hard but emerging unscathed.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Loamy singletrack
  • Current Bikes: Marin Pine Mountain, Pinnacle Dolomite
  • Dream Bike: Honda RN01
  • Beer of Choice: Corona
  • Location: Bristol, UK

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