Do you worry about the environmental impact of replacing parts on your bike? Well, a new bike from German plastics company igus might be the answer to your concerns.
The igus:bike is said to be a completely maintenance-free and recyclable bike made from plastics. Yes, that’s right: the whole bike is made from plastic, including the frame and wheels, brakes, freewheel, bearings, gearbox and toothed drive belt.
The bike is still in its first stages of development, but igus says the first model should be available by the end of the year.
According to igus, the company’s CEO, Frank Blase first had the idea for a plastic bicycle when on holiday at a beach.
“In conversations with employees of a bicycle rental company on the beach, he found out about their major problems with beach bikes. These were continuously exposed to sand, wind and salt water, and sometimes only lasted three months before they had to be replaced,” says igus.
Building a bike made of plastic circumvents this issue because plastic does not rust.
“As all components are made of plastic, no part of the bike rusts, even the gears – bicycle gears made of plastic were unthinkable for a long time,” says Blase.
Owners of the igus:bike will be able to leave it outside in all weathers and clean it with water, according to igus.
It won’t even need lubrication because the components have integrated solid lubricants, which ensure low-friction dry operation. As there is no wet lubricant, sand, dust or dirt won’t accumulate on the integral parts of the bike, igus claims.
Igus says the tribo-plastics used in the bike have been employed successfully across more than 70 industries, including in cars, tractors and robots.
It says there are currently eight developers working at its laboratories on the moving components of the bicycle. The project is being developed in cooperation with MTRL, a bicycle start-up from the Netherlands.
A sustainable platform for all brands?
As well as developing its own bike, igus says it will establish the igus:bike platform. This will make the concept of a fully recyclable, plastic bike and the components available to all bicycle manufacturers.
The concept could prove to be music to many bike brands’ ears. Shift Cycling Culture explained to BikeRadar last year that many bike builders have been looking at alternative materials in a bid to reduce emissions, but that it was “early days”.
Brompton’s CEO, Will Butler-Adams, has also told BikeRadar that the emissions associated with steel production are one of the biggest problems the brand faces in regards to hitting net zero.
In theory, the igus:bike platform will offer solutions to problems such as these – if brands are willing to utilise the platform, that is.
The bike platform will also help brands move away from a traditional linear economic model and towards a fully circular economy, according to igus.
This means brands can switch from relying on the extraction of raw, virgin materials toward reusing plastic.
This makes sense on an environmental level, but it also makes sense on a more practical one, in the eyes of Blase.
“The plastic in rubbish dumps around the world is becoming a valuable resource,” he says.
Igus and MTRL have already tapped into this resource, producing the first prototypes of the bike from old fishing nets.
According to igus, MTRL intends to structure itself in a way that gives it access to this resource, planning manufacturing facilities near plastic landfills around the world.
Igus says it has lots more ideas for the future of the project, including installing condition monitoring in the bikes.
“That would let you use your smartphone to see how many more thousands of kilometres the bike can take. That will hopefully convince many people who are still sceptical about plastic,” says igus.