Igus has a thing for plastics. A few years back, company engineers took apart a Smart car and replaced 56 factory-installed bearings with igus’ polymer-based dry-running iglide bearings. Just to show that anything metal can do plastics can do better, it took the car on a 100,000-kilometer (62,150-mile) road trip across the globe. I met up with the crew when it made a pit stop in the Los Angeles area, which you can read about here. Now, the supplier of engineered plastic components has turned its attention to two-wheeled mobility, specifically an urban bicycle made entirely of plastic.
Granted, you won’t see it in the Tour de France, but for tooling around town, this bike is a winner. For one thing, the igus:bike won’t rust. “As all components are made of plastic, no part of the bike rusts, even the gears,” said igus CEO Frank Blase. You can leave the bike outdoors in any kind of weather and clean it within seconds using a garden hose.
Lightweight, lubrication-free high-performance plastics are used in all parts of the bicycle, from two-component ball bearings in the wheel bearings to plain bearings in the seat post, brake levers, and pedals, said igus. All of the components have integrated solid lubricants and ensure low-friction dry operation, without a single drop of lubricating oil. This ensures that sand, dust, and dirt cannot accumulate and gum up working parts, said igus. Coincidentally, this was the initial impetus for creating an all-plastic bike.
As the story goes, igus CEO Blase first had the idea for an igus:bike while vacationing at a beachside resort. Chatting with the folks who ran a bike rental shop on the beach, he learned of the major problems with beach bikes — continuous exposure to sand, wind, and salt water was brutal on parts, some of which lasted only about three months before they needed to be replaced. Constant maintenance and repair work could be eliminated, thought Blase, if the bikes were entirely made of plastic.
In addition to durability, the igus:bike also strikes a blow for circularity. A recycled version made entirely from waste single-use plastics was displayed at Hannover Fair in Germany. The initial prototype was made of plastic reclaimed from old fishing nets.
The bike is designed to be assembled and supplied by approved partners, and igus has made the engineering design and all key components available to bicycle manufacturers via the igus:bike platform. Dutch startup MTRL is working closely with igus and plans to have adult and children’s models on the market by the end of this year. An e-bike is also in the works.
The adult bike will retail for about €1,200 ($1,284); the version made with recycled plastics will have a surcharge of around €200 ($214).
The igus:bike had its global debut at the massive Hannover Fair, which runs from May 30 to June 2, and it will cross the Channel for the Engineering Expo in Birmingham, UK, on June 8 and 9. It’s a safe bet that it will be back in Germany for K 2022 in Düsseldorf from Oct. 19 to 26, where igus will have a presence in hall 5 (stand B36) and hall 11 (stand F75).