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Last Updated: Monday, 19 February 2007, 12:36 GMT
How does a sideways bike work?
The Magazine answers...

Michael Killian on his Sideways Bike

An inventor has made a bike that travels sideways. How does it work?

It has been hailed as the first major development in bicycle design for 150 years. The Sideways Bike has a steerable wheel with a set of handlebars at either end.

The cyclist sits sideways and operates a wheel with each hand, and pedalling makes the whole bike travel sideways.

Its key advantage is that it's more manoeuvrable than a conventional bike, says its inventor Michael Killian, 46, a software engineer in Dublin.

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"The strange thing about it is it's very like snowboarding or sailing because you're moving sideways and operating on a different balance system in your head.

"It's a front-to-back balance not a left-to-right like a normal bike. That affords you tremendous grace and motion. It's dance-like.

"The advantages are in the motion. It's never going to win you the Tour de France. But it's mesmerising and entertaining."

Sideways Bike
1: The back cog drives the back wheel chain, which unlike on a normal bike can turn either way when the back handlebar is steered.
2:Back handlebar which steers the back wheel and has a rear light.
3:Front handlebar which steers the front wheel and has a light and rear-view mirror.
4:Pedals are at right angles to the wheels.
5:The seat is shaped like an upside-down crescent.
6:This frame goes over the lap of the cyclist, but can go under if preferred.

A modified version, which has two sets of handlebars, smaller wheels and upon which the cyclist faces forward, could be in the shops at Christmas priced at 150, if negotiations with a supplier in Taiwan prove fruitful. And Mr Killian hopes the Sideways Bike will follow it into mass production.

He has already taken it to Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne, New York and Boston, to test it on the streets. Riding it around the Arc de Triomphe was a particular challenge, he says, which drew looks of bemusement from Parisiens.

But the Sideways Bike would need amending before riding on the UK streets because riding the current model would mean the cyclist had his back to the traffic.

"It's a kids' bike, from seven up to teenagers. Some adults will like it but it's for play and you need to be co-ordinated enough to ride it."

Sideways Bike II
The younger brother of the Sideways Bike. Yours for 150

After testing it on volunteers, he estimates only about six out of 10 people are able to master it. And he recommends getting a cyclist's helmet with a rear-view mirror attached.

A motion Mr Killian much enjoys is "drifting", which is when both wheels are parallel. The biggest difference to a normal bike is in turning, which is usually done using both wheels.

A left-hand corner, for instance, will be approached with a move to the right, as it would on a normal bike.

Then the cyclist leans into the turn to take the corner. The front wheel is usually the first to turn and the back wheel follows to modify the angle.

He had the idea four years ago, while spending his Saturdays in his shed "working on nonsense".

"The first prototype nearly killed me and I still have a scar on my leg. I took it to a slope and went 330m downhill.

"That was the Eureka moment and it felt like picking up a glove and finding that it fits perfectly. It was a wonderful feeling."

Thanks for your comments. The debate is now closed.

But what's the point? If it isn't particularly safe, fast, or useable what real point has it got? Surely designing a bike that, (like Roland Carter pointed out, has serious flaws when turning because not being able to see traffic) is for children, is a major mistake! They are the age group most likely to be injured whilst 'having fun'!
Keith Smith, Leeds UK

150 years of development of the current bike has given us ultra lightweight, fast, full suspension bikes made from steel, aluminium and even carbon fibre. These bikes work brilliantly, hence making this sideways bike a totally pointless exercise. This story will the first and last time we ever hear about this ridiculous machine.
Iain Pendry, Derby

I am ultra cautious when I ride a normal bike in today's traffic so I won't be buying one of these. I am sure it will go down in history as another good but well engineered Irish joke
Pete Weath, Kingston upon hull

Another person trying to reinvent the wheel...literally. I'd rather face the direction I'm heading and get 180 degree vision of my travel direction than get hit in the back by a car that I couldn't see coming.
Phil, Nottingham

You boring people!!! This is how great ideas come about! People have to be innovative to move ahead, even is some of the ideas are a little daft! Have a sense of humour for goodness sake. In a world like ours we need it and good on the BBC for talking about it. Made me chuckle at least!
Nick Rennie, Austria, Vienna

I crashed my (ordinary) bicycle into the front of a car this morning, luckily without injury. Maybe its time to invest, except I dread to think what would happen in a crash situation as you wouldn't be able to navigate so easily as you cartwheeled through the air, whereas a neat somersault over the front got me out of trouble...
Anon, Liverpool, England

Is it just me or is this completely useless?! Surely a great invention is something that improves our way of life not taking an existing object and making it less functional? I think it should be sold with neck strain cream too. Strange!
Keely Jackman, London

It's a shame that all of the responses so far to this invention are negative. It is true that much practical detail remains to be solved and that modern traffic situations, tricky for any cyclist, would be more dangerous for the sideways bike - as it stands. It is also not clear how well the sideways bike would cope with steep hills. But not all cycling is about city transportation. Much of it is for health and for pleasure. The conventional diamond-framed bike, however evolved, remains uncomfortable for many (in particular causing lumbar problems in many). If the sensation of riding one of these machines really is as pleasurable as is described - affording 'grace and motion', being 'dance-like' - then this is surely a valid contribution to the world of two-wheeled transport. And to attract people to green transport requires a degree of enchantment and attraction! Loosen up a bit, everyone! OK, don't try it round the Arc de Triomphe like Mr Killian did. And at 150 even I could afford one - more than can be said for a decent conventional bike.
Robin Thomson, Hawick, Scottish Borders, UK

Just 2 words...Sinclair C5
Neil, Liverpool

I actually checked my calendar to see if it was April 1st.
Modupe , London

It may not be practical as currently designed but can still serve as a starting point for other bicycle redesigns. How about automating the rear steering to keep the maneuverability advantage while removing most of the learning curve?
Mike Noel, Tucson, USA

If 6 out of 10 folk can master it, does that mean 4 out of 10 bike thieves will be out of a job?
Paul, Edinburgh

I didn't realise that bicycles were so unmanoeuvrable that they needed redesigning.
Dean, Devon, UK

Fun I suppose but otherwise utterly pointless and dangerous! How do you put your foot down if you overbalance to the right (or back in this case)? Take a look in Cambridge at the number of people who haven't yet mastered riding an ordinary bike safely or within the law!
Richard Bagnall, UK, Cambridge

You boring, boring people. This was clearly invented as a bit of fun. I'm absolutely convinced when Skateboards and In-Line skates, and similar methods of transport were invented; people like you lot said much the same thing. Lot's of recreational activities are neither fast, or safe, yet their point is to have fun. I would imagine a person who places the words having fun in quotes is clearly unused to the idea of enjoyment.
Peter Fealey, Weston-super-Mare

Whilst this is a fun invention, I find it irritating that toys like this get so much attention in the main stream media. It adds nothing to the promotion of cycling as a practical method of travelling from A to B and sends out the message that cycling is for cranks and eccentrics. (Even the word crank..)
Ralph Williams, Cambridge UK

As we say in the Big Apple, fuhgeddaboudit! Riding this contraption on the street in Manhattan means you'll never see the car doors open behind you as you travel up the avenue (what we affectionately call being "doored"), you'll never see the pedestrian jaywalkers as they step out from behind a parked car, and when you get cut off by a vehicle (which the bus drivers love to do) and fall backwards your goose is cooked! Sideways=Noways
Rich Weil, New York, New York USA

Side-show Bob might find a use for it
ali albaity, toronto canada

It's a silly design, which is why he's marketing this as a kids' bike. You can't carry any panniers, there are no baskets, and you certainly can't tow anything. This takes a practical machine and reduces it to a nonsensical toy.
Nancy, New York USA

If I ever feel the need to seriously injure myself, I'll remember this invention. You mention how a left hand corner can be approached, but how will you be able to check for traffic coming from behind? Presumably with those eyes we all have in the back of our heads! Like to see this one get money from the Dragons' Den!!
Roland Carter, Birmingham

When von Drais first invented it, the bike was just a wooden frame on two wheels and a steering, and the rider had to push it with his feet... It was received a huge "laughing stock" and everybody was saying that "it would only remain a joke"... Doest it look familiar? What's the human mind without sparkles?
Dorin, Brasov, Romania

I agree that the bike doesn't sound as safe or practical as an ordinary bike. But there are other advantages a bike might have - it sounds as though riding this in general is an interesting and pleasant experience. Perhaps it wouldn't be much use on the road but to get around quiet, open spaces - perhaps simply as a leisure pursuit in itself - it sounds like it might be quite fun. Why does everybody feel the need to attack something so virulently that they don't even know much about? ps. I'm not the inventor, honest.
Sam Cruise, Southport

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