If you're fortunate enough to have an employer that lets you bring your bicycle inside, or if you keep your two-wheeled steed in an apartment, then you probably know just how in-the-way its handlebars can be in close quarters. Not only can they poke passers-by, but they also have a tendency to whack into door frames, and they prevent your bike from resting stably against walls. Loosening your handlebar stem and turning the bars parallel with the front wheel, while addressing the problem, is likely more work than most people are interested in doing on a daily basis. With the new flipphandle stem, however, riders can turn their bars sideways with just a press of a button.
Flipphandle was invented in 2007, by New York architect and cyclist Alejandro Lacreu. The device won the silver medal at the 36th Salon Des Invention in Geneva in 2008, and was granted a patent last year.
Like a regular stem, it installs between the steerer tube (threaded or threadless) and the handlebars, and utilizes a spring-driven conical cam mechanism to keep the bars locked in the forward position, for riding. By pressing a button on top, that mechanism is released and the bars can be turned and locked sideways, while the front wheel remains pointing forward. The bicycle can then be brought indoors for storage, or even just less-obtrusively wheeled down a crowded sidewalk.
The stem itself has a carbon steel tube at its core, with a "spinning tube" that rotates around it, allowing the handlebars to be repositioned. That spinning tube is made from reinforced plastic, which was reportedly chosen for its rigidity, durability and low friction.
Lacreu is currently raising funds for large-scale production of the flipphandle. A pre-order donation of US$75 will get you one, once they're ready to go.