December 8, 2005 “The bicycle has effectively been the same since the safety bicycle evolved from the Penny farthing more than a century ago”, says Mark Palmer, chief evangelist of the StreetSurfer, “and we figured it was about time to take the next step.” Interestingly, those who have ridden the StreetSurfer tend to agree that it is not just very different to the bicycle, but significantly better in several key aspects – steering, cornering, front wheel tracking and the general feel which is more akin to surfing or snowboarding than a BMX or mountain bike – and more than capable of creating its own following and a dedicated street culture. The four-wheeled front foot of the StreetSurfer offers significantly more traction than a bike tyre and the dynamics of the bike are flowing like surfing. Suspension is equally unconventional, being comprised of polymers which activate on impact. Limited supplies will be available of the StreetSurfer prior to Christmas.
First and foremost, it might look like a bicycle, but the StreetSurfer is an entirely different machine in so many respects – like the Tyrell P34 Formula 1 car, the Covini Sportscar or the Ford Seattle-ite, the secret of all those front wheels is the enormous traction.
With four points of contact with the road, it sticks like glue and allows you to do things a normal pushbike can’t do. “The Street Surfer can turn in quarter the turning circle of a push bike, and it can do it at twice the speed,”says Palmer. While you’d expect a durector of StreetSurfer to be bullish about his product, we spoke to Phil Townsley of Gemini Bicycle Centres in Sydney, who is a traditional competition cyclist but has ridden quite a few kilometres on a StreetSurfer.
“We’re all traditional bike riders here, and the StreetSurfer really is very different. You can almost throw all the bike riding experience you have out the window,” said Phil.
“For starters, you have to lean it into a corner as opposed to steer it and after a lifetime of learning, that’s a bit difficult to do at first.
“Unlike a bike, the pedals are higher off the ground and so you can continue to pedal when you’re leaned over to go around corners as opposed to freewheeling which you’re forced to do when you’re on a bike.
“Most significantly though, you can corner tighter on the StreetSurfer and you can corner so much quicker that it translates to an entirely different experience. The feedback is different too – when you’re cornering hard on the StreetSurfer, you can hear the four front wheels scrubbing and when you normally hear those sounds on a pushbike, you know it’s time to back off or else you’ll end up crashing. On the StreetSurfer, you need to keep pushing because it will corner much faster – it’s just making noises that normally mean something else … like I said, you have to throw your bike riding experience out the window and start again.”
Another of the characteristics of the StreetSurfer that bike riders will find it difficult to grow accustomed to is the front wheel tracking of the machine – hit a curb at a 45 degree angle on a normal bike and the front wheel will skid away and you’ll crash – with those four front tyres gripping the road, the StreetSurfer seems to carve straight over everything in its path, like having a front end that’s a giant knife.
“The brakes is yet another major difference between normal bicycles and the StreetSurfer. As the front end has so much grip, the front brake on the StreetSurfer has been made much weaker than those of a mountain bike, as the consequences of grabbing a handful of brake with so much traction could be dire – like a BMX bike, the braking with the StreetSurfer is primarily done with the rear brake.
Gizmag is looking to get its hands on a StreetSurfer in the near future when stocks arrive and we’ll be reporting on what could well be the next big thing. Like surfing, riding the StreetSurfer is primarily done with the body and with so much more “feeling”, it stands a big chance of gathering a loyal and devoted following.
The bikes will retail on the Australian market for US$995 with two more models - a mid and a low end models - expected in 2006.
The company is seeking international distributors – enquiries should be directed here.