8. May 1999. Tomi Engel ObjectFarm
The Greenmachine

Digging through the picture collection I ran into the photo of a recumbent prototype developed by someone at the Technical University of Delft (Netherlands) in 1996. A company named Flevobike (Dronten/Netherlands) picked up the design and wanted to turn it into a mass-market-low-price-low-maintenance HPV. (Does anybody know where I could get a copy of this TU-Delft study ?)

Whatever it was projected for ... one thing was for sure: It was a real beauty.

Design Facts

2. The Greenmachine

The major design ideas of the Greenmachine have been:

  • Use materials which are suitable for easy recycling. So most parts were constructed out of aluminum (main frame, seat, wheels, cranks, handlebar, etc.)
  • Internal power transmission and gearing to protect the system from dirt and rain ... or to protect your clothes from dirt and chain (long maintenance intervals)
  • High quality drum brakes (easy maintenance)
  • Aluminum disc wheels to solve the problem of loose spokes or unbalanced wheels (long maintenance intervals)
  • Full suspension to make the ride as comfortable as possible (The stiffer disc wheels require suspension in contrast to "flexing" spoke wheels)
  • Monoblade "forks" for the front and rear wheel (easy wheel exchange via single screw)
  • Constructed out of smaller modules (front, rear, seat) which allowed for easy adjustability and customization
  • The use of standard industry bearings should keep the production cheap and the design durable (long maintenance intervals)

The missing revolutionary ideas for load carrying or rain protection this machine seemed to compensate pretty well with its elegant appearance.

Reality Facts

Knowing how long the way from a design concept to a final product is I feared that this was all way too perfect to ever come through. But this machine made so much sense to me that I was willing to buy one ... even if it were just a prototype at a horrible price. In the summer of 1997 I packed the car and drove up to Flevoland to visit Flevobike. I wanted to find out the hard way that there was no chance to take a Greenmachine back home.

3. The Greenmachine prototype...

4. rebuild with LEGO

The people at the small factory were very friendly and willing to share their tea and knowledge with an unknown visitor. Most of the Greenmachine's concepts have been tested and adjusted to make a working prototype out of the design prototype. The recumbent was planned to enter mass production and the market at approx. 2500.- DM (~ $ 1700). For this to happen Flevobike teamed up with Batavus, one of the biggest bike manufactures in Europe.

Sadly in the end too many small problems caused this bike to not get out of the door:

  • Seat and frame design was not suitable for people smaller then 170 cm.
  • Internal power transmission turned out to be more complicated then expected and the gearing (positioned between the crank arms) needed a lot more testing. So the prototype used a modified "regular" transmission inside the central ankle.
  • Aluminum disc wheels were too expensive in the current production schema (drilled out of a solid block) and a cheaper production process was not available yet.
  • Monoblade forks provided easy maintenance but also simplified theft. The disc wheels added to this problem too as there were no holes to pull a cable trough.
  • Overall production would turn out a lot more expensive then projected and advertised.

The risk of running a mass production with an obviously unfinished design was too high. A small failure could ruin the company ... or at least their reputation. So they decided to halt the Greenmachine project.

At least I was able to see the final prototype and take a seat. It is so sad to see this beauty only inside a livingroom in Dronten (my "prototype", which is shown in image 4 and build by using the LEGO system, is limited to "inside use" only as well).

But if you can't get a Greenmachine, maybe an Amigo could suite you just fine.