Bending the electric moped

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The latest crop of electric mopeds or “E-Bikes” like the Ultra Motor A2B are terrifically functional — giving you motorized performance in a package you don’t need to license or insure — but as converted bicycles, they’re horrendously dorky. That’s a problem when the vast majority of their potential audience have grown used to design conscious like iPhones or Ikea furniture. Enter the Bend electric moped, it looks like a piece of flat pack furniture while managing to build some motorcycle function back into the package.

As a beer-swilling, long-haired, badass biker it’s somewhat hard to admit that riding little E-Bikes like the A2b is a lot of fun. No license necessary, no helmets either. You can bomb through city parks and take them off dirt jumps while policemen smile and wave. The problem’s always been that you look like you’re on the way to the high school science fair.

In addition to simplifying and butching up the looks with a simplified, squared-off frame, the Bend’s signature design element is the piece of plywood that forms the headlight, storage unit and tailpiece. Aside from lending it the Ikea look, a plastic binnacle where the tank would be acts as a recesses storage compartment for locks, luggage or whatever. The tailpiece is reconfigurable from single-seat to passenger or luggage-friendly, but it’s really the shape and proportions that make it appeal to us. Where most E-Bikes use those horrible, hugely-padded bicycle seats, this one looks and works like something off a motorcycle, extending to the front and rear of the normal seating position allowing for changes in riding position and allowing you to use the seat as a point of control. You can remove that piece of plywood if you need a step through design so you can wear a short skirt.

In order to fit into electric moped legalities, the Bend is limited to 20mph and its in-frame battery pack is targeted to deliver a 20-mile range. Figures identical to the A2B. Unlike that existing production bike, the Bend houses its batteries in the main frame tube, a far more sensible arrangement that should also help give it a motorcycle or moped-like center-of-gravity.

The three Rhode Island School of Design students — Erik Askin, Brian Mitchell and Eric Pelloquin — who built Bend presented a real, working prototype at London’s Brunel University and took it for a spin on London’s streets. It looks more at home next to design icons like the telephone booth and Aston Martin DB9 than any number of crappy Japanese scooters. No word on production plans.

Erik Askin

  • Mark D

    This made me smile. The future is very bright indeed!

  • R.Sallee

    I could ride that.

  • Brammofan

    I’m more familiar with bikes than with mopeds or motorcycles, so I was really liking this until I saw picture 13 of 17 in the gallery. Shouldn’t his legs be nearly fully extended when the pedal is in the down position? It’s about perfect in picture 4 of 17 on their design mock-up. When I saw the London picture, my first thought was, “yeesh, I’d have to adjust that seat to fit my height.” My second thought, “the seat is not adjustable.” Maybe their idea is that you could just slide backward on the lengthy seat until you get to the optimum position. To achieve that, however, I’d probably have to either bend forward uncomfortably to reach the handlebars, or get some sort of swept-back handlebar.

    I am very impressed by the claim on their site that they completed the riding prototype in 2 weeks. Now, of course, the devil’s in the details. Good luck to you Erik, Brian, and Eric!

    • Wes Siler

      It’s my understanding that the pedals on these things are essentially there to satisfy legalities. They’re never going to work terribly well under pedal power, not only are they heavier because of the batteries, but because of the performance demands too.

  • AJ

    ultimate hipster transportation?

    • ike6116

      I don’t think you understand hipsters enough. A new electric moped is not “retro” enough. It doesn’t have enough cred. You’re either looking at a fixie or a just refurbished enough 1970′s Puch.

      • AJ

        correct, these guys-

  • Surj

    One of the cool things about the A2B is the pop-out battery pack, which this doesn’t appear to have, at least in the current iteration. And yeah, it needs an adjustable seat if you’re gonna actually pedal it.

  • JaHo

    My head is hurting trying to understand the spoke lacing in some of these renderings (rear wheel on #1 and #8, both wheels on #4.) Maybe I’m just too much of an engineer, but I thought the number of holes on the hub should match the number of holes in the rim? Shouldn’t the number of spokes used match both of these numbers?

    Oh, and each nipple should get just one spoke. Not two.

    I’m imagining Jobst Brandt in a superhero outfit waggling his little white book ominously at the perpetrators of this.

    Ergonomically, you’ve got some good points, Brammofan. Also, that seat looks pretty likely to cause some serious chafing if you ever attempted any serious pedaling.

    That said, I love the concept. I’d like to see it taken a little further with the laminated construction- the seat area could be shaped appropriately, and the wood could take on more of a gunstock type of appearance where the shape of the grain interacts with the surface and creates cool patterns.

    I agree with Ike- this isn’t hipster enough. It would need an axe holder, a front aerospoke, and a cage for a PBR.

  • nymoto

    I would buy that tomorrow if available. In NY would probably only need to charge it once or twice a week.