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.