More than 200 users of the crowdfunding website have pledged funds to Me-Mover, a Danish project to rethink the bike as a stand-up exerciser on wheels. The project has stepped well past its initial $100,000 funding target. At the time of writing, Me-Mover is approaching $170,000 in pledged funds, with another 12 days left of its campaign to run.
What’s the point of a stand-up stepper on wheels? Me-Mover’s makers argue that standing while biking — or stepping — means you get better posture and visibility of and in traffic, making the Me-Mover a safer way to wrangle with all the four-wheeled machines on the road.
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The Me-Mover has three wheels, so there’s also no requirement to step off the machine when stationary. You just stand around, and then start stepping again when it’s time to move off.
Another mooted advantage is the Me-Mover’s relatively compact form factor (vs a non-folding bike at least, or a Segway) — once folded down:
But the main point is that it’s designed to be a hybrid personal transporter/exercise machine — offering a workout akin to jogging or running but without the impact of having your feet pound pavement. The steering system also involves leaning, which its makers say offer skiiers a way of keeping their calves in trim when off piste.
The stepping propulsion process on the Me-Mover works like a stepper machine in the gym, with the rider starting by lifting their knee, then letting their body weight drive the leg back down, raising the other knee as they do so and repeating the stepping process to keep moving. The Me-Mover harnesses this stepping power — as its peddling alternative — to propel the bike.
The Me-Mover can be ridden at low intensity, using a walking stepping speed, when the bike will move at slow speeds (up to 12km per hour), or the rider can ramp up the cardio workout to move faster. Faster speeds can be achieved by shortening the length of the step so the knee is raised more quickly — again, much like the stepper machine in the gym.
It seems likely that achieving high speeds on the Me-Mover will require serious sweat as anyone who’s spent time on a gym stepper can attest. The makers specifically describe it as a “work-out” at such speeds. That’s clearly intended as part of the point — you can’t have an exercise machine that requires no effort to use — but it does flag up that the Me-Mover isn’t really a bike replacement. It can be an alternative in some scenarios, especially leisure ones, but it remains a machine that’s going to be require more effort from its rider to go the distance.
Getting up hills on the Me-Mover certainly sounds (and looks) like it’s going to be hard work. Its makers do go into detail on this on the Kickstarter campaign page, noting that the machine is equipped with a variable transmission which means that when the pedal is lifted to its highest position (i.e. at the top of the stroke) the gearing is around a tenth of the gearing in the bottom position.
So, in other words, to climb inclines on the Me-Mover you have to step up your pace, taking lots of smaller, quicker steps. And that’s going to require some serious sweat. If you want a way to get up hills relatively easily, a geared bike is clearly going to be a far more forgiving ride than Me-Mover.
Add to that, Me-Mover’s makers note the machine’s technique for climbing hills “takes some practicing to learn”. In terms of top speeds when climbing hills, they say they measured between 26km/h and 16km/h at a 6% incline — describing that as “a workout situation for an experienced rider”.
“In real life we have climbed even steeper hills up and above 10% incline, but at lower speeds,” they add.
The speed range for the machine is listed as 0 to 30+km/h. While its weight is a rather substantial 21kg. As for cost, the Me-Mover does not come cheap: it’s now a minimum of $999, rising to $1,099 when all the lower priced pledges are gone. Still, that’s a snip when compared to the cost of a Segway. And you won’t look quite as ridiculous stepping along on this ride.
The Me-Mover is also being designed to be modular, so it can be upgraded with new parts as they are released — such as a planned electric motor add-on (to help riders with lower fitness levels), and a quick-folding handle.