In Brief
  • The great privilege of the present is to be able to look at the predictions of the past and laud (or laugh) at them as appropriate.
  • A bike designed in 1946 (and finally produced two decades later) saw into the future toward a trend in novel bicycle features, such as motors.

The Bike of the Past

Looking back at the past century, people really enjoyed constructing futuristic models of automobiles. It was almost like companies could picture what cars would look like decades to come. But little did we know that bicycles were also being conceptualized far into the future.

It was 1946, and Benjamin Bowden had a spark of inspiration. “Just by sitting down in my office and thinking about it, I said to myself I should select a product that had not been made before,” he stated. As a result, he designed and assembled a bike that he called the Classic, later changing it to the more appropriate name, the Spacelander

Credit: Brooklyn Museum

The lightweight Spacelander included a small motor for uphill travel, something that other bikes at that time didn’t have. The bike’s design was also novel in that its design represented what a bicycle twenty years into the future might look like. Ironically, it didn’t go on sale in the U.S. until approximately two decades later. 

Although futuristic, the design was quite simple. How a simple pedal bicycle had a steel frame and two wheels, Bowden’s prototype had the same concept, just with more sleek and abstract parts.

When it was finally released on the market, it sold for $90 ($730 in our modern time). Because of this, it wasn’t very popular, and only around 500 were ever produced.

The Bike of the Future

Although Bowden’s bike might look a little strange even for today’s standards, it still gives us a glimpse into the progression of bicycle design over time. Not to say that we don’t still see Schwinns that look pretty similar today in relation to what they looked like several decades ago. But bike design and function are constantly evolving. Now, the ‘futuristic bike’ of our time could very well be the electric bicycle.

We’ve been watching the rapid evolution of the E-bike, from the foldable URB-E to the lightweight, multi-mode Air-33 by ElectroBike in just half a year. With portability and eco-consciousness a thing of our future, who’s to say that we won’t see more bicycles that are “out of this world?”