An English inventor has come up with an cheap, lightweight power-assist system for bicycles. It is built into a pair of modified pedals and requires no extra hardware. It also seems to be impossible.
I need your help, here, Gadget Lab readers. First, I'll tell you what I know. The kit is called "Fast Forward" and, from the pictures, looks to be a pair of regular pedals with rechargeable batteries and motors inside. Fast Forward was designed by inventor Stephen Britt, and he is currently a finalist in the Barclays "Take One Small Step" contest. If it wins, Stephen will receive business funding.
To use them, you just swap them in for the pedals you already have. Here's Stephen's pitch:
These replace your standard pedals and provide you with assistance to get you up hills, or carry heavy loads. Each pedal incorporates a motor, gearbox, Li-po batteries and a control board. As you pedal the sensors detect your effort and provide assistance.
To pedal without assistance, simply flip the pedals over. They unclip and slot into a charger for charging, much like with a power tool. When fully developed they will provide a range of 10 miles and peak power of 200W. They will retail for around £200.
There's no doubt that Stephen could build these pedals, but my question is, would they work? Surely the pedals, without toe-straps, would just spin under your feet. Even if you were to firmly cinch your feet in place, would a spinning pedal provide any assistance? It seems to me that the pedal would just try to twist your toes upwards and annoy you, and generally act like a tail wagging a dog.
But although I did just spend ten minutes with my foot in a spare pedal waving my leg around, I'm no no mechanic, let alone a physicist. So help me, readers. Could this possibly work? Answers, as always, in the comments.