Go take a Whike!
SCHOORL _ Perhaps only in the Netherlands _ a land of wind, angry skies, ruler-straight horizons and bicycles _ would someone put a sail on a bike and call it a Whike. “We have sold about 200 so far,” says Andries Tijssens who handles management and marketing at Whike. “Mostly in Europe, especially the Netherlands, of course. We are now tapping into the Australian market. We want to see Whikes on every continent.”
The Whike is the brainchild of Fredjan Twigt, a Delft University of Technology graduate who fancies sailing and _ for ergonomic and aerodynamic reasons _ recumbent bicycles. In 2007, he merged those 2 passions and built the first Whike. He says it provides comfort, performance and high speed “land yachting” thrills thanks to a very low center of gravity and a lightweight Molybde steel frame.
“A Whike lets you cover distances you never considered before,” says Twigt. In 2010, he and friend sailed down a Saharan coastal road from Agadir, Morroco: 1,100 km in 9 days. Since then, the Whike has seen several improvements. The latest: “In 2012, we improved the mast-sail configuration to achieve more speed in conditions of little wind,” says Tijssens. “The Whike’s electric motor version is now being improved for daily use across long distances.”
The Whike has an under-seat handlebar with bar end gear shifter, brakes, sail release and _ in electric motor versions _ electric assist controls. It has 18 gears, weighs 23 kilos and comes with a standard sail of 1.6 sq. m and a storm sail of 1 sq. m. There is no boom. The sail has a cut-out area so it passes over the rider. The retail price varies from ca. 2700 to 4745 euros depending on the version. The Whike is sold through dealers, not online, because marketing requires some expertise on the part of vendors, says Tijssens. “It’s a super safe bike. With strong winds it requires some skill and _ as always in traffic _ responsibility for that lies with the operator.”
“The Whike really comes alive in open spaces,” says Tijssens. Here’s how that feels. From Zeilen Magazine which recently tested a Whike on long, windy stretches: “We set off in a Beaufort 5. A rookie Whiker, I was given a storm sail for safety’s sake just to make sure I don’t flip over in the first gust of wind. I keep the sheet short. Aided by 3 pedal revolutions, the full force of the wind accelerates me forward. When I feel my windward rear wheel rising, I ease the sheet and the Whike plops down again. This is fun! Adding some pedal power every now gives the sail more lift and the speed goes up disproportionately. By shifting up in gears, I can maintain this effect to higher speeds.”
Zeilen Magazine recorded a top speed of 49km/hr (30 mi/hr). Based on the Beaufort scale of wind speeds, here’s a handy Whikers guide:
– 1 to 3: Whiker sail helps a bit, but pedals are your main power sources
– 4: Wind power kicks in. Sail-only propulsion possible on beam reaches
– 5: You’re a speedy road sailor now! Sit back and cruise!
– 6: Entering the thrill-seeker zone! Storm sail recommended
- – 7+: Storm sail option for experienced Whikers. Pedal power-only for the rest of you.
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