A cardboard bicycle

An Israeli engineer comes up with a game-changing material for the ubiquitous bike.

A cardboard bicycle (photo credit: AVI KATZ)
A cardboard bicycle
(photo credit: AVI KATZ)
Most people wouldn’t think that a bicycle made from a new and possibly game-changing material would mean recycled cardboard, but that is exactly what engineer Izhar Gafni has done.
Inspiration struck one day when Gafni was at a bicycle shop, and overheard a conversation about a man who built a canoe from cardboard. Not being able to shake the idea of a cardboard canoe strong enough to hold a man, Gafni decided that he was going to make a bicycle out of the same material.
It took three years of experimentation by Gafni, who says he is self-taught and who has previously designed industrial robots for sewing New Balance shoes, and a wine press that enables Israeli winery Rimon to make wine from pomegranates.
He started from scratch with the bike design, hearing repeatedly that his vision was impossible. No one else had ever thought of using cardboard to make a bike – the closest thing he found was an idea to use bamboo.
Yet several prototypes later, some which looked a lot like delivery boxes on wheels, Gafni believes he has come up with a design good enough to seek funds for production and distribution in Israel, the United States and Europe, and a US patent is now pending.
Thanks to the materials used, the bike will cost just $9 to produce, with a recommended retail price of $60-90, depending on the accessories the buyer chooses.
For anyone fearing that cardboard might not be the most stable material from which to build a bike, Gafni is confident that it can carry a person weighing up to 140 kilograms, and be able to withstand both wind and rain. The rain resistance isn’t simply down to a layer of paint, but the manipulation of the cardboard itself, using a method similar to that of the Japanese art of origami, which Gafni says makes the cardboard two to three times stronger than in its original flat shape.
While the bike is strong and light, its current lifespan is only an estimated two years, but with a price like $60 maybe that can be forgiven. And for those concerned with bicycle theft, the weight is an added bonus: It’s easy to simply carry the bike home instead of locking it up on the street, although whether everyone has the space for a bicycle is another issue!