A PERTH bicycle manufacturer has come up with an invention that could take the world by storm.
Called the Street Surfer, the eye-catching bike has a standard rear wheel and four, much smaller, wheels at the front that give it much greater manoeuvrability and better handling than a standard bicycle.
Making it even more unusual is the fact that the front wheel assembly has a form of independent suspension, meaning that obstacles such as street humps, rocks and curbs cease to be obstacles.
With that unusual front-wheel array, the bike is capable of turning within its own length.
That increased manoeuvrability comes from the fact that it has three different steering planes. A standard bicycle only has one.
However, the bike’s developers need at least $500,000 to begin production so that it will be ready for its Easter 2004 launch date.
Gemini Bicycles, the company that markets the popular Mongoose brands of BMX and mountain bikes, has signed an agreement to distribute the Street Surfer in Australia and New Zealand.
Gemini managing director Noel McFarlane said the company also had connections in the US and Europe.
“We’ll be using those connections to spread the word about the Street Surfer,” he said.
“We’ve got people overseas who are interested in it. It probably has a close demographic with the BMX and mountain bikes that we deal in.”
It is understood the upper end range of the Street Surfer will sell for about $799 and the middle range will be about $599.
There is also a mountain bike variant ready to be produced.
Quantum Bicycles Manufacturers owner Aldo Contarino developed the Street Surfer and sought funding from friends and family to make it a reality.
He and main backer, Thai Orchard owner Tony Varrone, are seeking a minimum of $500,000 to buy the factory tools necessary to begin production of the Street Surfer.
That production is likely to be done in either Taiwan or China. Taiwan produces about 80 per cent of the world’s bicycles.
Mr Contarino said once the necessary funds were raised it would take 45 days to retool the factory and a further 45 days for the first production run to be completed.
It has taken about five years for it to get from the concept stage to an actual working model.
Mr Contarino said he could be forced to seek overseas backing because local venture capitalists had failed to show interest in the project.
“The product is completed. We have a distribution agreement but we can’t get funding,” he said.
Mr Contarino is also the man behind the Concept Z bicycle forks that are about half the weight of their steel counterparts but twice as strong.
Local venture capital firm Foundation Capital contacted Mr Contarino about those forks after reading about them in WA Business News and was also shown the Street Surfer.
However, the firm has not made any proposals to Mr Contarino at this stage.
Foundation’s Ben Moss said the firm would be happy to talk to Mr Contarino further but would be happier to see the product have some international success before investing.
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