In spite of appearances, the fork on this bike is not backwards. This is a Varibike – the bike you can pedal with both your hands and your feet. The German company has been around for a few years now and is expanding their line of bizarre looking bikes. Why all the extra equipment? Studies have shown that the system allows riders to put out up to 31% more power while increasing endurance. It also allows rider to get a better workout in a shorter period of time, which is beneficial if fitness is your main goal for cycling.
Having offered a few pavement oriented bikes in the past, Varibike is now expanding into offroad riding as well as more performance based pedaling. Connect the dots on the drivetrain next…
At first the front end of a Varibike is pretty bewildering until you realize the functions are actually pretty simple. Under normal riding you would hold onto the center grips just as you would a normal bike for steering. When you want to use your arms to pedal you switch to the red cranks which are independent.
That allows pedaling with both hands clocked at the same position, clocked at 12 and 6 like a normal bike, or just one side at a time. You can also just use the hand cranks to pedal and not use your feet at all.
Obviously if you’re using your hands to pedal, using them for steering input will be difficult so all the bikes are built with a return spring to keep the wheel centered. Road going models use a steel spring while the new mountain bike FR3 uses two rubber cylinders to allow it to track over rough terrain. This is also why the fork has a reverse rake since it helps to keep the wheel centered and enables the concept.
The hand drive system propels a chain that is attached to the main crank with a freewheel. This is what allows you to pedal with your hands but not your feet.
The off road FR3 is their first bike to use disc brakes and it looks like the company will be using a 29+ wheel and tire set up, though this is still being finalized.
Varibike is also introducing a Road Race Bike as well as a tandem which use the same technology. Along with their original Trekking model Varibike now has 4 different models which range in price from 3-5,000 Euros.