Fred Abels has a fascination with wheels. “The idea of two giant wheels that can overcome any obstacle has always appealed to me,” says the 50-year-old Amsterdam native. So, together with friend Maik ter Veer, Abels created the Dicyclet — not only a monster of a vehicle, but also a dream come true.
Dicycles — bicycles with wheels that ride parallel rather than in a line — are nothingnew: E.C.F. Otto patented his own “Otto Dicycle” in 1881, but, says Abels, “His positioning of the driver above the axle resulted in a serious balance problem.” In Abels’ version, which is equipped with wheels 8½ feet in diameter spaced 4 feet apart, the driver sits below the axle, keeping the center of gravity low and allowing equilibrium.
While the device itself is straightforward, steering takes forethought. To make a turn, one wheel must move slower than the other, so Abels uses a differential to connect them. When a rider hits the left brake, the Dicyclet turns left by transferring energy to the right wheel, and vice versa. Riders can also do a complete flip by quickly accelerating then hitting both brakes hard.
Among Abels’ other creations is the Cotyl, a giant onion-shaped capsule topped with a 79-foot-tall wooden pole, all suspended in a 2-axis gimbal set that allows free movement. Up to eight people can climb inside and experience the motions and sound of the wind.
Though the Cotyl capsule has since been disassembled, Abels’ often-imitated Dicyclet, which has appeared at festivals in the Netherlands, Ireland, and Stonehenge, England, remains rarin’ to go.
Rethinking Wheels: fabels.org