by Dom Wiseman

It’s a picturesque day on the water south of Sydney. As the sun rises over the horizon to reveal a magnificent, cloudless blue skyline, I peer out into the moored boats gently bobbing in the water and spot something unusual. Is that right? Are my eyes deceiving me? Is that young girl pedalling a bike through the moorings? Yes you heard that correctly. And yes, indeed it was a bicycle on water.

The Schiller Water Bike is in essence a bicycle sitting between two inflatable pontoons. Judah Schiller, on the daring belief that a blue planet is meant for biking, founded the company. He also was the first person in history to ride a bike across the San Francisco Bay and Hudson River. What started out as a statement to the biking community turned into an idea that watersports enthusiasts and cyclists could cycle across the water for fun or even as a form of exercise.

WHAT YOU GET

The Schiller Water Bike is fairly simple so lets start with the accompanying bits and pieces. The unit is supplied with a dazzling array of tools in an easy to use and store pouch. You also get a hand pump. Don’t worry, there aren’t that many tools required to put it together. The ethos here seems to be more is better. An optional electric pump is available but means you would have to get the car and unit pretty damn close to the waters’ edge, which is not always possible. There are battery-powered pumps available that would solve that issue. It took me less than 10 minutes to inflate the two pontoons manually.schiller-water-bike-2

schiller water bike-1

It is reasonably compact and will fit into the boot of a medium sized vehicle. I’d say a small vehicle would suffice as long as it was not a two-door model. You can store the bike in the back seat while the pontoons will fit in the boot. The bike frame will also fit on an external bike rack.

Apart from the two inflatable pontoons there also are two timber steps (youcan opt for carbon ones), four aluminium cross members, the bicycle unit and a removable propeller drive. It’s all very simple and manageable in pieces for one person to carry and set up at the waters’ edge. This whole process took under 20 minutes including inflating with everything clipping together with spring loaded push studs. With some practice I imagine you’d get this down to half that time. Once assembled it’s a sturdy unit that can be carried short distances by one or longer distances by two easily.

The Schiller Water Bike pontoons are made of tough PVC material and inflate to about 4 psi. It’s enough to keep them rigid and buoyant and won’t break your back with the manual pump. They inflate via a one way valve located at the rear of the pontoon and roll up when not in use. The design also allows the hard aluminium bracing points to stack neatly on top of one another when rolled up reducing space overall when packing it away.

The two timber steps are perfect for stepping on and off the bike frame and also provide a handy space to give your legs a rest from pedalling. The frame itself is made of painted anodised aluminium and appears robust but this being the first unit in Australia it’s hard to tell just how durable it will be in our salt water. The handlebars control the propellor drive unit via a series of cables running through the frame while the drive belts are stretch free carbon fibre.schiller-water-bike-4

schiller-water-bike-6Marine-grade alloys and stainless steel are used throughout the construction. The unique propeller comes in three different pitch sizes. Standard with the bike is a 15 pitch. There is also a 14 pitch that would provide less resistance and therefore, be easier to pedal and a 16 pitch that creates a lot more resistance to pedal but more speed.

ON THE WATER

The Schiller Water Bike is not only heaps of fun, it’s insanely easy to use. On the test day we had Kate, a complete novice like myself, up and riding with nary an instruction save for the deployment of the propulsion unit that folds up neatly. It is capable of shallow water riding as long as you use low pedal power while doing so. A strong cross wind may trouble you a little. The drive unit is free flowing. By that I mean while in forward motion it, via force, holds down in the engaged position. When you approach shallow water a simple quick pedal in reverse will see it come up at an angle allowing you to traverse shallow banks and obstacles. It does not however have reverse gear.

With a little frenetic pedaling you are able to gather up quite a bit of speed and while I didn’t measure this for fear of dropping my phone in the water, Schiller suggest it is capable of speeds of up to 10-11km/h. More measured riding will still get you along reasonably efficiently and tirelessly. The handlebars are all you need to turn the drive unit and force a turn. Being a catamaran design it’s not a sharp corner by any means, yet is enough to get you out of most situations. If all else fails you can do a three point turn.schiller-water-bike-9

schiller-water-bike-5On the test day the conditions were calm but I’d love to see one on the open ocean or a more open waterway such as Sydney Harbour. The stability of the unit lends itself to all manner of tasks such as fishing, heading out for a picnic or pedaling to a secluded beach or bay for some rest and relaxation. Unlike a kayak, you are sitting up nice and high allowing for amazing views as you ride on top of the water.

Fully assembled the unit is 4 metres long x 1.8m wide. The seat and handlebars are adjustable allowing for riders of different statures to find a comfortable position. The unit also comes with a three-year warranty on the frame and one year on components.

OVERVIEW

While the Schiller Water Bike retails at close to $8000 here in Australia, I see real appeal for those looking for a safer way to ride for exercise or simply for fun. It’s a lot less busy on most waterways than the road. It would also be excellent if you had a small trip to make from one side of a bay to the shops for instance.

For me, the real appeal for will be in resorts that could have a fleet of them for hire. They are simple to maintain and are a sophisticated, environmentally friendly vehicle that would appeal to those who enjoy an active lifestyle.

Schiller water bike was supplied by Boating Connexions, Taren Point, NSW.  Ph: 0418 678 957

POSITIVESschiller-water-bike-8

Simple to use
Easy to put together
Fun exercise
Versatile

NEGATIVES

Bulky for one if you’re far from water

NUMBERS THAT MATTER

Price: $7,995 (as tested)
Construction: Aluminium and
Length Overall: 4.0m
Beam: 1.8m
Draft: 0.6m with prop fully down
Weight: (approx) 38kgs
Engine: Your legs

 

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