Richard Thorpe pays his staff to come to work. His rate is 40p per mile. There are two conditions. His employees have to come to work by bike and return home on the same one after work.
Thorpe believes in “active commuting”. He doesn’t reward car owners or incentivize pedestrians or subsidize bicycle clips or cycle wear. Cyclists have to pay for themselves.
The pioneering urban electric bike brand Gocyle designer and founder announced the health-conscious, environmentally friendly payments at the 2019 UK E-Bike Summit in Oxford. “I’d been commuting to work for more than a decade. On my commute, I would ask myself, “Why am I the only person out here doing this? France had trialed a scheme whereby if people worked for certain companies, they could claim a tax break if they were cycling to work. Holland introduced a policy of around 20 pence per mile. So, we started paying people to ride to work. Our cities are at breaking point with traffic congestion resulting in pollution levels that are causing health problems and premature death. It is no longer acceptable to do nothing; we all have a role to play no matter how small. At Gocycle we truly believe that e-bikes are the perfect solution to help us live healthier and more sustainable lifestyles”.
“We’re taking direct action to reward our employees for making the switch to more sustainable and healthy transport. We have already funded nearly 40,000 miles.”
Thorpe was born in South Africa and emigrated to the US when he was ten, attending high school in Colorado and studying mechanical engineering at Boston University. “I moved to the UK to become involved in the UK motorsport industry. I was inspired in sixth grade by an article in Popular Science magazine about the Vector human-powered vehicle which was competing to win the Dupont prize – $10,000 for the first human-powered vehicle to break the then US speed limit of 55 mph. I got into recumbent bikes.”
Perhaps surprisingly, the first electric bike was patented in the US in 1895 by a certain Ogden Bolton Jr. who had invented a battery-powered bicycle with a “6-pole-brush-and-commutator direct current hub motor mounted in the rear wheel. A decade later, Boston’s Hosea W. Libbey created a bike propelled by a double electric motor; and then other hybrids followed.
In 1992, Vector Services Limited the Zike, with nickel-cadmium batteries, built into a frame member and an 850g permanent-magnet motor. Torque sensors and power controls appeared and, by 2001, the terms E-bike, power bike, pedelec, assisted bicycle, and a power-assisted bicycle were in common usage.
Electric bikes are now the world’s largest-selling electric vehicle. The International Energy Agency predicts that, by 2025, only 12m of electric cars will be on the roads and will be far outnumbered by e-bikes. Production numbers for e-bikes are 2.5x that of cars. 15-20m are sold worldwide. According to Deloitte’s tech, at least 130m will have been sold from 2020-3.
“Gocycle’s core DNA combines a lightweight and clean design with the practicality of storability and portability. The Cleandrive is a patented system that allows for a side-mounted wheel design and a structural enclosed efficient chain drive which, in layman’s terms, means you won’t get grease on your leg or clothes, it’s easy to fix a flat tire with the side-mounted wheels, and easy to clean.
Twenty-inch patented Pitstopwheels hold a world speed record for a human-powered vehicle set at 83 mph in 2013 at Battle Mountain, Nevada.
Adds Thorpe: “Good engineering will always have inherent pureness and elegance to the design. The product just makes people smile and is easy to own and live with. Gocycle does very well on social media. It’s a highly visual product and we have a very engaged and interested user/owner base.”
Research shows that encouraging cycling reduces sickness levels and contributes to a more productive, healthier, and happier workforce.
Industrial designer Thorpe has been living the environmentally- compassionate, non-fossil fuel electric dream long before he founded Karbon Kinetics in 2002 and started developing urban e-bikes powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
Giving up his job with McLaren Cars, Thorpe founded the firm Gocycle in his one-bedroom flat, testing innovative new materials by cooking them in his microwave, “I’d test ride prototypes in the basement car park.”
He became involved in composite engineering, working with carbon fiber, and manufacturing and helping to design carbon fiber parts for racing cars. “It really taught me a lot about how to work with lightweight composites and how to work well with finite element analysis of lightweight components”.
Combining his experience working with lightweight composite materials from the motor racing business, he was convinced he could make a bike that was much lighter and more attractive for the western consumer than the e-bike 1.0s coming out of China at that time.
“When I was developing what would end up being Gocycle, I was developing a portable product of a foldable bike that would have superior ride quality with no compromise to the right quality and no compromise to the rider fit. So, those were two key things on the design brief that were not going to change.”
In 2009, Gocycle G1 was the most recent injection-molded magnesium alloy bicycle after the Kirk Precision. G2 launched in 2012, becoming the first production electric bike to have Bluetooth connectivity. It was followed by the Gocycle G3 which debuted an automotive-inspired Daytime Running Light (DRL). Gocycle GS came in 2017 and the fast-folding (in under ten seconds) Gocycle GX two years later. Last year. Gocycle launched its new £3000-5000 Generation Four range.
“Gocycle became this monocoque type of automotive-inspired design where it was very much like a racing car where the chassis is the actual bodywork.”
It is a pan-European effort. Many small sub-assemblies are produced in the UK. The motor drive system is assembled in Germany and the final assembly is done in Poland. The tires are made by Vredestein in the Netherlands. Unlike most e-bikes, the Gocycle hides its motor in the front wheel,
“It’s such a transformative product, and it’s going to be the dominant form of transport within an urban environment. Electric cars solve one part of the problem, which is pollution, but they don’t change congestion, and they’re a sedentary form of transport.
“The bicycle industry is amazing at evolving. The market is also going to see a lot more integration of auxiliary apps, health information, and GPS. All that stuff.”
What next? Ride-sharing e-tandems? Keep your eye on the cycle lane.