By Rob Kortus
The Schiller Bike is an exceptional piece of engineering. It is, in effect, a bike on pontoons using pedal power to propel itself around your chosen body of water. Short of a full-blown product review, the following is an informational report on this cool product. Even if it isn't something most RBR readers would actually consider purchasing, we thought it had broad appeal simply from the cycling tech perspective.
I do happen to live on a lake, and the Schiller Bike appealed to me both for the cool and the tech reasons – not to mention that it is just plain super fun to ride!
After removing all of the components from the packaging, it took me approximately 11 minutes (subsequent assembly tests less than 10 minutes) to assemble this Schiller Bike. It was dead easy! The first time assembling it, the adrenaline was pumping through my body just to see this bike come to life like a Transformer. The beauty of the Schiller Bike is the capability to pack it up and go; you don’t have to live on a lake – just have access to a body of water.
Fully assembled with the bike frame coupled to the pontoons, the bike measures 13 feet x 6 feet (4m x 1.8m. The frame came assembled with crank arms and gearbox. Marine-grade alloys and stainless steel are used, and the optimized propeller comes in 3 different pitch sizes. Standard with the bike is a 15 pitch. The 14 pitch would provide less resistance, whereas the 16 pitch creates a lot more resistance to pedal. (The photo below shows the outdrive in stow position.)
Although the bike does not require a trailer, I have transported my S1 Schiller Bike via my Xterra and via a flatbed trailer. Best of all, I can pack my components and accessories in a bag along with my X1 frame and store it in my home or even transport it on an airplane to my favorite water destination. The X1 frame can also be transported on most bike carriers.
In the Water, How's it Handle?
My first pedaling strokes seemingly felt different from a normal bike, perhaps owing to the carbon drive belt. But only after a couple minutes of easy cadence pedaling, my S1 began to feel nearly similar to my road bike. A proprietary gearbox and a 1:7.5 gearing system ensures maximum thrust and minimal energy loss during cycling cadences. The Gates carbon drive belts are made with stretch-free carbon fiber tensile cords. Handling characteristics are very good via the integrated steering through the handlebars. (The photo below shows the standard Schiller S1 Bike setup with author aboard on Lake Wylie, North Carolina.)
Here is the brilliant engineering of the Schiller bike. When I approach shallow water, I stop pedaling forward and then ease into a reverse pedaling motion. I then increase reverse pedal speed. This force lifts the low-drag outdrive unit (no need for a separate rudder) toward the surface of the water. Then I am able to pedal forward to cross the shallow area. Once clear of the shallow area, I pedal harder and the outdrive lowers itself automatically to the full down position.
There are a number of optional accessories you can add to your Schiller bike: mounted water bottle cage, fishing rod holder, stained wood running boards, carbon fiber running boards, automatic inflator, pontoon and accessory carry bag, hand pump, and folded grapnel anchor.
Hand pump or automatic inflator (rechargeable)? The hand pump comes with the bike, and I purchased the automatic inflator ($200) as an accessory. The automatic inflator is rechargeable and comes with cables to use with your car battery and with the necessary connections to recharge using your standard AC home outlet. I like the ease of use of the auto inflator.
Where the Pontoon Meets the Water
I purchased this bike with the intention of using it as an additional exercise method and to occasionally take me off the busy roads where automobiles come startlingly close, as most of us avid cyclists know. And, of course, the ideal purpose for this bike is simply for good old fun-in-the-sun recreational purposes. Most of all, I don’t mind my indoor bike trainer collecting a little dust now that the weather's pretty nice. I can get my cycling workouts outdoors in the fresh air on a lake whenever I choose.
I've had numerous road bikes and top-of-the-line trainers over my years as a cyclist. I would classify the Schiller Bike as a world-class product. It's well-engineered, easy to use, and functions exactly as it should. So, if you are looking for something different – whether strictly for exercise, training for a cycling event or just a recreational vehicle to engage in watersports – I highly recommend the Schiller Bike.
To read more about Schiller Bikes, their vision and their dedication to the sustainability and protection of the marine environment, visit www.schillerbikes.com. And here's a video of the bike in action, along with a series of still shots showing the bike being put into the water: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TvNisZIxnL0
Rob Kortus is the owner and founder of www.JerseyBin.com, custom-made logoed waterproof pouches for cell phones and accessories. Click to see the RBR JerseyBin. Rob is a member of the RBR Review Crew.