While never quite having the resources or dedication to experience Sir Clive Sinclair’s transport revolutions in the same wholehearted manner that I did his computer breakthroughs, I have done my best to at least experience them.
The Sinclair C5 was his first and most famous vehicle. Launched by Sinclair Vehicles Ltd in the United Kingdom on 10 January 1985, it was a battery-assisted tricycle with a top speed of 15 miles per hour (the fastest allowed in the UK without a driving licence). It was widely criticised for being impractical, if not dangerous, on the UK’s roads and in the British climate (a point reinforced by the January launch). By August of the same year production had ceased, with only 17,000 sold. 1
However, back in the late 1980s I got to ride in one of them. Below is photographic evidence of my one and only Sinclair C5 excursion.
The Sinclair C5 belonged to the mother of a friend of the family. She used it for regular trips to the local shops. I remember her telling me that she only pedalled when she thought no-one was looking. I also remember that someone had installed an extra battery for her – to give the machine a bit of extra impetus on the hill near her house. I loved every minute of my C5 drive – marshalled I’m sure by my probably very nervous parents.
After the C5 and the collapse of his computer empire that its failure helped precipitate, Sir Clive went back to the drawing board and worked on a number of electric motor attachments for normal road bikes. These ‘Zetas’ were followed by the ‘Zike’ in 1995, a full-sized bike with a battery stored in the frame. However, neither really caught my attention – or, it seems, that of many other people.
However, in 2006 Sir Clive was back with something a good deal more interesting – the A-bike. The A-bike was a folding bike, designed to be used by commuters, with an emphasis on portability and ease of use – with all of the mechanisms internal to the bike. While sales figures are a little difficult to come by, the A-bike was briefly a news sensation, although even from the outset it was clear that while the bike was indeed very good at being portable, it was not that good at being a bike.
A friend of mine acquired one for review purposes, and he was kind enough to let me have a go.
The C5 felt safer.
Still, I think I only fell off a couple of times, and he assured me that it got easier with practice. And despite my difficulties, I did consider buying one for a while. I didn’t though. There were plans for an electric version, but I’m not sure it ever materialised. However, the latest iteration, the A-Bike City, with larger wheels and numerous other iterations to improve the ride is still available.
Sir Clive moved on though, with plans for a new electric bike called the X-1.
It was due to launch in July 2011.
I’m still waiting.