Impossible-Looking Pedals Push Your Bike Up Hills

An English inventor has come up with an cheap, lightweight power-assist system for bicycles. It is built into a pair of modified pedals and requires no extra hardware. It also seems to be impossible.

I need your help, here, Gadget Lab readers. First, I'll tell you what I know. The kit is called "Fast Forward" and, from the pictures, looks to be a pair of regular pedals with rechargeable batteries and motors inside. Fast Forward was designed by inventor Stephen Britt, and he is currently a finalist in the Barclays "Take One Small Step" contest. If it wins, Stephen will receive business funding.

To use them, you just swap them in for the pedals you already have. Here's Stephen's pitch:

These replace your standard pedals and provide you with assistance to get you up hills, or carry heavy loads. Each pedal incorporates a motor, gearbox, Li-po batteries and a control board. As you pedal the sensors detect your effort and provide assistance.

To pedal without assistance, simply flip the pedals over. They unclip and slot into a charger for charging, much like with a power tool. When fully developed they will provide a range of 10 miles and peak power of 200W. They will retail for around £200.

There's no doubt that Stephen could build these pedals, but my question is, would they work? Surely the pedals, without toe-straps, would just spin under your feet. Even if you were to firmly cinch your feet in place, would a spinning pedal provide any assistance? It seems to me that the pedal would just try to twist your toes upwards and annoy you, and generally act like a tail wagging a dog.

But although I did just spend ten minutes with my foot in a spare pedal waving my leg around, I'm no no mechanic, let alone a physicist. So help me, readers. Could this possibly work? Answers, as always, in the comments.

Fast Forward Cycle Pedals [Barclays via Bicycle Design] has been expanding the hive mind with technology, science and geek culture news since 1995.

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    you would be limited by the strength of ur ankles but it would probably work. probably be annoying like u said tho!

    Im going to say NO. This wouldnt work. Assuming they use very powerful small gearhead motors, at that size the motors might be able to apply 2kg of force at the most. Depending on how it attaches to the pedal the length of the lever is going to be between 1 and 2 centimetres long. Based on 1cm - I calculate the motor would produce 0.196133 newton-meters of torque. Ie, Two fifths of five eighths of not very much...

    Im going to say YES. This would work. Assuming they use very powerful small tasers. These tasers, or "fast forwarders", would then be synchronised to apply carefully timed bursts of assistance to each of the pedalling muscles in concert with the rise and fall of the pedals in motion.

    By simply tasering your foot or lower leg to each pedal, you'd be off in no time - look out mountain climb, here I come.

      LOL. No one else has commented, I wonder which one of us killed the debate? Sorry Gizmodo.

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