3-Wheeled Electric Mountain Bike Tears Up and Down Slopes
Roopinder Tara posted on September 29, 2017 |

The Icon Explore electric mountain bike can go 15 miles uphill—and very fast downhill, thanks to its ability to lean into a turn. Picture from ICON Explore Instagram.
The Icon Explore electric mountain bike can go 15 miles uphill—and very fast downhill, thanks to its ability to lean into a turn. Picture from ICON Explore Instagram.

Christian Bagg greets SOLIDWORKS users from his wheelchair in the lobby of the Dassault Systèmes North American headquarters, where the SOLIDWORKS 2018 Launch is taking place. Co-founder of Icon, he has rolled in on his latest creation, a three-wheeled electric mountain bike called the Explore that he says can quickly take him up—and down—a 15-mile uphill trail.

Behind the kind eyes, the easy smile and gentle demeanor are a number of surprises. Bagg is a machinist. He’s an athlete. He has completed the Boston Marathon in 1:40—more than 20 minutes ahead of the fastest runner. He’s not done pushing speed limits. He loves to go downhill—fast… maybe too fast. 

Bagg took off downhill in a snowboarding competition 20 years ago in an acrobatic event. He got 30 feet of air, but landed awkwardly. The shock burst three vertebrae. He has been in a wheelchair since.

He found he could still be a machinist. He and his partners have built the three-wheeler Icon Explore, which may be the fastest in its class, both up and down hill.

"The three wheels of the Explore give an extra measure of stability and safety," Bagg said. Theoretically.

“I can go 30 mph downhill on a single track,” Bagg said, a twinkle in his eye. "We (the vehicle and I) have been downhill on black diamond trails that have never been attempted by this class of vehicle.”

The Icon can be controlled using the upper body and arms alone, making it a mobility and sport vehicle for the disabled. 

Figure 2- It's complicated. Individual suspension for each wheel, linkages that allow the 3-wheeled frame to tilt.
It's complicated. Individual suspension for each wheel, linkages that allow the three-wheeled frame to tilt.

Bagg described the design, done mostly with SOLIDWORKS. Several parts are made with 3D printers. A very prominent fender over a very fat tire, more at home on a chopper than an electric bike, is made of carbon fiber composites and serves two purposes.

“It’s very cool,” Bagg said. “I show this to school kids, and it needs to be a little stylish to get them interested.” Bagg did not want just a utilitarian-type vehicle. “The fender is actually structural,” Bagg said, showing how the fender morphs into the frame, transitioning via 3D-printed part.

The 3kW motor with a 72V battery—which may be the heaviest part of the 95-lb vehicle (the fat tire, probably 2nd)—can provide power sufficient for a 15-mile trail. For longer excursions, a solar panel on a trailer is in the works, so users can rest in a sunny spot and recharge.

Many of the parts, such as the wheels and brakes, are the same as used for bikes, both manual and electric. But the suspension and linkage that allows the vehicle to tilt is pure genius. Each wheel is independently suspended and shock-dampened, but it takes more than that to go fast down the hill. You have to lean into the turns.

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Christian Bagg, co-founder of Icon, with his three-wheeled, electric mountain bike, at the SOLIDWORKS 2018 Launch in Waltham, Mass.

"The vehicles that try to keep upright with a wide stance will skid or even flip over, while a bike can lean," Icon mechanical engineer Will Gill explained. But pull one pin, and the Icon is able to tilt along with the torso of the rider, enclosed in a tight-fitting wrap.

"It is the secret of us being able to go faster downhill," Bagg said.

Bagg is not even the best athlete at Icon. That honor belongs to partner and co-founder, Jeff Adams, 13-time winner of different Paralympic medals, including several World Championships. Adams lost his ability to walk at the age of nine following radiation that got rid of his cancer but burned up his spinal cord.

The Icon is in production and lists for $11,000. Bagg’s company is looking for additional investors that would allow them to increase production and bring the price down.

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