It's Not Stupid If It Works Is the Principle the RO-Trike Seems to Function By

In this line of work, we sometimes run across some designs that are just downright mind-boggling. What you are about to witness is one of those ideas, and then some.
Ro-Trike 7 photos
Photo: Sulagna Mukherjee
Folks, I don’t even know where to begin with this design. It looks like something put together with bits and pieces found lying around the house. But appearances can be deceiving. Here, I'll be simple about it all because, well, it’s a simple machine.

It’s called the RO-Trike and is a course project of a group of four students led by architect and designer Sulagna Mukherjee of Mumbai, India. Simply put, what we’re looking at is nothing more than a row-cycle or row-bike, although the latter uses only two wheels.

If you’ve never heard of a row-cycle, it’s basically a three-wheeled cycle that sits very low to the ground and places the rider in a rowing position. Beyond this, the propulsion mechanism is usually one that simulates rowing by pulling back on a set of handlebars, although it’s a bit more complicated than that.

Photo: Sulagna Mukherjee
The RO is a bit different from other mass-produced products in that it’s completed by a group of students, so funding was probably at a minimum. But this sort of financial setting usually sparks some very ingenious inventions. Now the question becomes, how do we build something functional, accessible, benefitting the end user, and hella cheap too? Well, keep reading.

Faced with those questions, this team set out to create the RO. The main material used for a frame is readily available and inexpensive steel, and to offer tensile strength and flexibility for the driving mechanism, bamboo was chosen. That’s right. Those wood-like bits seen throughout the construction is nothing more than cheap and readily available bamboo.

First, we have the steel frame. This is set up in such a way as to include one axle with two wheels on the front, and only one wheel at the rear. This allows the trike to be steered by the front while keeping it from tilting over in a turn, as is the case with ATCs. Atop the frame, however, we find just a plain ol’ seat. Nothing too complicated yet.

Now, all around you and the frame you’re sitting on are bunches of tensed layers of bamboo. But why would this vehicle require tension? Well, let’s not forget that it’s supposed to simulate rowing, and in order to work the body’s muscles, there needs to be some resistance.

Photo: Sulagna Mukherjee
Yet, that resistance isn’t there just to work your glutes and trapezoid. The other segments of bamboo, the ones rising vertically out of the frame, are also kept in a tensed state as they are used to steer the vehicle. Personally, I tried to figure out how it all works, and I still have a question or two.

Let’s have a seat in this modern-day Flintstones contraption and try to figure out how to make it move without kicking your legs against the pavement. Once we’ve mounted this beast, our legs are to be lifted and set straight out in front on a slanted piece of steel bar we see attached to the steering mechanism.

Between your legs, you will find another piece of bamboo that looks to be attached to some rope. Yeah, that’s the one. Reach forward, grab it, and pull with both hands. Have fun figuring out the rest, just like riding a bike.

Now, why would I take the time to show the world something so simple and weird as this? Well, because I'm the kind of person that likes to build things, and this really does look like it can be put together in a few days' time. If you do happen to make one of these, please send us a video of how it all turned out.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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