For his bike trip from Oakland to San Francisco, Judah Schiller completely avoided the Bay Bridge and took to the choppy waters of San Francisco Bay on his BayCycle, a vehicle that lets riders hit open water instead of pavement.
The San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge was undergoing major renovations when Schiller decided to go for a ride. Fortunately, the BayCycle allowed him to glide across the water and straight to shore. The innovative contraption he invented himself is constructed of two inflatable pontoons, a propeller mechanism and a frame into which a rider can snap their bike. The BayCycle promises to change the way we think about cycling.
Schiller launched the Bay Cycle Project and started an IndiGoGo campaign, which has raised just less than $5,000 of the $50,000 it was aiming for.
Riding across the water, itself, he said is “always amazing.” The trip from the East Bay to the city took about 45 minutes. A week later he biked across the Hudson River to New York, which just took 15 minutes.
While both these trips were accompanied by media and kayaks, Schiller often bikes all by himself. He puts his bike in the water down by Sausalito or out in Bolinas and just rides the water.
Pedaling turns a propeller in the back and pushes him forward. It’s just like riding on the roads or trails, he said.
The pontoons keep the bike relatively stable, Schiller said, even with waves. But, it is important to check the tides and conditions, just as you would if you were heading out on a mountain bike.
Fanny Gamble is a friend of Schiller’s who has tried Schiller’s bike a number of times.
“It’s an unbelievable experience,” she said.
Neither Gamble nor Schiller are particularly avid cyclists on the land. Schiller is a single dad with three kids and Gamble is a professional tennis player. Besides, Gamble said she finds biking on the street with cars slightly scary.
“I’d rather do that on the water than bike on the streets,” Gamble said.
Ultimately, Schiller’s goal is to get people using bikes on the water as a viable commute method. The slowest part is blowing up the pontoons. But, if the cities could keep racks and already-inflated pontoons by the water, then people could easily ride back and forth.
Right now, though, he’s just keeps riding around the bay and letting people try his bike. Whenever he puts it in the water here in Marin, people are curious. If you see him, don’t be afraid to ask for a ride.
“I don’t want to be the lonely biker out on the bay,” Schiller said.