igus unveils the world’s first urban bike made from recycled plastic

Member News


igus will launch the world’s first all-plastic urban bicycle for
the UK market at Engineering Expo on 8th June. Its debut showing was
at Hannover Messe on 30th May.

Using the igus expertise in
plastics for motion, the bike is designed to be assembled and supplied by
approved partners – so igus has made the engineering design and all key
components available to all bicycle manufacturers via the new igus:bike
platform. The first model should be available by the end of the year.

was conceived to address a serious problem: the world is drowning in plastic
waste. Huge piles of plastic in landfill sites are growing fast. Some of this
plastic ends up in the ocean and can enter the food chain, becoming a danger to
marine, animal and human life. Companies must shift away from the traditional
linear economic model and migrate to a fully circular economy.

To help
this transformation, motion plastics specialist igus has invested in ideas for
recycling plastics for many years. The company is now presenting a world first
at the Hannover Messe: a robust, durable urban bike made entirely of plastic,
from the frame to its bearings and the toothed belt. A special feature of the
new bike is that the recycled version will be primarily made of reused
“single use” plastics.

“Plastic found in rubbish
dumps around the world is becoming a valuable resource,” explains Frank
Blase, igus CEO. He first had the idea of creating a bicycle, now known
as the “igus:bike”, on a beach while on holiday. In conversations
with a bike rental company on the beach, he learned of their major problems
with beach bikes: continuous exposure to sand, wind and salt water and some
parts only lasted about three months before they needed replacing. Maintenance
and replacement is a time-consuming and expensive part of the bike rental

does not rust”

The igus:bike
is easier to own and run than any other bike. Owners can leave the single-speed
bike outdoors in all weathers and clean it in seconds with a garden hose. “As
all components are made of plastic, no part of the bike rusts, even the gears,”
says Blase. “Bicycle gears made of plastic were unthinkable for a long time.”
Lightweight, lubrication-free high-performance plastics are used in all parts
of the bicycle, from two-component ball bearings in the wheel bearings to plain
bearings in the seat post, brake levers and pedals.

All these
components have integrated solid lubricants and ensure low-friction dry
operation – without a single drop of lubricating oil. This ensures that sand,
dust and dirt cannot accumulate and gum-up working parts.

tribo-plastics from igus have been used successfully for a long time and are
used in more than 70 industries: from automobiles to tractors and robots. And
they have also had many fans in the bicycle industry for decades, with plastic
parts proving their worth there for years in applications such as mountain
bikes and e-cargo bikes.

Innovation with experience
from industry

In igus’s development laboratories, eight developers are
currently working on all moving components of the all-plastic bicycle. Ball
bearings, brakes, sprockets, gears and drives are being coordinated by Andreas
Hermey, the development manager for energy chains, in close cooperation with
the bicycle start-up MTRL from The Netherlands. Tried and tested existing
developments from igus were adapted to the new application. The result is
smooth-operating, quiet, and durable plastic components that give suppliers
globally the chance to benefit from the igus:bike

Platform for bike and
component manufacturers

The igus:bike
platform offers bicycle manufacturers all over the world the opportunity to
jointly improve this technology. The online platform continuously shows the
status and progress of all components and explicitly invites market players to
participate. The platform is intended to become a contact point for
manufacturers who want to build a plastic bicycle and for all manufacturers of
suitable components, such as plastic frames, wheels, drives, and pinions. The
platform is already hosting initial corporate collaborations, for example
Helix.eco for recycled plastics. Many more will follow“We want to enable the
bicycle industry to produce plastic bikes,” says Blase.

functioning model is planned for the end of the year

Another partner is Dutch start-up MTRL that has successfully put
400 bicycles with plastic frames and wheels onto the Netherlands’ roads.
“Founders Johannes and Benjamin Alderse Baas are partners who share our vision
completely,” says Blase, himself an investor in MTRL. “Together, we are
refining the all-plastic bicycle.”

The bicycle start-up will begin
production with a children’s model and an adult bicycle for cities by the end
of this year. The German launch of the production bikes will be in early 2023.
Other versions, such as an e-bike, have also been planned. In the future, the
all-plastic bicycle will be available both in a new plastic variant and in one
made entirely of recycled material. The first prototypes, successfully produced
and tested, were made of plastic reclaimed from old fishing nets. The adult
bike made of virgin plastic will cost EU1,200, with a surcharge of EU200 for
the recycled-plastic variant. MTRL is planning manufacturing facilities near
plastic landfills around the world. “From ocean plastics to motion plastics –
the igus:bike
concept has what it takes to become a high-tech ecological product,” says
Blase. “We have lots more ideas, such as installing condition monitoring using
igus smart plastics,” he adds. “The owner would use their smartphone to see how
many more thousands of kilometres the bike can take. That will hopefully
convince many people who are still sceptical about plastic.”

*** igus:bike will be shown for
the first time in the UK at Engineering Expo at the NEC, Birmingham, on 8th and
9th June. Come and visit our stand and hear more about the bike from igus UK
managing director Matthew Aldridge. ***