ALPHA Bike (Images courtesy University of Pennsylvania)
By Andrew Liszewski

If you like the sleek look and minimal frame design of a fixie bike, but sometimes prefer the benefits of a freewheel model (like brakes, switchable gear ratios etc.) then a team of 5 mechanical engineering students at the University of Pennsylvania have just finished work on your dream ride. The ALPHA incorporates the team’s innovative new free/fixed transmission which they’ve dubbed the ‘SWIFT Drive’, as well as a fully internal drivetrain all operated by an electronically-controlled clutch.

According to the ALPHA’s website the team went above and beyond the call of duty when it came to engineering the bike’s subsystems to maximize strength and performance vs. weight, and as a result it actually weighs less than a regular steel-framed bike but can withstand far more. It doesn’t skimp on technology though to keep the weight down. There’s a dynamo built into the front hub which generates power for the onboard electronics which includes rear LED lighting and a host of sensors which provide real-time performance data to the rider via an LCD display integrated into the handlebars.

Of course since the bike is all custom made from materials like titanium and carbon fiber I’m sure the working model is probably worth tens of thousands of dollars. So let’s hope the team can patent and license their new technologies so the ALPHA can one day become a real, and moderately affordable, product.

[ ALPHA Fixie/Freewheel Bike ] VIA [ Josh Spear ]


  1. Unless I’m missing something, this bike uses an off the shelf Sturmey S3X 3 speed fixed hub that is based on a 50+ year old design. Electronic shifting is available on other bikes. The generator hub is also a commercially available product. There is only one marginally functional brake. Belt drive is available on other bikes.

    The only question is the bottom bracket/chainring area. It would have to incorporate a planetary gear that is shiftable from fixed to free. There are already rear hubs that can shift (not on the fly) from fixed to free, and there are planetary bottom brackets.

    Until I see someone skid stop from 25mph without the belt idlers snapping off, I call BS on the whole thing as just another ‘concept’ that doesn’t work.