When I was a kid my best friend Mike’s father had a small Cessna plane that they used to take on day trips and the occasional vacation. Finding transportation on the ground for two kids was always tricky, and I remember when he bought his first two motorized scooters as a solution (or at least that is what he told his wife). I think Mike and I put more hours on those tiny weedwhacker engines tearing around town than his family did on any Cessna trip. Eventually enough noise complaints were filed, and when the cops informed us the scooters were no longer considered street legal, we were crushed. It was back to pedaling our bikes around town.
Since those days, compact transport has always fascinated me. I remember when I first came across Teddi Bear, a 55-foot Benford Florida Bay Coaster. I was mesmerized by how they fit a Mini Cooper on the foredeck that could be loaded and unloaded using the boat’s crane. And that same interest has always kept one eye on electric bikes, scooters, and other odd stowable transport more fit for a lazarette.
It was love at first sight when I laid eyes on Jupiter Bikes earlier this year at Barb Goldworm’s FOCUS on Boating booth at TrawlerFest in Stuart, Florida. All I could see was a compact geometric conglomerate of rubber and metal; my eyes grew wide as I watched Barb artfully unfold this 16-inch-by-20-inch mystery into a small rideable machine. Unfolded, the unique frame consists of two rings, like a giant pair of cartoon eyeglasses, and the design definitely looks a bit extraterrestrial, especially with the more brightly colored models.
While Jupiter Bikes refer to their products as “bikes,” they are more motorbike than bicycle. Unlike electric bicycles, these tiny machines are powered solely by a lithium-ion battery built into the frame. There are no pedals; you simply rest your feet on two studs that protrude from the frame. The batteries take two hours to charge, which is pretty fast considering they are good for 10 miles, and the bike can travel up to 15 miles per hour.
Before we go on, however, my editor-in-chief said he won’t let this review publish without me offering the story of my first ride. Here’s the cautionary tale: I hopped on the bike and immediately crashed into an A-frame barrier (thankfully it was a lightweight one). While the Jupiter Bike is pretty intuitive, the small frame and even smaller wheels make balancing and maneuvering more difficult than an average bicycle. And it turns out that perfecting the art of balancing a bike without pedaling takes a little practice (at least it did for me).
I also didn’t appreciate how the smaller wheels would be harder to control when turning. I panicked, forgot which handle was the brake, and accelerated into the barricade, destroying my pride but luckily nothing else. Barb was nice enough to let me try it again but thought it best I ride in a straight line before I experimented with turning again. (It should be noted that aforementioned editor-in-chief, Jonathan, did not have any of these issues when it was his turn to ride.)
While the Jupiter Bike carries a hefty price tag at $899, it is perfect for those looking for a compact, truly stowable method of transportation. A ride to the grocery store or the local West Marine on a Jupiter would be a breeze from any marina. The bike folds up to fit on just about any boat, and it is sure to make you the talk of the town (just make sure that is due to the bike’s distinctive engineering and not because you’re leaving a trail of knocked-down barricades or small children in your wake).
www.jupiterbike.com — $899