Sir Clive gets back on his bike
FINANCIAL TIMES, 17 July 1997
By ANDREW BAXTER
Three years ago, the irrepressible UK inventor Sir Clive Sinclair launched the Zeta (or Zero Emission Transport Accessory), an electric drive unit designed to fit on to any standard bicycle and take the effort out of cycling up hills.
The system worked well, with 15,000 units sold worldwide. But it was the size of a shoebox, had to be fitted to the rear wheel - forcing removal of the mudguard - and never managed to break into the style-conscious youth market.
Yesterday, his company Sinclair Research launched the Zeta II, a completely redesigned version. 'It is much cheaper (£95 against £144.95 for its predecessor), much lighter and miles easier to fit,' says Sir Clive.
The new device has taken three years to perfect, costing £125,000 for tooling against just £30,000 for its forebear. It uses the same basic principle, with a motor driving a rubber belt to achieve friction against the tyre.
But a new pulley system adjusts the belt pressure on the tyre to boost efficiency, while the motor unit is fitted to the front wheel and separated from the battery, which is stowed under the saddle or lower down on women's bikes. This gives much better weight distribution, says chief design engineer Alex Kalogroulis.
Shipments are due to start next month from Scottish-based Trilec, which made the original Zeta. At first, sales will be by mail order alone.
The launch comes two months after Sinclair unveiled the X1, a radio the size of a small coin, which fits into the ear.