An Israeli man (a farmer) has invented or perhaps “re-invented the wheel”. He originally made it for wheelchairs (that wheel is called Acrobat), but it didn’t take long before it was adapted to bicycles. The company producing this product is in Tel Aviv, Israel and is named SoftWheel. The product for bikes is called Fluent Wheels. For those who want full suspension on their tadpole trikes this may be an answer** … by simply replacing the current wheels. However, I don’t think it is available yet. As the saying goes … “Next year in Jerusalem” … only it is Tel Aviv on this occasion.
**Note: Then again it may not be the answer. I address this further below.
Here is some of what I have read about it in various articles:
Fluent Wheel is also pneumatic, but smooths cyclists’ ride without loss of energy or efficiency like classical in-frame bike suspensions: on flat surfaces, Fluent rolls rigid, coming to life on bumps, cracks, and potholes to dissipate impact. SoftWheel relies on a patented suspension mechanism that remains static on standard floors or pavements. Encountering an obstacle (such as a curb or stair) causes the wheel’s hub to shift symmetrically from the center, thereby absorbing the shock and cushioning the rider, as well as the vehicle, from the force of the impact. Then, the hub automatically shifts back to its central location until the next bump. Whereas 30-35 percent of the propulsion energy provided to a typical wheel goes into the suspension – to sustain sagging and bobbing – approximately 97 percent of the propulsion energy provided to the SoftWheel system goes right into the wheel itself, Barel said. Best of all, it requires no particular provisions, making it compatible with any frame that’ll have its width.
This following video is in the Hebrew language:
Here is what the company says about this wheel:
In normal ride on standard floors or pavements, the suspension mechanism remains static. The Acrobat™ acts and feels as a high-end, rigid wheel. However, when encountering an impact caused by an obstacle above a specific threshold, the Acrobat’s Selective Suspension mechanism comes into play. This causes a shift of the wheel’s hub from its previously central location and develops a cushioning effect that dramatically absorbs and lessens the impact transferred to the rider
Once the obstacle has been passed the hub shifts back to its central location smoothly, automatically, and seamlessly. The wheel regains its rigidity and responsiveness, and the user continues moving efficiently.
In fact it is the wheel that absorbs most of the shock generated by impact rather than the chair or the user’s body.
As the first ever suspension technology designed specifically for the urban rider’s day-to-day routine, the Fluent™ wheel provides superb comfort and total freedom to daily riders, allowing them to smoothly pass any obstacle while maintaining the ride efficient.
Be it electric (eBike), pedaling-electric (PedElec) or manual, the patent pending design of the Fluent™ gives your bicycle full flexibility and allows you to choose your own route, without suffering the bouncy ride or energy loss (sweat or battery) of suspension designed for mountain biking.
While burning the tarmac the Fluent™ rides rigid, and when encountering obstacles (curb, stairs, bump) the suspension mechanism comes to life to absorb more than half of the impact energy.
The Fluent™ provides 360° impact response, for optimal shock absorption from any direction.
The Fluent™ provides a smooth ride while saving your effort or battery life for propulsion only
The Fluent™ doesn’t require provisions in the frame, and can be retrofitted to every make of bicycle.
HERE is an interesting article to read about the invention of this wheel.
On a regular bicycle this wheel would probably work fine. However, on a tadpole trike I would be very concerned about lateral forces and whether this wheel could stand up to them. I have serious doubts and reservations about this.
I don’t know any more detail about this product at this time. I don’t know if these wheels will be available in 20 inch or if they will accept a rear cassette or what the width is as far as fitting into a trike. And I don’t know anything about the cost. As I stated above I don’t think this product is available yet. I have emailed the company hoping to get some answers. If I find out more I will post it here. I did just now read in a third party article that the Fluent wheel won’t be in production until next year.
Another design by another company is called LoopWheels. Here is one with an 11 speed Shimano Alfine hub.
There are a few other designs others have come up with, but these two seem to be the ones most promising. If either of these designs would work on a tadpole trike this may turn out to be a very ideal and cost effective upgrade for those wanting suspension on an existing trike. That appears to be the proverbial big if.
Oh well, may we all …
KEEP ON TRIKIN’