Sinclair to produce an enclosed electric and pedal-powered bike

But can it lay the ghost of the commercially disastrous C-5?

by Mark Appleton   November 5, 2010  

Sinclair Research_1288968607570.jpeg

When launching a new mode of transport, if at first you don’t succeed then it’s entirely possible that the market is telling you something and you should cut your losses and do something else.

Those of us old enough to remember the 1985-launched Sinclair C-5 may recall seeing the contraptions languishing in electricity board showrooms, looking for all the world like three-wheeled, battery- and pedal-powered death traps.

Incredibly, around 12,000 of them were produced, which sounds like a lot given that here is one person at least who never saw a single example on the roads at that time.

However, whatever the actual number produced and sold, the C-5 became something of a byword for commercial failure back in the eighties. Not to be deterred, the man behind the C-5, Sir Clive Sinclair, is having another go at offering innovative personal transportation in the form of the X-1.

We would describe the machine as a not-quite-fully-recumbent bike with a full fairing and the option of switching to battery power.

It is due to go on sale next summer with a list price of £595 and orders are currently being taken with a £100 deposit. The X-1’s makers are calling it an “electric vehicle” rather than a bike and say that with pedal assistance it can be “driven” for 10 miles at a cost of 10p.

The machine uses a 24v Lithium Polymer battery driving an MCR pancake motor linked to the rear wheel by a fixed gear drive chain.

The motor is rated at 190 watts, the wheels are 16 inch and disc brakes are fitted fore and aft. The waterproof acrylic bubble includes an integral roll cage frame bonded to a monocoque chassis and the whole unit weighs 30 kilos.

At first glance it may well have a better chance of commerical success than its cumbersome and terrifyingly low profile mid-eighties predecessor – the makers point out that the X-1 has “strong visibility to other road users such as cars and lorries" and say that "built in front and rear lights aid visibility."

But equally it may fall into a nomansland somewhere between "normal" electric bikes and the increasingly popular mobility scooters.

Either way, we all love a tryer and you’ve got to admire Sir Clive’s pluck in attempting to crack the problem of providing an affordable, low running-cost, eco-friendly, personal transportation solution for the masses.

9 user comments

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Looks a very high centre of gravity...As you can't filter in it very easily I imagine town cycling would be pretty annoying. Ditto with fast descending on any long hill. I like the 'encased' idea though...would appeal to fair weather cycling types.

The Casati Owner's Club says - "Drink your Coffee strong"

posted by simonaspinall [10 posts]
5th November 2010 - 16:10

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cactuscat's picture

posted by cactuscat [305 posts]
5th November 2010 - 17:56

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somehow i think sir clive peaked with the 'spectrum' PC (?!).. and just a quick ebay search brings up six C5's for sale. not sure what that tells us, but hey curiosity and all that.

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1097 posts]
5th November 2010 - 21:19

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Ha, beat you to it with my forum post.

Sinclair's record with the C5, the Zike and the bike in a bag isn't good. The C5 was branded a death trap by the AA because it was so low to the ground. Sinclair simply hadn't thought that might be a problem. Did Sinclair learn from this failure and improve his product? Did he perhaps listen to some of his critics and deal with the issues that had made his C5 such a flop? The Zike had titchy wheels and had the handling characteristics of a shopping trolley with a dodgy castor. As the wheels were so small, they dropped into potholes, made the steering very twitchy and had minimal gyroscopic effect to benefit stability. So what did he do? He developed the bike in a bag with wheels that were smaller yet and which was even more difficult to ride.

This new effort is heavy and underpowered and I bet it's dangerous in a sidewind, which I assume he hasn't thought of. Oh, and the wheels are a little bigger at least, they look like he got them from a pushchair. Thergonomics don't look that great either - why the long steering column? And those bars - eek!

Apparently his partner is 36 years younger than him and he's a balding millionaire whose only success was a cheap computer that was pretty unreliable (several mates of mine had them). How does he do it? How is he still a millionaire given that he's wasted so much money developing products that are so comically/tragically flawed and which provoke such derision?

The Daily Mash gets a good spin on Sinclair.

The Real X1 is hanging up in the Smithsonian museum in Washington DC. I refer to the rocket powered aircraft in which Chuck Yeager made the first supersonic flight in 1947. This new thing from Sinclair looks pretty much like his previous products. And from what I've posted, you can pretty much guess what i think of it and of him.


posted by OldRidgeback [2581 posts]
5th November 2010 - 23:34

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Did anyone see Micro Men when it was on? because it was ace.

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posted by Dave Atkinson [7856 posts]
5th November 2010 - 23:39

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The Mash story is funny too ORB, nice one. Smile

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7856 posts]
5th November 2010 - 23:43


I'm not too impressed with this latest offering either.

The wheels are a bit too small still I reckon. The basic shape is a bit like some of the cycle rickshaws around already (though they are tricycles).

I'm afraid Sir Clive is always a little too obsessed with making things small - too small when not dealing with microelectronics.

He made his money by inventing the pocket calculator ORB , Fringe. For that his ideas of miniaturisation were a perfect application and so on and so forth with personal computers, first the ZX80, ZX81. He certainly has had some good foresight but has often latterly fallen down on execution. Who'd be a pioneer in any field? Nearly everyone tells you it can't or shouldn't be done.

posted by IHphoto [113 posts]
6th November 2010 - 3:31

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Wouldn't it be safer if it was a tricycle? I wouldn't fancy balancing the 30 kgs monocoque plus my weight in that. But then I wouldn't fancy attempting my commute in it either.


posted by RuthF28 [99 posts]
6th November 2010 - 12:51

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only success was a cheap computer that was pretty unreliable

Um, he did help shape our future/present for us. Take a look at his hi-fi amps, pocket TV, mobile phone, watch, calculator and all sorts of other "before their time" modern consumer products. He had portable TVs in 1966! (not that I can see much use for a tiny TV myself)

The biggest problem with putting any light, small, cheap, green vehicle on the road is that it'll be seen as unsafe amongst all the big, expensive, gas guzzling vehicles it has to mix with. A problem cyclists should probably be able to relate to quite well.

posted by kelvin [13 posts]
8th November 2010 - 12:09

1 Like