Amusing Monday: Finding new ways to ride a bike across the water

When a man rides a bicycle across the River Thames in London, people stop and stare — and that’s exactly what 35-year-old Dhruv Boruah wants them to do, as he picks up trash floating on the river.

His message is about plastic pollution. He wants people to know that when plastic gets into the environment, it tends to stay there, breaking into tiny pieces that contaminate the food web.

“I like to be on the water for the adventure,” he said in an interview this month in the London Evening Standard, “and the bike is so unique that it’s a good conversation starter to talk to people and raise awareness about the dangers of plastics, micro-plastics and toxic chemicals to stop these ending up in the ocean.”

Boruah, a management consultant, turned his attention to plastic pollution after a yacht race took him from London to Rio de Janeiro. He couldn’t help but notice the massive amounts of plastic trash floating in the ocean. Upon return, he launched The Thames Project, which has raised awareness about plastic pollution and recruited others to clean up the river and its canals, both on water and off.

I was amused by Boruah’s methods as well as his message, as revealed in lectures on YouTube. In a Tedx talk in April, he began by stating, “A friend once asked me, ‘Is the water in the bottle or is the bottle in the water?’” In another talk in July, he started by explaining how plastic saved his life — so he is not questioning plastic’s value, only its use and disposal.

As for biking on the water, I realized that I haven’t written about this form of transportation since I first saw a pontoon bike making the trip from Bainbridge Island to Bremerton in 2007. I recall reporter Tristan Baurick’s story in the Kitsap Sun about commuter Nat Hong, a Bainbridge resident employed at Olympic College in Bremerton.

Today, you can find numerous commercial kits to build yourself a portable pedal boat or convert a regular bicycle into a boat. Boruah’s boat bicycle is made by the Shuttle Bike Company of Italy. The assembly of five different commercial pedal-boats are demonstrated in a video by Eye Tech.

Home bike crafters seem to be everywhere on the Internet talking about their floating bikes, many of which are amphibious — meaning they can convert quickly from land to water. One bike, invented in India by Migha Shajan, grew out of a tragic ferry accident and a desire to cross the water safely. Check out the video on YouTube by Invis Multimedia.

A Mythbusters video (second on this page) features a bicycle converted with the addition of five-gallon water jugs. When I saw Adam Savage riding the bike unsteadily up to the edge of a swimming pool, I thought he would surely tip over in the water. But it was never much of a problem. He even reinstalled the bike chain, which had slipped off, without leaving the water.

A unique approach to a floating bike was taken by Berto Aussems, who basically tied a bicycle to an inflatable raft in which the bottom had been removed. Power and steering are provided by an outrigger motor driven with a portable hand drill (third video).

After reviewing lots of videos showing commercial and home-built designs for water bikes that involve all sorts of cumbersome installation and conversion efforts, I was taken to a whole new level of consciousness by the amphibious motorcycle. You just get on and ride — crossing both land and water with ease — as shown in the last video.

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