Bicycle Canopy Research

I’ve been doing a little research on bicycle canopies. There are surprisingly few examples out there. Here are a few that come up on the top of a web search.
(Update: check out my own canopy design and instructions for making it.)

The Environmentalist

Top of the list is the Bicycle Canopy Company. The name sounds promising but the product does not look much better than my prototype. Owner Jill Nerkowski writes “I joined my landscaping and gardening experience with  bicycle mechanics and came up with my idea for a traveling greenhouse…This bicycle canopy can be constructed in your home, with ordinary household tools and easy to purchase materials.” You have to give her credit for her massive amounts of hutzpah. She looks like a lovable kook but hey, there but for the grace of God go I :-).

The Seeker

Farther down the list is someone who back in 2005 announced his search for any sort of bicycle canopy. He concluded that most of the work being done so far to create a weatherproof bike has been the creation of velomobiles: short bullet-shaped bicycles with a hard enclosure. Velomobiles don’t seem to be good car-replacement vehicles. The tend to emphasize speed, they are expensive and they weigh a lot. I can’t imagine them carrying cargo or a passenger.

The Bent

I came across this guy Joe Kochanowski who has made over 50 recumbent (a.k.a bent) bicycles over the last twenty years, some of them enclosed like a velomobile. He writes “I am not married so I can do things like overhaul a car engine in my living room without anyone complaining.” I admit to a bit of envy. Go Joe.

The European

As usual the Europeans are way ahead of us in bicycle technology. The French have brought to market what appears to be the only commercially successful bike canopy I’ve seen.

Here’s a cute review by a young citizen:


I’m concluding that the bike canopy field is wide open. My design has many elements that I haven’t seen elsewhere: integration with the open-source Xtracycle standard; cold-weather insulation; use on an electric cargo bike; and the highly flexible conestoga design. What I’ve seen is canopies designed for either speed or light rain protection. I haven’t seen any designs that are a serious approach to car-replacement.

For some reason I haven’t seen any Xtracycle canopies. You’d think this would be a popular idea in rainy Portland Oregon which is a nexus of the bike movement. I think the Xtracycle is uniquely suitable for a canopy because both the driver and passenger are on the same bike. This allows one large canopy. The main protection needs to be for the passenger and cargo (perhaps using aerogel insulation which is extremely efficient, thin, and lightweight and may someday be available transparent). The driver, who will be hot from exertion, just needs to be protected from rain and wind. (In my experience I get quite hot biking even in the coldest weather. Maybe a very well insulated canopy could allow the driver’s excess body to warm the passenger.) I think a design that emphasizes covering a passenger will also be easier for the general public to accept. People have already seen plenty of bike trailers with such coverings. With an Xtracycle, it’s a small step to extend the passenger covering to the driver.

Another design opportunity is that the Xtracycle allows you to connect a canopy much farther forward and back than other bikes. The forward connection can even be to the sides of the pedals without interfering with the pedals. If you’ve ever carried lumber on an Xtracycle equipped with the Long Loader accessory you know what I mean.

Another design opportunity: the canopy provides a place to put your flexible thin-film solar panels.

Another design opportunity: the power of an electric bike makes it possible to have a heavier perhaps wooden “wagon” that you can just chuck stuff into or even lock it up. I can imagine a pick-up truck like bicycle. Maybe the bottom of the wagon should be curved like a Conestoga wagon so the cargo doesn’t fly out. Then you just attach a canopy when necessary.

I commend the brave souls noted in this post for the work they’ve done to advance the cause of making bicycles practical for year-round use. I am perplexed that this cause has been completely abandoned by industry, government, and yes, even bicycle manufacturers.