Spacelander: Bowden’s Futuristic Bicycle that Failed Badly

Benjamin Bowden designed the Spacelander bicycle for the 1946 exhibition “Britain Can Make It”. The streamlined design was initially called the Classic and was meant to represent the future of bicycle design. Its curving lines and amoeba-like voids mutates the streamlined prewar style into an organic form rather than one made from machine-made forms. The bicycle’s frame was constructed from two steel clamshell halves pressed together into a monocoque, while the fork and mudguard were all one piece. When riding uphill, the hub dynamo stored energy and provided a boost while riding downhill. Batteries powered radio, a horn, and lights inside the frame.

The bike’s unusual appearance initially attracted considerable public interest; however, British bicycle manufacturers were wary of investing in the high level of retooling required to manufacture it. In 1960, Bowden moved to the U.S. to seek backing for the bike, and the production Spacelander was then built in Michigan. The manufacturer suggested molding the bicycle in fiberglass rather than aluminum. Despite keeping the Classic’s futuristic appearance, Bowden abandoned the hub dynamo in favor of a more straightforward sprocket-chain drive system. To capitalize on the Space Race craze, the name was changed to Spacelander.

To meet demand, Bowden had to develop the Spacelander quickly. It was released in five colors in 1960: charcoal black, cliffs of Dover white, meadow green, outer space blue, and stop sign red. The bicycle cost $89.50, making it one of the more expensive models available. A fiberglass frame was fragile, and its unusual design made it difficult for distributors to market it. The production of the Spacelander bicycle was halted after 522 bicycles were fabricated, although the parts were made in larger quantities.

As a collectors’ item, the Spacelander experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1980s. In Pennsylvania, the Bicycle Museum owns 17 of the 38 remaining Spacelanders.

#5 Only 522 Spacelander bicycles were shipped before production was halted.

#6 Bowden showing off his bicycle on September 17, 1946

#7 An ordinary pedal bicycle has two wheels that are joined by steel tubes.

#8 Spacelander was released in 1960 in five colours: Charcoal Black, Cliffs of Dover White, Meadow Green, Outer Space Blue, and Stop Sign Red.

#9 Multicolored Bowden Spacelanders on display at Bicycle Heaven.

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Written by Jacob Aberto

Sincere, friendly, curious, ambitious, enthusiast. I'm a content crafter and social media expert. I love Classic Movies because their dialogue, scenery and stories are awesome.

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