Have bike, will travel. There's no doubt Henry Chong of Toronto has been going places since inventing the LIFE bike, a motorized two-wheeler whose name spells out its attributes: lightweight, intelligent, flexible and electric.
"It's an ultralightweight and compact bike designed for urban commuters to give them the easiest way of going from point A to point B without breaking a sweat," explains the 48-year-old married father of one who created the bike as part of his undergraduate thesis project in industrial design at the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto in 2007.
The flagship product of Revelo Bikes Inc., a company run with his older sister Mary, the LIFE bike has reaped four design awards during its brief time on the road, including the 2012 MaRS Up-Start! competition, which came with a cash prize of $10,000.
Chong, a Hong Kong native, welcomes the attention as proof that he made the right choice in abandoning a 20-year career in information technology to become an industrial designer. He prepared for the career change by taking night school courses in graphic design, painting and illustration.
His first degree is in math and computer science, helpful when calculating the additional advantages of the LIFE bike. "It is projected to weigh 15 kilograms, including the lithium battery used to operate it," he says.
"Basically, it gets up to 30 kilometres on five cents of electricity. That's the equivalent of 30,000 [kilometres] a gallon if the bike were a car."
But it isn't a car, which is why these compact wheels are hot. Made with today's ecological and economically sensitive times in mind, the LIFE bike is going where no other bicycle has yet dared.
"There are currently 150 million electric bikes in use worldwide," Chong points out, "but I believe no one has yet created a design best suited for how people live in cities like Toronto, in small spaces as dictated by condos."
He said there's a need for an agile and convenient bike that can fit into the limited infrastructure of urban homes and city bike lanes, offering himself up as the one for the job. "We hope to be lead innovators in this area," he says.