Pricey Water Bike Makes a Splash

Judah Schiller, Waterbike
Judah Schiller, inventor of Schiller X1 water bike, gives a demonstration at St Francis Yacht Club (Mark Andrew Boyer / KQED)

Mill Valley resident Judah Schiller pedaled into the national spotlight last fall when he attached a pair of pontoons to a road bike and rode it across San Francisco Bay. He repeated the feat in New York by crossing the Hudson River. Schiller later formed a company, Schiller Sports, and on Friday he released a model of a high-end water bicycle, now available for sale.

At the public unveiling at San Francisco's St. Francis Yacht Club, Schiller perched on the bike and took questions from the press while floating next to one of the docks. "Bringing a bike onto the water is not an easy endeavor," he said. "There are many engineering challenges, from propeller design to the framework of the bike itself."

Judah Schiller's waterbike

It took Schiller and his team about three months to develop the bike and bring it to market. And although there are several other water bikes out there, Schiller says his is the most state of the art.

"There's a bit of hot-rod motorcycle engineering to this," said Schiller, noting that the bike features two propellers, eliminating the need for a rudder and enabling riders to make sharp turns. The bike floats on a pair of inflatable pontoons, and it can be ridden forward and backwards. Setting up and breaking down the bike takes about 10 minutes, and it can fit in the trunk of a car.

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The bike's top speed is about 10 mph, and riders will likely need every bit of that speed when going against strong winds and currents in the bay and on the ocean. Schiller says it takes about 30 minutes to bike across the bay -- about the time it takes to cross the Bay Bridge during rush hour. Although the bike might appeal to Bay Area commuters, Schiller expects the bike to be used primarily for recreation.

With an introductory price of $6,500, the Schiller X1's target buyers will likely be limited to cycling enthusiasts with deep pockets. Schiller also expects hotels to be interested in buying the bikes in order to lease them to guests. The company will offer an upgraded "Founder’s Edition" for $8,775, which will be wet-dipped in mirrored chrome to reflect the surrounding environment.

The company plans to roll out different products in the future, and perhaps a less expensive model.

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"We have our eyes set on how to build the sport of water biking," Schiller said. "There will be future products down the road, and we're already thinking about how we can make this accessible to more people."

Judah Schiller's waterbike
Judah Schiller, inventor of Schiller X1 water bike, gives a demonstration at St Francis Yacht Club (Mark Andrew Boyer / KQED)

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