It's pretty impressive that we're still chugging along on human-powered vehicles only a step more high-tech than a velocipede — olde-tyme bikes look basically like the ones we've got today. Why improve on perfection, right? Well, maybe just for the sheer badassery of it. At least, that seems to be the theory behind the Alpha, a high-tech bike designed by UPenn students that is basically a jetpack on wheels.

The Alpha is an engineer's wet dream. Among its features:

  • Lightweight carbon-fiber frame (lighter than a steel frame, even with all the added gadgetry)
  • Onboard computer and handlebar display with real-time bike data (speed, gear status, and so on) — powered by the motion of the front wheel
  • Drive train that allows the bike to switch between freewheeling and fixie
  • Enclosed everything — gears and other tech are protected from the elements

FastCo theorizes that some of these ideas (if not the total package) will end up in commercial production — the project has a LOT of corporate sponsors. 

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