Izhar Gafni's Cardboard Bicycle
2012/12/07
By : Ruth Eglash
Izhar Gafni smiles and shakes his head in wonder when asked about the whirlwind of events that have taken place since news of his revolutionary cardboard bicycle first made international headlines a few weeks ago.

"It's all happened so fast, and we did not expect it at all," exclaims Mr. Gafni, a heavyset man who displays all the qualities of an archetypal inventor - a rapid, if somewhat erratic thought process; a tendency to forget the point he is trying to make; and pure delight when describing his next challenge or idea.

Gafni, who has not had even a minute to consider how to properly market or promote his lightweight and extremely low-cost bicycle, has instead spent the best part of the past several weeks entertaining journalists and television crews, responding to throngs of cycling enthusiasts, and starting to develop potential business partners who have contacted him from around the globe.

Those who have visited Gafni's home and workshop in Moshav Ahituv, a settlement near Hadera on Israel's northern coast, and witnessed the colorful 20-pound bicycle in action agree that this two-wheel creation could revolutionize cycling in general and enhance methods of transportation in the developing world in particular.

"I know that on one side people are interested in having the fastest and latest technology, but I also think there is a real need and a craving for things like this that are simple and easy to use," says Gafni, likening his simplistic bicycle to a wristwatch.

"People don't really need watches anymore: They have clocks on their TVs, on their computers, and even on their phones, but everyone still wants one because it's useful and looks good," he quips.

We are sitting together in what could only be described as a typical inventor's backyard. Pieces of his previous creations are strewn across the grass, while a mismatch of various unsuspecting items make do as garden furniture - the driver's seat from an old, worn-out car; an oversized wooden spool that was most likely used to store wire; and a few wooden crates for the stream of visitors to sit on.

A few feet to the right of Gafni's modest house sits the run-down workshop where he spent numerous hours over the past year and a half trying to turn simple pieces of cardboard into a material strong enough and durable enough to be used for building a multipurpose bicycle.

Just a few yards from the small shed's crooked door stands the much-talked-about invention. There is no doubt that it is an attractive gadget. The large seat is spray-painted an inviting shade of cherry red, while the wheels and frame - a shiny pale blue - sparkle in the sun.

While it is clearly less high-tech than many of the bicycles on the market today, Gafni's design has most of the same practical features. In addition, he says, the bike will soon have an environmentally friendly brake system and a pedaling mechanism that he is currently developing using a variety of recyclable materials.

All will be revealed in the coming months, promises Gafni, who has created a company based on his unique designs called I.G. Cardboard Technologies.

Getting to this point in the development of his cardboard bicycle has been a labor of love. As an amateur cycling enthusiast, Gafni was inspired to create a bicycle using common cardboard following a visit four years ago to a local cycling store, he says.

"We were all chatting in the store, and somehow started discussing how someone had built a canoe out of cardboard," he recalls. "It was this canoe that was sitting in the back of my head when it suddenly struck me: Why not make a bicycle out of cardboard, too?"

Even though friends and experts warned him that it could not be done, Gafni refused to give up, growing ever more determined to take on what appeared to be an impossible challenge.

"There is really no knowledge of how to work with cardboard except for using it to make packages," he explains, describing how he started to explore the material, which is essentially made from wood pulp, folding it in a variety of ways like origami and adding a mixture of glue and varnish to get it to the strength he desired.
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