Professor brings style to Stanford campus with the Full Body Bicycle


The Stanford campus has no shortage of bikes. On a typical school morning, Escondido Road may look more like a freeway traffic jam than a college street, with students frantically pedaling towards the classroom. But in the midst of a sea of ​​Stanford bikers, an 80-year-old engineering professor stands, or rather sits, aside. At Stanford, most students will have encountered Professor Richard Reis MA ’69 Ph.D. ’71 while pedaling his original invention, the Full Body Bicycle.

“The idea behind the bike is to give me a full body workout”, Reis said, who noticed that a regular bike did not work his upper body. The Full Body Bicycle design allows the arms to propel the bike while providing an upper and lower body workout, he added.

The project, which began as a homework assignment for Reis’ mechanical engineering class, has become an emblem of his work at Stanford. Reis emphasizes the importance of enjoyable exercise.

In 2003, construction of the improved bicycle began with two identical bicycles. Reis and his students in ME 113: “Mechanical Engineering Design” took one of the bikes apart and inserted the rear wheel of the first bike into the front of the new bike.

Reis joked that the rest of the finalized complete bike consisted of “all the other things that just got cut from the previous bike from the bike that was ‘sacrificed’.”

Throughout its 18-year history, the invention has encountered many bumps in the road.

In early versions of the bike, Reis discovered that chains were coming loose and asked others not to ride it for long periods of time. Over the years, however, Reis managed to resolve the mechanical issues, but still decided not to market the bike.

“The idea was to put it on and not make a business out of it,” Reis said.

In the morning, before heading to campus, Reis rides the bike in the back of his car. He parks a few kilometers from campus and gets off the bike to continue his travels.

On his way to class, Reis draws a wide variety of reactions from spectators, ranging from “putting their thumbs up in passing, to saying ‘This is really cool’, to you know,” Can I take a picture of it? “Just the full range of responses,” he said.

“The invention of the bicycle, the ride of the bicycle, the tireless explanation of the bicycle to curious spectators and the absolute joy it derives from the three, I think, goes a long way towards summing up who my father is and how he touches others.” said Reis’ daughter, Deanna Baresova.

Since joining the Stanford community, Reis has made a number of inventions, some for academic purposes and others for his personal enjoyment. Grandfather’s take-out box, which Reis’ grandchildren inspired him to invent, is a box close to his heart.

Items in the box include toasters, bike parts, and more. Reis provides his grandchildren with wire cutters and scissors, among other tools, to take apart and rebuild objects, just like he did with the Full Body bike.

Reis’ mentorship to students and family members is driven by his passion to watch what the younger generations can accomplish, he said. The challenges Reis faced in developing his projects have never deterred him from pursuing his work, a value he says he tries to instill in his students every time he teaches.

“Don’t hold back for perfection,” he said. “Just start doing it and it will change over time. “

Going to class on his Full Body Bicycle, Reis said he often thought of BJ Thomas’ “The Raindrops Falling On My Head”. For Reis, the song is the unofficial Full Body Bicycle theme song – encapsulating not only her journey with creation, but her life at Stanford as well.

As the song says, “But there’s one thing I know / The blues they send to meet me / Won’t beat me, it won’t be long before happiness comes to greet me.”


Wiley C. Thompson