Design Crime: Bike Inspired by the AK-47

Wow! Huh?

The AK-47, that fearsome weapon of mass destruction lugged by everyone from the Taliban and the Vietcong to Sylvester Stallone and Dianne Feinstein, is being put to use in an entirely new racket: bike design.

Yes, one plucky designer fresh from Savannah College of Art and Design, Bryan Walsh, has fired off a bike concept modeled after the ultra-durable construction and rugged looks of the 1947 Avtomat Kalashnikova, the world's most popular — and effective — assault rifle. (It's estimated to pulp a quarter of a million people a year.)

Walsh's design won't let you empty a few magazines on the RAV-4 crowding you in the bike lane. But it will last a long time. It's powered by a hydrostatic drive (as opposed to a standard chain). And with its massive wood frame, we reckon you could still use it as a weapon. If you were so inclined.

Now, before you go and ring the design police (who most certainly do not carry AK-47s), consider this: There's a reason the AK-47 would ignite the imagination of a young, self-described "Small Arms and Accessory Designer" from Beaufort, South Carolina. For all its grisly baggage, the AK-47 is actually a remarkable feat of weapons engineering. It was the brainchild of Mikhail Kalashnikov, a poet and a Soviet Army vet who, wounded at the bloody Battle of Bryansk in 1941, turned his hand to small arms design, vowing never again to let the Russian military suffer defeat. The result of his endeavors was a compact, relatively lightweight selective-fire rifle that could survive mud, sand, or snow and also happened to be obscenely easy to mass produce — a sort of Model T for the munitions industry. Now more than 50 years old, it's still widely manufactured alongside a pageant of AK descendants. Apparently, it can be bought in many countries for the cost of a chicken.

If you leave aside the ethics of engineering one of the world's deadliest weapons — even Kalashnikov has gone on record saying he wishes he had produced something less destructive, like a lawnmower — there is little question that the rifle is a marvel of design, a perfect object for an imperfect world, as the blogger Dave Gray of XPLANE suggests.

That brings us back to Walsh and his Avtomat Hydro-Static Bicycle. We get why he drew inspiration from the AK-47. We don't get why he drew inspiration for the AK-47 to design a bike — and even on its own terms, the bike doesn't exactly scream "AK-47." The AK-47 is a symbol of rugged simplicity, but the actual principles of its design don't add any sort of value — beyond sheer provocation — to the bike. (On the Ed Ruscha continuum, this falls under the "Wow! Huh?" category.) Cement mixers are tough, but you wouldn't design a bike after them. Then again, maybe Walsh has a bright future ahead of him in advertising and marketing? He certainly has a knack for flashy hooks.

[Images via Bryan Walsh]

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  • Sean

    Contrary to a previous comment, I'm not seeing where this article would seem to say that the bike design being reviewed would re-use any parts of an AK47, nor do I know how any bicycle design would, except if for decoration purposes - or else, after simply melting and re-forging the gunmetal.

    This bike certainly doesn't resemble any part of an AK-47, such that I can see - so where's the connection, if except for the sake of kitschy publicity?

    Personally, and in all honesty, I think it's an asinine design. I'm not offended with the article about it, to be sure - just not liking the style of the thing itself.

    I'll certainly stick with more conventional frames, forks, and drive mechanisms, when selecting a new bike, for my own riding.

  • Nate O'Shaughnessey

    If someone would design a bike that recycles the parts of an AK47 to make it, I think that would make a statement and be usefuland green and all that.

  • Michael Moehl

    What an amateur design/concept. It has absolutely no relationship to the AK-47 in anyway, aesthetically or conceptually. The connections between the wood and metal elements will wear and become loose, the metal mono-fork will bend around the first corner and i wouldn't want to sit on that seat long enough to ride down my driveway. Durable, nope. Functional, not a chance. Memorable lasting design....only to be followed by chuckles and giggles.