For naturopathic physician, Dr. Kevin Murray, living a healthy and ecologically responsible lifestyle is infused into all aspects of his life. When his teenage son was thinking of purchasing his first vehicle, he wondered if there was a cleaner and more sustainable alternative.
“When my son turned 15, we decided that we didn’t want another car in the family when he turned 16. We started searching around for alternative vehicles and we came across a velomobile, which is a three-wheeled recumbent style bicycle that has an outer shell,” he explains. “None of them suited our needs for all-year use in New England. We thought, let’s try making our own!”
In 2012, Murray and his son Nevin started putting together a prototype using throwaway parts. As things progressed, they started refining their process more and more. Eventually they thought, “let’s do this right and see if we can manufacture them in the future!”
When it was time to build the body of the velomobile, they had very specific criteria when it came to the epoxy they were going to use.
“We were not going to do this if we had to use a polyester resin or a typical epoxy, mostly out of the health concerns,” Murray says. “We had to find a low or no Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) epoxy if we were going to do it. We tested a bunch and the reason we chose EcoPoxy is because of its Gel Coat.”
The gel coat creates the outer surface of the body of the vehicle. If your mold is smooth and shiny, the surface of your part will appear smooth and shiny too when you apply the gel coat to the inside of the mold. Another bonus is that the gel coat comes in a variety of colors, eliminating the need to use toxic paint to color the surface.
“It’s really flexible, particularly combined with the hemp cloth we use. You can bump into the side of the garage with the bike and not do a lot of damage,” he explains. “It’s not brittle like a lot of epoxies tend to be. This combination works out to be very flexible and very strong,” says Murray.
The name of their company is Better.Bike and their velomobile is called “The Bolt”. It offers many luxurious features that come stock on all models including; a fully enclosed body, suspension, easily removable and stowable doors, reverse, cruise control, adjustable seat, steering handle and pedals, full lighting, a trunk with lots of storage space and a passenger bench seat. There’s even the option to install a heater, fan, sunroof, solar power roof, functional dashboard and more! It’s an all-season vehicle and can even navigate through moderate snow.
“It’s a tripod; it’s got three points of contact with the road so it’s not going to tip over as opposed to a regular bicycle on the snow where the front wheel wants to go out and you want to go down,” Murray explains. “With three wheels, it doesn’t happen.
So how did they come up with the name “Bolt”?
“The Bolt eludes to many things: It’s made of nuts and bolts. If you want to get anywhere quickly, you say ‘we’re going to bolt there’,” he says. “There’s also the reference to electricity.
Better.Bike isn’t just a hobby for Murray – it’s become a second job and a family venture. And they see big opportunities for Better.Bike in the future.
“We have sold a few of the prototypes and as soon as we make and sell a couple more, we are going to go into production.”
His son Nevin, who is an integral part of the operation, is hoping to study mechanical engineering or renewable energy at the University of Massachusetts. He plans to live on his parents’ property in a tiny house he is currently building on a trailer. And, of course, he plans to commute to school in his Bolt.
“It is the most fun thing to ride around in,” laughs Murray. “The thumbs up, the smiles, the questions and pictures are a lot of fun. People are just amazed by it!”