Greensboro, Ind. is home of the “Land Zeppelin,” an invention by local Civil Engineer Jim Gorman, who, after his normal bicycle commute to work was disrupted by rain on November 22 brainstormed on a way to make riding in the rain comfortable and safe.
According to the Greensboro Daily News, Gorman began brainstorming on a green sheet of paper, which he has kept to this day. It contains both writing and, in the lower right corner, an initial sketch of what he has named the Land Zeppelin.
Named after the airship of the late 20th century, the Land Zeppelin is a plastic, see-through cover, roughly the shape of a football — though much larger — that encloses the cyclist and bike and protects him from the rain. The current prototype still has a fiberglass frame, but in the next version, which Gorman hopes to test this spring, the Zeppelin shape will be made of sturdy plastic only, except for the front and rear portions that connect to the bike frame.
Previous prototypes were based on the shape of an egg, but they caused Gorman lots of consternation. A version with a Styrofoam frame proved too weak, and another one made primarily with fiberglass was too heavy, especially with side wind.
In November 2012, about a year after which he had begun the project, he nearly gave up.
“It was obvious it wasn’t going to work,” he told the Greensburg Daily News.
But then he thought about shapes that people were using about a century ago, and he stumbled upon the Zeppelin. The new prototypes work well, so long as wind speeds remain below 15 mph, Gorman said.
When he rides the Land Zeppelin in the rain, Gorman said it feels as though he is cheating the weather.
When the drops rattle on the plastic, Gorman said, it gives him “that cozy feeling of being in a tent.”
The device can be removed from any bike within about two minutes, Gorman said.
Cycling enthusiast Matthew Battin, who co-owns The Bicycle Station in Columbus, said the device might help cyclists who normally would have to skip riding when it rains.