Hydrofoil cycling is among the more intriguing young water sports out there, but it can also be rather intimidating for the uninitiated. Something seems quite unnatural about trying to balance a narrow frame on top of water while at the same time pedaling vigorously to lift it up out of that water, then trying hard to keep it hovering and balanced. But what if you could sit on a stable platform similar to a kayak, lean back and pedal your way to launching the high-flying, low-drag glide for which hydrofoils are prized? That’s the formula French company JetCycle uses to pull the intimidation factor out, and it looks like something more people could get into.
Instead of borrowing a high, saddled design from the bicycle industry, the way other foil and non-foil water bikes do, JetCycle looks to the boat industry for the design of its Max foil. It centers the Max around a sleek composite hull crafted using a vacuum infusion layup carefully honed for a mix of low weight and optimal stiffness. The rider gets to sit low and steady on top of a stable platform that looks much more like a rear-seated sit-atop kayak than a two-wheeler frame.
If it weren’t for its prominent carbon fiber foil wings, we might mistake the Max for a pedaled kayak like Hobie’s well-established MirageDrive lineup. But those wings are what sets it apart from other pedal crafts, lifting the entire body out of the water and letting it propel smoothly over the surface.
In contrast to the pedal-assist electric layouts that feature on some other water bikes, the 11-ft-long (3.4-m), 77-lb (35-kg) Max is 100 percent human-powered, relying solely on the rider’s pedaling to spin the patented variable-pitch propeller at the rear. The rider’s power is transferred through an efficiency optimized Gates belt drivetrain with components routed internally through the keel.
The pedals are adjustable to dial fit in around recommended rider heights between 4.9 and 6.6 feet (1.5 and 2 m). Riders steer and also adjust foil pitch for lift-off using simple handles on either side of the vessel. Lifting and gliding over the water requires the rider to maintain speeds of 5.6 mph (9 km/h).
JetCycle tells us the Max is available for a retail price of €12,000 (approx. US$11,675). The company has also been focusing on demo events and rental fleets in France, something we’d definitely want to take advantage of ahead of putting that kind of money into an activity that’s quite different from any other we’ve tried. It certainly looks like a good, fun workout, though.
This video from France’s Inosport show earlier this year focuses in on the JetCycle Max for a better look at its components and also provides some footage of the foil in action. If you speak as little French as we do, you can get auto-translated subtitles in the video settings menu for some audio context.