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UCAN – Upcycling as method for micromobility

  • Date: June 9, 2019

  • Skills: Metalwork, Woodwork, Concept, Sustainable

  • Tags:

    Ecological Design, Game, Natural

  • Team: Henrik Barth, Anna Karsai



The 8-week project ‘Upcycling micromobility’ looked at ways to make micromobility in urban areas more sustainable. We researched upcycling as a design approach and the impact of micromobility, and then created a working prototype made from recycled materials.

The idea of upcycling was at the heart of the concept of creating solutions to solve micromobility in an urban setting. By combining both subjects, we can create a sustainable future and inspire other fields of research.


Describes the transportation or commuting under 5 kilometers. Mostly attributed to urban areas or small cities. The means, reasons and needs of transport contribute to this as the lifestyle which change the subcategories of products needed to fulfill a mobility need. E.g. to get grocery one would need a bicycle and shopping bags. Both are valuable contributions to a more sustainable tomorrow and with their own challenges. Therefore all incorporated products and stakeholders in the system should have the least amount of environmental impact or beyond and can be part of design solutions.

Lifestyle solution

Any solution to achieve the desired effect must consider the user’s lifestyle and circumstances. Our target group are urban citizens in the market for micromobility products. The goal is to reduce the climate-negative impact they have while commuting on short distance. One current solution which are the electric scooters seem to even propose more drawbacks through their system design than benefits. Therefore we had to critically look for other ways.

There are many reasons to use a transport solution. It can be for leisure, business, delivery, or for people in temporary or fixed circumstances. These informed our decision on what we wanted our solution to cater for. It doesn’t mean that it needs to be a transportation device, but it can be part of the journey along the way. Think of bags, accessories, safety measures, charging solutions, etc. Our first idea was a bike helmet made out of the parabolic bottom of plastic bottles. This seemed the best solution as it was lightweight and inexpensive, and it would keep plastic parts inside the technical cycle for longer.

Although this sounded promising, we decided to go with a transportation device for leisure time without electrical components. We explored this option in the building processes.


We chose to transform bicycles into rollerskates, inspired from traditional Japanese geta shoes. The process began by gathering old bicycles from the vicinity of our studio, specifically those labeled for disposal by the local waste management. In the metal workshop we discussed and dissassembled these bikes into parts for inspiration for further manufacturing process.

Inspired by the Japanese geta shoes, which are renowned for their wooden shoes with strings attached at three points to secure the wearer’s foot inside, we envisioned a design that incorporated minimalism and versatility. Geta are ideal as they traditionally utilize minimal materials, with their wooden soles and straps making it a good candidate for an adaption with already owned footwear while providing style and functionality.

Isometric illustration of roller skates inspired by japanese geta. 3 lines

Dissassembly of End-Of-Life Product

As a bicycle is made out of many parts that could inspire another product we chose two main components that would serve function for the new product. The aluminium rims holding the tires of the bike seemed perfect as a

We sourced the majority of the components from old bicycle rims to construct the frame of the rollerskate. While contemplating the rollers, we considered utilizing recycled plastics. Typically conventional rollers are made of polyurethane, known for its abrasion resistance and high load-bearing capacity this demanding further research. For our initial prototype, we utilized rollers sourced from other rollerskates.


The construction began with the aluminium rims of the bicycle which were secured by screws to form the base skeleton. A lathed metal rod was utilized to work as the axis for the wheels. Inside the profiles carefully angeled reclaimed woodpieces were set in to build a plateau for the shoes to be held tight. Built from the bicycle tubes the straps were sown together with velcro to build a versatile mechanism to accommodate various shoe sizes. On the front a new part typically found in racing bicycles was incorporated to guarantee a functional prototype.


Naturally we tested the prototype for functionality. It fulfilled most of our expectations having a smooth ride serving as a solid foundation for future development.


Introducing UCAN – an embodiment of the feeling “You can do anything you set your mind to.” Our inventive rollerblades made from reused biycyles, not only promise as a stepstone for a marketable product with unique aesthetic but also create a delightful experience while gliding around.


Lifestyle and context of a product is important to fit them to the specific needs. Diving into material research for upcycling presents a more complex challenge than using virgin material. A deeper investigaation might be neccessary for a market ready product concerning ambitions for sustainability and functionality. There is still a lot of ground to cover as our limitations prevented us from exploring biodegradable and natural materials with potentially lesser environmental impacts.


This experimental research project on upcycling materials for micromobility serves as groundwork for future research and product development. In using seemingly decommissioned products and materials to create new products we showed the viability of this method. Whether this idea feasible is yet to be determined, it gives inspiration to pursue a more sustainable future of inventive approaches for production and recycling.

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