I have written previously about Kiwi inventions that have made life more exiting for people around the world. Afterall, it was a kiwi inventor who came up with the bungy jump, the jet boat, the ski plane, the Zorb and Blocart and the Aquada, a car that converts to a boat. Now, a new Kiwi invention is about to excite the world’s thrill seekers – the hydro e-bike. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 is a pedal-powered vehicle that lets you ride on water much like you’d ride a wheeled bicycle on land. It is the marriage of a boat an aircraft and an e-bike.

Hydro e-Bike (Manta5)

The water bike was the dream of kiwi cycle fan Guy Howard-Willis who believed if you can bike on land, why not bike on water! He joined forces with bike designer Roland Alonzo who believed his dream could become a reality. The pair formed Manta5 in the Waikato town of Cambridge where they build the water bikes and already some are in use at New Zealand resorts. The Hydrofoiler XE-1 is essentially a waterproof electric bike with pedal assist technology generating 400 watts of power. Below water, the bike is a cross between a plane and a boat.


Manta5’s profile exploded internationally when their prototype for the hydro bike won Gold in the Concept Category at the 2017 Best Awards. It also made waves with visitors to the 2020 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Held in January this year before the world shut down, there were 4,500 exhibiting companies. For the Kiwi invention to be the number one in Google searches on the first day of the event, indicates the huge interest the bike generated. The carbon fibre machine (weighing only 20kg) is the ultimate boy’s toy for those who like to be noticed. Over 350 million have viewed the bike’s video on Facebook alone. I’d suggest the $7,500 water bike will be a big seller with image conscious people in cities like Dubai, Los Angeles, Rio and Cannes – all cities with plenty of beaches to show off the water bike. Being serviceable in both salt and fresh water lakes around the world are also targeted as potential playgrounds for the unique bike.


Instead of wheels, the Hydrofoiler XE-1 is equipped with a pair of 2m (6ft 7ins) wide hydrofoils which are designed to function like wings in the water. As you pedal to activate a propeller, water passes over these wings and creates lift, much like airplane wings create lift as they travel through air. This action lifts the bike up out of the water and at a speed of 20kph (12.5mph), the only part of the bike touching the water is the hydrofoils themselves. (Future models will be able to gain more speed.) Because there is only a small portion of the bike’s frame touching the water when you’re foiling, the amount of drag you experience is significantly reduced. This means it takes less energy to move the bike forward through the water. In other words, it gets easier as you start going faster. The production model is motor assisted making it attractive to riders of modest fitness levels.

Drew Prindle, editor of Digital Trends, a website that informs consumers on new trends, took a ride on the water e-bike and his review said: “The riding experience is unlike anything I’ve ever felt before. Sure, it’s relatively similar to riding a bike because you’re sitting on a seat, holding handles, and pedalling, but the feel of it is entirely different. The steering is more fluid and drifty than a wheeled bike, much in the same way that steering a boat feels more slippery and imprecise than steering a car. But along with that fluid steering, the XE-1 also has the playful feel of a mountain bike, mixed with the supremely smooth gliding sensation you get from a surfboard. It’s simultaneously familiar and foreign, which makes for an absolutely exhilarating ride that sticks with you long after you’re done. I eagerly await the future where these badboys are available for rent at lakeside recreation spots all over the world, and those dumpy pedal boats are finally replaced by a worthy successor.(

It is heartening to see another fun New Zealand invention receiving so much interest around the developed world. New Zealand is fast becoming a hub for leading edge technologies and is taking its place with the movers and shakers in Silicon Valley and even Hollywood (with its visual effects success). If you want to try the latest sports toy, get on your water bike!!!

Ceidrik Heward

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