When it comes to awesome technology from the movie Aliens, it’s hard to beat Ellen Ripley’s duct-taped assembly of flamethrower, pulse rifle and motion sensor, which she puts to excellent use against the alien queen. But it’s another piece of gear used in her epic fight which makes a more lasting impact on the imagination: the exosuit powerloader she weaponizes aboard the warship Sulaco.
Machines which augment the human body in strength, speed and dexterity as seamless extensions of the nervous system are a long-held fantasy of both humans and armies. And it was in a rather unlikely place — M55’s headquarters, an artisanal bicycle workshop in the Budapest suburb of Üröm — that I first came across a machine which I instantly recognized as one of these extensions.
M55’s Terminus is an imposing, uncanny $35,000 contraption which looks and works unlike any bike I’ve ever seen. It’s heavier, too, at 65 pounds, which is offset by the output of an electric motor built into its CNC-milled aluminum frame. Engine power is mashed with your pedaling via a system of sprockets and chains which connect to the crankset. The motor is powered by lithium-ion cells which give it a range of 62 miles.
It was with the ungainly movements of piloting someone else’s ludicrously expensive, very heavy bike that I set off, pedaling as if on eggshells. The dirt road outside M55’s headquarters picks up a slight uphill grade and this is where I first noticed the big bike shedding its weight. In-house software blends the engine’s power with the rider’s, using an rpm-probe to meter output. The production model will have a torque probe for even smoother titration of power.