Bike on water

New water bike model said to be more efficient

Judah Schiller riding his X1 model Schiller Bike in Incline Village.

Judah Schiller riding his X1 model Schiller Bike in Incline Village.

Photo/Sage Leehey

For more information about the X1, visit

Water bikes aren’t new. People have been making them for years, but the sport has never really taken off. Judah Schiller, chief executive officer and founder of Schiller Sports, Inc., believes his new X1 model can help to change that.

Schiller got the idea to make a water bike during a tour of the Bay Bridge. He later made a water bike—a rough one that was basically a road bike on a flotation system—and biked from Oakland to San Francisco across the Bay. Since then his company has released the X1. Its design is a bit more complicated than Schiller’s first water bike, but it’s made with traditional bike parts, can be put together in less than 10 minutes, and weighs less than 50 pounds.

“One of the best things about this bike is any bike mechanic can open this up and identify every single part and know how to fix it,” Schiller said.

Schiller said it’s very efficient, too. It has no right angle gears or rudder. As the rider works the pedals, it turns the propellers, and the handlebars control the direction the propellers are aimed, basically acting as thrusters for the bike. It can also go in reverse easily so the rider can back out of a dock.

The bike transmission is held in a water tight compartment, and the saddle, pedals and handlebars are almost—if not completely—identical to those of a land bike, too. The actual structure is a bit different, though, mostly because of the pontoons on each side. Both are twin-chambered for safety and they allow the bike to float about 400 pounds.

“You can put 50, 70 pounds of camping gear on the back and really be able to go out and explore and find beaches and take your bike to places where other bikes and cars wouldn’t be able to go,” Schiller said.

Schiller said they can customize bikes and have add-ons—like fishing pole mounts and tethers for snorkelers—that customers can choose.

Schiller lives in the Bay area but is currently on a “road show” with the X1. He was recently at Lake Tahoe and said that people seemed intrigued by water biking. He’s also talking to water-side hotels to gauge their interest in having these for guests and said many have expressed interest.

“They would love to see something that’s clean, human-powered, that doesn’t pollute sensitive beachfront areas, that’s sustainable,” Schiller said.

At a price tag of $6,495, it isn’t the cheapest bike you could purchase. But many hard core mountain bikers spend much more on their rides, and it’s less than half the price of a jet ski or wave runner, according to Schiller.

Schiller believes water biking will hit the biking world hard, just like mountain biking did when it became popular. But it will take some time.

“The vision is that water biking will have the same impact on the world of cycling as mountain biking did 40 some odd years ago when it first started,” Schiller said. “Road bikers laughed at the idea. … Ten or some odd years later, mountain biking sales were on par with that of road biking sales. … There are about 1 billion bikes built for land on a planet that is two-thirds water. We live on a blue planet, why not bike across it?”

The biggest difference—and advantage, according to Schiller—of a water bike to a land bike is the way you experience nature.

“When you’re mountain biking, you might see a bird, a squirrel,” Schiller said. “Here, you might see thousands of birds sitting on the water. … You see fish coming up, jumping out in front of you. Where I live in San Francisco, I have been out with dolphins and sea lions.”