Vintage Velo: 1988 Ultra M.A.C. Alien

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Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Bicycle Times Issue #7, published in September 2010. Words and photos by Jeff Archer.


While watching the Tour de France, I am always struck by the riders’ atrophied upper bodies. Andy Schleck looks like your average 5th grader from the waist up.

Cycling has always been a sport that places a premium on legs and lungs. Being able to bench press 300 pounds would just result in extra mass to haul up the mountains. For a fitness-oriented rider just looking for a total-body workout, the bike can leave a little bit to be desired. Various inventors have tried to address this shortcoming over the years.

Take Corky Phillips, who was a professional beach volleyball player in the late 1980s. Phillips wanted to get a full-body workout while riding back and forth to the beach. After considering riding one day and kayaking the next to balance his workout, he instead came up with the Ultra Mobile Aerobic Cycle (Ultra M.A.C.) Alien.

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The front crank arms move together in a rowing-type motion. The grips and brake levers float on the front crank arm, which makes steering and braking interesting.

For the less adventurous, the crank arms can be locked in place, resulting in a little more traditional ride. A third shifter controls the extra derailleur, which varies the effort up front. The kit added about 6.5 pounds to the bike, and the Alien bike could be purchased for $789 complete, or as a retrofit kit for $449. An August 1988 article mentioned 200 kits/bikes being produced.

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This bike can be seen at the Museum of Mountain Bike Art & Technology which is housed at First Flight Bicycles in historic downtown Statesville, North Carolina. If you can’t visit in person, check out the collection at www.mombat.org.

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