Forget Looking Sweet Upon the Seat of a Bicycle Built by Raino Frischknecht

updated 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/28/1983 AT 01:00 AM EST

Well, sure, Raino Frischknecht's microbikes have flaws. They're hard to ride and not awfully comfortable. They have but one speed—slow. But think of their advantages: They'll snuggle into car glove compartments and be handily available when you run out of gas. And should you lose your balance on one, Raino points out helpfully, "You don't have far to fall."

Frischknecht, 33, a technician at Philips, an electronics company in Zurich, Switzerland, likes little things. The 5'7" inventor lives in a minihouse in a small village with a diminutive wife. His job? Developing miniaturized components, of course.

He developed lilliputian bikes while pursuing a hobby, performing as a carnival clown. For his act the garage mechanic's son has constructed such wondrous vehicles as a motorized violin case, some miniature motorcycles—and, of course, his microbikes. His latest and littlest number is only 3.9 inches long. That is one-third shorter than the smallest pedal pumper now listed in the Guinness Book of World Records, a six-incher built by Las Vegas circus performer Charlie Charles.

Though Frischknecht's fuel-thrifty genius hasn't earned him much money, it has taken him pretty far nonetheless. As a performer, he has graduated from playing country fairs to big-time TV guest appearances all over Western Europe. In January he took his act to Jamaica and Brazil. Lately he's been pondering a new gizmo: a micro-bike built for two.

Perhaps fortunately for the world at large, Frischknecht has no plans for bringing his inventions to market.

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