Seacoast Scene, Wednesday,

[The following article is courtesy of Seacoast Scene.]

Lowell vacationers enjoy their time aboard the Cobi so much that they are determined to make it part of their daily ritual of beach thrills.

What has seven seats, four wheels and smiles? The COBI, of course!

"Yes, it turns heads and causes smiles," said Kobi Bosunga, the manager of Bike & Walk Your Health Up, LLC, and Crazy Bikes, located at the corner of L and Ocean Boulevard. "Even though the current model was perfected in 2002, it is still unique enough to cause people to stare, smile, and wonder. I want them to do more than that. I want them to try it. It truly is an experience like no other."

"To begin, the COBI is no relation," Bosunga laughed. "COBI stands for 'conference bike,' for that is one of its many uses. Many firms rent a COBI to enjoy a sort of short-term team effort. Each rider is involved, yet each is relaxed. Hands are generally free, so business can be conducted, and, of course, time does fly when you're having fun. Before the group realizes it, they have taken the 1 ½ mile circuit from L to the Ashworth Avenue turn and back again."

"The unit weighs 485 pounds. One person could peddle it, but it would certainly put a strain on him or her. More people equal less work and more fun. You can't beat that equation. You may be surprised to learn that between 100-150 persons grace the seats of the COBI each day in summer. It really is a popular attraction on the beach."

"Bringing it to Hampton took a bit of an effort," said Bosunga, who spent his formative years in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. "I had to convince the town fathers that a four-wheel contraption that seated seven people was perfect for the Hampton Beach tourist season. I'm pretty sure it took just one ride and they were hooked . . . all at the same time!"

"I didn't come up with the idea for the COBI," said Bosunga, a graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. "Like so many others, I was a victim of the economy. I was studying in Germany, and I happened to run into Eric Staller, the artist/inventor. He was just returning from Holland. We were both fascinated by the fact that both Holland and Germany are so heavily into bicycles. Moreover, they are into health and having a healthy lifestyle. Eric shared his concepts for urban UFOs and was convinced he could combine art and function for a feasible means of transportation. I believe he succeeded rather well. Today, there are nearly 500 COBIs in 19 countries, and 15-20 people are requesting purchase information each week. At a cost of $14,500 per unit, that definitely shows a global interest in the product."

In a recent phone conversation, Staller was delighted with the evolution of his urban UFOs. From the light-covered VW Beetle to the COBI and beyond, Staller definitely believes he is creating functional transportation for the post-petroleum era of the world. Additionally, he continues to be amazed at the variety of organizations and uses for the COBI.

"It is a form of mobile group therapy," said Staller. "The Veterans Association has ordered them for group rehabilitation. Google has three on its campus to facilitate brain-storming. In some cases, it has replaced school busses for groups of individuals with disabilities. "Of course, safety is the prime consideration, and the COBI is amazingly sturdy. It has wonderful easy steering, a great braking system, headlights, and blinking rear lights for night driving."

"The best thing about the COBI, however, is the fun factor," said Bosunga. "No matter how many groups I peddle past The Purple Urchin, I always manage to get smiles, waves, and chuckles from the crowd gathered on the second floor. Unknowingly, people strolling along by the Band Shell will stop in their tracks to watch as a COBI goes by."

"But the COBI isn't without its problems here at the beach," said Bosunga. "The speed limit along the waterfront is 20-25 mph. At top speed, a COBI might travel 15 mph. Most likely, it is doing a comfortable 8-10 mph. This obviously slows some motorists. Some motorists want to snap pictures or converse. Again, this slows traffic just a bit. When I hear that kind of flak, I tell folks to find their friends; climb aboard; relax and chat. You just may live longer. And, you just may live a little happier, too!"

"Surprisingly, a lot of people really do take my advice."

Dracut High School cheerleaders take a break from their Team Beach Day activities to join Kobi Bosunga on the Cobi.

Kobi Bosunga, manager of Bike & Walk Your Health Up, LLC, takes a breather from the crowds that swarm his seven-seaters.