RE: Coker History?
> this. The Coker tire already existed as a tire for some
> antique auto, a 1903 Oldsmobile or something like that.
I hadn’t heard that it was a pre-existing car tire, but that makes sense.
For those not familiar with the Coker Tire Company, they specialize in rare,
unusual, and out-of-production tires. Go to most any auto museum that has
really old cars, and you’ll see Coker tires on at least one of them. Notice
you will often see the same tread pattern as on the Coker unicycle tire.
Look for white tires with that raised-oval pattern.
> monster cruiser bike. (The Coker bike is supposed to be very
> squirrley and the frame is notoriously cheap - a bike shop
> guy I know claims you can easily fold the frame. Sound familiar.)
I haven’t ridden one, but I know a guy who occasionally commutes to work on
his. I pass him on my way to work. He’s the owner of The Rest Stop, an
unusual bike shop that sells everything but bikes. He rides probably 10
miles or more each way.
> then had something to do with convincing Coker that there
> would be a market for big wheel, air tire unicycles.
Hmmm. You’d have a hard time convincing me of this, and I’m probably more
familiar with the so-called unicycling “market” (there’s a lot more of a
market today than there was even four years ago). But then again, Coker is
in the business to make specialty stuff, not mainstream stuff. A unicycle
makes perfect sense for them.
David Stone mentioned meeting a guy who also claimed to have presented this
idea to Coker. I wonder if he was one of the Huebner brothers? David and
Daniel Huebener made a big splash at UNICON III in Tokyo in 1987, but I
don’t think they came to any big unicycling events after that. They were
from the LA area. I’m not sure if they were both at UNICON II (Long Island),
but at least one of them was. In any case, anybody can come up with an idea
(“You should do so-in-so”). The real work is in making it a reality. I would
be very interested to hear from David Coker how the idea developed.
Either or both claimants could have had an effect on Coker’s decision to
make unicycles. They may not have decided to do it until later than the
unicyclists’ suggestions, making it look like Coker “stole” the idea. But if
the idea was to make big wheeled unicycles, that’s what they did.
> The first Coker “Big One” appeared at the '98
> NUC in Monrovia, CA.
I can’t remember the details now, but I was contacted by Coker about 6
months before this, to offer comments on the unicycle they intended to
manufacture. My main comment was to lose the Savage-type seat, which was
probably something that came with the Taiwanese frames they were using. I
can’t remember if the original production models had them, or Viscount
In addition I was concerned about the quality of the thing. Cheap parts, on
a relatively weak wheel (the larger a spoked wheel it, the generally weaker
it is) sounded like something that wouldn’t hold up well to adult use.
When I got to see and try it for real in Monrovia, I thought it was a
nice-cushy ride, though I had to pump the tire way up to get it to turn
reasonably well. Part of this was probably based on my experience with
hard-tire big wheels. Generally you ride a big wheel unicycle in straight
lines (unless you’re a performer like me). I was also concerned by the hub,
as I have mentioned here before. It appeared to be a standard unicycle hub,
which is too narrow to offer the proper side-strength to such a large wheel.
So though I was impressed with the low price of the Coker Big One, I was
dubious about how well they would hold up.
The demonstration Coker at NUC '98 was won by Gilby (who annoyingly won the
one that was raffled off in '99 as well). I think it was a few months before
more were available, at which time many people had placed their orders.
But then the Big One did two things I didn’t expect:
It held up to adult use. There were some issues with bearings, and nobody
expected it to be indestructible, but some people were starting to crank out
thousands of miles on them and they were holding up just fine. Better than I
It created a new category of unicyclist. This category wasn’t totally
new, but previous to the Coker there was no easy (or cheap) way to get a big
wheel unicycle. My Tom Miller 45" actually took a year from order to
delivery, and today would probably cost a minimum of $800. With the advent
of a $300 big wheel, and the ability to easily order it online, people
snapped them up and started communicating about what they were doing with
them. A culture of Cokerheads emerged. It became clear that there was a
percentage of unicyclists who were into pure road riding (what bicyclists
would call “roadies”).
So the Coker Big One made a once-obscure category of unicycling available to
anyone. In the future I expect to see more Coker-specific racing, and even
some Coker, or big wheel-only unicycle events.
Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
“If people want to truly understand mountain biking, they have to do two
other things: ride a unicycle, and master the trampoline.” – Joe Breeze,
one of the originators of mountain biking, in a conversation with Tim Bustos