Welcome Troy! What is your background? Tell us a little about yourself and it might make it easier for us to explain where we’re coming from. For example, are you a Big One rider, and if so do you ride it a lot? Or are you a frame maker, product designer, etc?
I’ll repeat some of the stuff I probably wrote in that earlier thread.
THE ESSENCE OF THE COKER BIG ONE:
The Big One (which we simply call a Coker) has created new categories of unicyclist. Road riding is now much more viable so people use Cokers to train for fitness, to get to work/school, to ride on trails, and to do big tours like the current Laos Tour for charity:
Before the advent of the Coker a few people did these things, but the unicycles were expensive, uncomfortable, trouble-prone, and did I mention expensive? The most important feature of the Coker is the very large pneumatic tire. I have a 45" big wheel from 1982. It’s great in parades and shows, but it runs on a solid rubber wheelchair tire. You feel every nuance of the road surface. Even though my Coker is only 36", it’s a no-brainer which one to use for a long ride. For my former 8-mile commute to work, I might ride my 45" once a year (on Bike to Work Day), but I tried to ride my Coker at least once a week, weather permitting.
So to stay the special vehicle it is, the Big One needs to stay affordable, and have a big, comfy air tire.
FOR THE BASIC MODEL:
Assuming there will be more than one variant, the number one priority for the base, highest-selling model should be keeping the cost down. There is already one competitor in the marketplace, and more are likely to follow. That said, you could make improvements to the base model in a few areas, in order of what I think are importance to sales:
Lose the Viscount seat:
Yuck. Most of the Coker riders I know have upgraded their seats (and I know a lot of Coker riders). The KH is the best seat on the market, but I assume it costs more. It’s available in a range of versions. The seats on the Torker LX (same as Miyata) are also good. The Viscount seat was good for its day, as a replacement for the old-style Schwinn seats in 1986. But it was never more than a bridge between that old seat and the Miyata saddles of the day. I helped design it.
This is probably the cheapest upgrade possible, and would make a major structural improvement to the wheel. My 45" Unicycle Factory wheel measures about 5.25" between the flanges, but it doesn’t feel wide when ridden. Look at old penny-farthing bikes. You need a wide hub to keep your wheel rigid. Stock Cokers are very prone to tacoing. I imagine an order of wider hubs, from the same manufacturer, would have very little cost difference than the usual ones.
That’s a pretty weak rim. Now there are at least two other rims on the market, the airfoil and the one that comes with what Unicycle.com calls the Radial 360 (http://www.unicycle.com/shopping/shopexd.asp?id=822). The airfoil was a custom job for early Coker enthusiasts; the first major Coker-specific upgrade. I don’t know how much it would cost to upgrade the rim, so it’s #3 on my list.
I don’t have any issues with the tire. Yes, it’s heavy. But it’s a specialty tire and it’s supposed to have a long life. Most buyers will want it to be heavy duty, and long life is more important than weight. I like the “classic” tread pattern. I like seeing old cars in museums with the same tread. It works well on the road and on dirt as well. That tire is what makes the Coker a Coker, and I see no need to change the original (as long as you add variations; read on).
There are many ways to go with this, so I’ll campaign for my favorite, and let others suggest their own. The purpose of my “enthusiast” model is to address the Coker’s main useful quality and build upon it. That quality is the large pneumatic tire. Make it bigger, and slant it more toward the enthusiast unicyclist with a deeper pocket.
Wheel diameter around 42". This should be big enough to make a substantial difference over the current 36" version, yet small enough to still fit most adults. Lots of people can fit on my 45" wheel, and the seat doesn’t even go very low!
Narrower tire. The current 36" tire is like a giant cruiser tire, heavy and cushy. It rides really nice, as long as you’re going straight, but it’s quite heavy. If you have a bike background, you know that rotational weight is the most useful area to make savings, especially when it comprises the majority of the cycle. But not too skinny. As you approach road bike dimensions, your ride quality will start to approach that of my 45", which takes a lot of the fun out of the ride. Also it will increase the risk of pinch flats. As I learned with my 45" wheel, the larger the diameter, the more prone the rim is to getting flat spots from hitting bumps or going down curbs. So the tire needs to protect the rim as well as the rider. I think a good compromise would be roughly a 1.5" tire. This should make it lighter than the 36" tire, even at its larger size, and yet still a comfortable ride with enough “gap” between road and rim to help protect it. Maybe 1.75". Also such a tire should steer a lot better, because it would be run at higher pressure. I find the 36" to be very sluggish for turning, compared to my 45" which I can literally spin on a dime. Sorry about the long paragraph!
Rigid rim. As wheels get bigger they get weaker, so strength should be the primary concern. Light is good, but not at the cost of integrity over the long haul. People will use wheels like this to ride to work, to tour, to train, and to race. As this is an enthusiast model, the rim should be alloy. Something like the Airfoil might be the way to go for strength.
Wide hub (see above).
Possibly shorter cranks. 150mm is a good “starter” size for today’s Coker, but most enthusiasts, save those who ride offroad, use shorter cranks. 125s live on mine, and they even work on easy trails. For myself, I think I’d use 125 on a 42" wheel also. But a new one should maybe come with 140s. This will will not be intended for offroad use.
Rigid frame. Today’s Coker uses the least expensive form of decent unicycle frame technology. There’s room for improvement. But I’ll save that for another post.
KH or equivalent saddle.
Consider a saddle mounting scheme that allows for a very low seat height. One possiblity would be a horizontal seat post. Move the seat farther back to increase the effective height. The front end of such a post could be used as a handlebar/brake/computer mount. Again, I’ll save details for a later post.
For any Coker model, options or upgrades would be nice:
My enthusiast design above ignores the trail riders. I don’t know how big a segment of the market that is, but I did not forget them. My thought is that they would stick with 36" and campaign for a MUni (Mountain Unicycling)-specific tire. Something chunkier and maybe wider.
Brake. Great for the downhills! I don’t use mine (on my Deluxe model from Unicycle.com) much, but it’s very handy on those long, steep descents.
Bolt-on handlebar, rack mounts, computer stubs, etc. This goes along with the frame ideas to be written later. But for owners of basic frames, bolt-on accessories would probably be a lot cheaper! Check out the unitours.org web site as a starting place to look at road Cokers.
Okay, I’m out of time. Please hire me to help you design the next generation of Cokers. I have a lot of free time these days, and have been riding big wheel since 1981. You can reach me at the email address below, or give me a call at 916-359-7876.
Me and Cokers:
And I was there in 1998 when David Coker brought a prototype to our National Unicycling Convention.