RE: Unicycle.com signs exclusive worldwide distribution agreementfor Schwinn unicycles
> Who did you think your target audience was, normal people?!
I always try to think in terms of a “normal” target audience. Except when
I’m writing on this newsgroup
> Dragging a wheeled device isn’t that hard, really. Carrying it
> up a couple of flights of stairs might suck for the small
> and/or weak.
Indeed. I also hope the thing will drag well with the power off. Hopefully
it will have a “neutral”.
> I love my Honda Odyssey, I do. Provably holds 7 Cokers and 7
> riders, maybe more.
7 and 7, inside? You would at least have to take all the pedals off. I’m
sure it would be quite a squeeze. But then that’s what roof racks are for…
I borrowed my dad’s Odyssey for the NUC last summer in Toronto (driving from
his home in Michigan). Hondas are great, but I like the seating position in
my Caravan better, along with several other details. I think Chrysler still
has the best one, even after several generations of Japanese “improvements.”
The Odyssey is a very close second.
> > “Vehicularly-Injured Sperm-Count seat: better
> > known by it’s abbreviated name, Viscount.” David
> > Stone, on saddle preference
> John, did I read somewhere this morning that you were partly
> responsible for the design of the Viscount seat? Tut.
Uh oh, somebody noticed the irony. Lemme 'splain. Here comes some more
First you have to imagine a world in which the best commonly available seat
was the Schwinn. It was comfortable enough, but it had no handle and it
“ate” itself every time you dropped it. Schwinn seats and duct tape were
like peanut butter and jelly. Remember, this was a world where the only way
to get a unicycle was to go to a bike shop. And people in bike shops mostly
(even today) knew little or nothing about unicycles.
Common seats available at the time were:
- Square Messenger seat, or similar (on most older Japanese unicycles)
- Savage-style bendy seat (without metal bumpers either)
- Bike seats, such as on the Schwinn’s predecessor, the Loyd
- Home-made stuff
But what about the Miyatas? Miyata seats, with their plastic bumpers, were
first seen in the USA in 1980. The Japanese team brought them to the USA
National Meet in Kokomo. I think you could buy them starting in late 1980.
BUT ONLY IF:
a: You knew they existed
b: You knew who Bill Jenack was (you had to order them from him)
More than 99% of the unicyclists in the country did not know about the
Miyatas. You generally never found out about them unless you went to
unicycle meets. They made their way into a small number of stores, but were
never popular because they were too expensive for bike shops to stock.
So we knew there was a better way to make a unicycle seat. And when Schwinn
came to us (the early IUF, in late 1984), it was a chance to try and talk
them into some improvements. I focused on the seat, while Tom Miller made
all the other suggestions that Schwinn used.
I made drawings. Top, front, rear, and side views. The idea was to keep the
patented Schwinn shape (they were proud of their seats, and always mentioned
“patented” in the catalogs), but to get some kind of protection against
drops, and a handle on there.
Handle? The Miyata seats had a handle, because it was much easier to grip
the bottom of the bumper than to grip the flat bottom of a Schwinn seat.
That’s what we thought a handle was until Miyata put a handle on the front
of their handle, in the early 90s or so.
So I basically drew a Schwinn seat with some aesthetically-shaped bumpers.
What I drew was shaped more or less exactly like the Viscount seats of
today. I did not offer any structural suggestions, such as not using screws
that would fall out.
In those days I lived in Michigan. My friends and I rode all through the
winter, and occasionally the cold would cause our Miyata bumpers to crack or
shatter. One thing you can say about the Viscount bumpers, they don’t. They
may fall off, but that can be fixed with some bigger screws.
Schwinn sent the IUF three of the new Schwinns in the summer of 1986. A 20"
and a 24" to test, and another 24" to give away as a prize at UNICON II. I
still have the blue seat from one of them, though I don’t know what became
of the rest of them. The early blue seats were much softer than the black
(20") ones, but I wasn’t particularly a big fan of either. The black seats
on the 20" were rocks.
Though we tested the “test” unicycles, the design was already settled and
quantities of the unicycles had probably already been ordered. So I guess
they were interested in our feedback, but it wasn’t going to change that
generation of unicycles.
The bumper provided a handle of sorts, but only two fingers of an adult hand
fit under there.
Compared to the previous Schwinn seats, the Viscount is a big improvement.
But Schwinn did what virtually every large unicycle manufacturer has done
over the years when designing new stuff. THEY DIDN’T INVOLVE UNICYCLISTS IN
THE PROCESS. They asked us up front, but then my assumption is that they
sent copies of my drawings to the company that made the seats for them,
tried a sample, and ordered vast quantities. If they tested these things
with unicyclists during the design process, I have no idea who they were.
Neither does Tom Miller. In any case, we were happy to see an improved seat
Miyata has by far the best-engineered unicycle seats in the world, because
they have been using input from experienced riders for 20 years now. They
have also made the most design changes I’ve seen in any unicycle seat over
the years. This is part of why they are expensive.
Now Kris Holm is working with Velo on what may be the “next generation”
seat, again built on the strengths of the Miyata design, but surely
addressing some of its weaknesses. Who better than Kris to know what’s
needed in a unicycle seat? The design may turn out to lean toward MUni and
Trials people, but I’m sure it won’t be too bad for the rest of the
unicycling world as well. I can’t wait to see one.
Stay on top,
John Foss, the Uni-Cyclone
“You’re not supposed to wash your Roach armor” - Nathan Hoover, on safety
equipment cleaning methods