June 14, 2006
Do you remember what it feels like…
to hit the ‘Submit Order’ button confirming your new unicycle purchase
to anticipate a UPS truck stopping in from of your house with your big box
to pull out the shiny new frame, wheel, seat and pedal box
to decide what to do with yet another Unicycle.com & Banjo.com sticker
to assemble & tighten everything just perfect - twice
to carefully perform a LevelOne test ride
to UPD and hear that hideous CLANK of unicycle against concrete
This is my story - hope you enjoy it!
Last year, I met a guy riding his unicycle down a trail in Colorado. His arms were flailing like crazy, but totally in control. I said to him “Nice!..man, I could never do that”. He replied back, “With that attitude, you never will”. Hmmmm, was he right. The very next weekend, I stopped by my local bike shop and bought their dust covered Torker LX 24. First upgrade was a nicer Bontrager tire. I felt stoked to ride my new unicycle- kept thinking it’s all about attitude; it’s ALL about attitude.
After doing a total 'flat onto my arse’ UPD, I limped to the computer to do some, quote, research. One site indicated it took 5-15 hours to learn to ride. So 30 hours later, I still wasn’t getting it. Undeterred… one day it just happened; I went from falling to riding. My equipment had taken quite a beating; the worst damage was to the pedals. I put on another pair with pins and instantly felt improved. Sadly, in no time at all, they were loose too. But hey, I was riding a UNICYCLE.
About this time, my two nephews got the urge to start learning. Our first uni event was NAUCC in Bowling Green, Ohio. Nationals were a huge eye opener. We arrived with 3 unis and left with 7 (thanks to Unicycle.com). Now 4 of us were riding LevelOne and 2 more just starting. The single component being replacing more than anything else was pedals. So… I had this stupid idea to try and make the pedals last longer. My first attempt was cutting a piece of hose and stuffing it into the openings on the side of the pedals. It actually worked pretty well, but kept falling out. Next I tried gluing some rubber on the end of the pedal. That worked good too, but one fell off somewhere on our muddy trail. After that, I searched like crazy for anything that might work. I realized there was nothing out there or even patented… hmmmm.
In November 2005, the idea was born to develop a product solution. I called John & Amy Drummond at unicycle.com to share the idea. They seemed to like it, and even suggested a target price. Amy came up with the name pedal protectors. First we made drawings, then prototype molds. Initial parts were made from tire rubber in January 2006. They worked great and didn’t fall off. The only drawback was it took 30 minutes to make a set of two and they looked pretty dull. But the real shocker was a production mold quote of $8000. I was about ready to give up and go back to my old life of replacing pedals whenever they were trashed. Or, just learn to ride without dropping the unicycle.
Reluctantly, I decided to do some demo testing at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Biking Park. After a few weeks, feedback from the product was real good. Lab tests later revealed that pedal protectors reduced UPD forces by 50% which in-turn should make pedals last 2-3 times longer. I quickly discovered that these little parts helped prevent my pedal & crank threads from loosening. Other benefits were also realized, like allowing metal pedals to be used indoors without damaging the floor.
In February, I found out Amy was going to China and would meet with Kris Holm. So I sent some black samples along. About this time, a friend suggested a better way to mold pedal protectors. Within two weeks, we had completed prototypes from a TPU Alloy material. And, they could be made in any color. Our goal was to introduce color pedal protectors at the 2006 Moab Muni Fest. As with any new idea, it took some effort to explain the concept; especially to people who’ve been riding for so long without these. Some liked them and others didn’t. But in the end, about 75 sets were sold or installed; most people seemed positive about the results, a few were very happy and asked about carrying the product in their stores. We did decide to make a third size to fit pedals with smaller side openings. Matching pedal protectors are now installed on all of our unicycles from 36” down to 20”. Gone are those noisy UPD’s.
In April, we started thinking about how & who to sell the product to. My friend’s kid asked if he could try selling some in the neighborhood to the bmx kids- turns out they loved the colors. I think he sold more than we did in Moab. Most recently, we learned that Unicycle.com has made Pedal Protectors available on their website. We’re now working on international partnerships. I really appreciate all the unicyclists that have helped make this idea reality. Special thanks to Beirne for hard questions, John & Amy for product strategy, Kris for honest evaluation, Cody for the brutal testing, Rolf for MMF06 plug, Connie for talking them up at BUC13 (Europe), Scott for web help, Andrew for Ray’s plug, Brian for future video debut, Mike for magazine review and everyone else for great feedback.
I encourage anyone who has an idea to go for it and have fun. Looking at what was spent, many would say it’s not worth it - but I’ve had a blast and learned a lot. The best part of taking this from concept to product is the story I now have to share. Thanks for reading and Happy Unicycling.
Next goal – figure out what to do with all my UDC stickers
Best to you, Hudson