Hey! What’s up here? This is like reading my own obituary before I die. Do you know something I don’t know, Dave? I’d better put some more mirror time in, I must be missing something.
Gracious? No, lucky is more like it. The biggest reason stuff like this is happening is the internet explosion for which we may thank Gilby and his newsgroup predecessors, of which there were many, and John Drummond for starting an internet unicycling business. What did I get out of it?
A few years ago, while developing an internally geared hub for a unicycle I got to exchange ideas with Frank Bonsch, Scott Bridgman, Joe Rowing, and Florian Schlumpf. These guys are outstanding designers. That was cool in itself. Then David Stone of the Unatics in NYC had the hot idea of touring the unicycle around the country so people could try it out. He was just kidding because he wanted to ride it but, when you think about it, it was a fantastic idea. What better Beta testing group could there be? I looked into building a crate and shipping it from spot to spot. It only cost about $30 to get it from one place to another. The receiver paid the cost to ship to the next location. It cost me $30 to have some of the best names in unicycling test this thing.
So who signed up to get on this list? First was Nathan Hoover. Big name in unicycling? You bet. Michael Grant, a unicycle builder in his own right. John Drummond, David Stone, Gilby, Steve Howard, Jeff Lutkus and many more. Ever heard of these guys? They all tested it and did write-ups. Scores of people around the country got to ride a geared unicycle. By the time it was done, Dustin Kelm, the Stone brothers, Nathan Hoover, Mark Stephens, Andy Cotter, Scot Cooper, John Drummond, Gilby, John Foss, and almost any big name you can think of in unicycling had ridden this thing and written about it. And at every stop improvements were made. Cranks and pedals were added, extra seats included, a frame upgrade was made in Fort Worth, a new wheel and tire in Atlanta.
Then there was the 2002 NAUCC and UNICON events in my backyard, Northbend, WA. People from all over the world got to look at the guts of the hub and I got to watch Christian Hoverath and a host of 100’s from around the world ride it. I got to meet Sem Abrahams, the Puerto Rican All Stars, Roger Davies, Sarah Miller, Paul Selwood, and the UK constituency as well as many others on RSU. Do you have any idea what it was like to go to the premiere of “Into Thunder Dragon” and talk to Darren Bedford afterward and have Kris Holm come up to you and say, “hey, you’re Harper?” It’s like being a junior high basketball player and having Michael Jordan recognize you on the court.
People were interested and wanted it mass produced so I started looking into it. What a pain. I looked into doing it inexpensively but was never able to get past some unusable Chinese prototypes with my hub and a frame design by Steve Howard. I looked into domestic production and still had no connections or success. The prototypes we got, Steve and I turned into usable hubs and put them into other projects. One went into a geared Coker that Kris had always wanted. Some Connecticut lunatic I know wanted in on the wheel building of that project and he had the connections and know-how to get the parts for and build an incredibly strong Coker wheel. Dave Stockton…ever heard of him? He’s doing the same for a hub now owned by Mike Scalisi.
So I couldn’t pull off mass producing this thing. In the mean time, the pressure was being put on Florian to build one. This is what the unicycling community got out of it. After the long wait they got a commercially available, shift-on-the-fly unicycle that was designed and built by a Swiss mechanical engineer who owns his own shop and knows what he’s doing. Not a hack electrical engineer with no business experience and access to 1930’s era machine tools. The Schlumpf unicycle is superior in so many ways to mine what should I do, try to hide it?
What did I get out of it? I get to ride with John Childs, one of the best mountain unicyclists of our day, just about any time I want. I get to ride with Irene Genelin, twice womens standard skill world champion and long distance rider just about any time I want. I get to ride with Pete Peron, developer of Purple Phaze. And best, I get to ride with the rest of our local Seattle riding group which is made up of the nicest and most interesting people you could meet anywhere. I have met and have ridden with almost all of the riders in “UniVerse 2” and “Spaced Out” and I’ve gotten Ryan Atkins to try to break things for me. I have had Mark Stephens and Steve Howard as guests in my home. I’ve stayed as a guest in Steve Howard’s home with his family and with David Maxfield in South Dakota. I’ve ridden the North Shore trails with Nathan and Beau Hoover. I’ve ridden urban Vancouver and the North Shore trails and with Kris Holm and the local group there. I’ve ridden in Toronto with Carl Hoyer and Brian MacKenzie. I’ve ridden in New Orleans and Jackson with the Mississippi boys, rhysling and Animation. I’ve ridden with Bugman and Casey Drummond in Atlanta. I’ve ridden in het Nederlands with Klaas Bil and his daughter, Jorga. I’ve met Jerry Gruss, Bruce Edwards, John Hooten, Keith Williamson, Chex (Mike Carrol) Carol McClean, and so many others that I now consider close friends. I’ve been to Moab, VIMW and a California MUni weekend and got to just sit back and watch Dan, Ben, Dylan, Joey, Ryan, Jeff, Zach, Bevan, Kris, Carl Hoyer and Karl Thompson, and even Catboy ride like nothing I’ve ever seen.
My regrets? I haven’t met Adam Bourne, Frank Bonsch, Mikefule, Dan Doerksen, Dave Walters, TheObieOne, Raphael Lasar, Ken Looi, or Kevin McMullen and too many others to name. But I’m not dead yet, Dave.