Brooklyn Workshop – Alon Karpman
Skatecycle – a hubless self-propelled urban riding machine. Constructed with a solid aluminum frame, ABS composite body parts and polyurethane wheels, the Skatecycle combines snake-like movements with the carving action of a snowboard – all on a flat surface.
Alon Karpman, Inventor and Designer Antonio Meze, CAD Illustrator
The Skatecycle fuses eclectic elements well: Surf movements, collapsability, and silence from bikes. It remains pretty cool, fun, and unique in a category swamped with attempts to become the new fad. We like that it makes use of the an innovative wheel tech that hasn’t found other credible applications.
1. Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the challenge posed to you? Did it get you excited and why?
As a kid, I started sketching out this concept. I was always fascinated with hubless wheel technology, I just didn't see anything that actually made real use of it. When I began working on the Skatecycle, I wanted to make sure that the final product would be what I envisioned over 20 years ago as a kid making sketches in my notebook.
The idea for the Skatecycle took concrete shape when I moved to New York from Los Angeles and immediately missed the easy access to ski resorts that he enjoyed out west. I wasn't happy working at my job at the time, and was excited enough about it to leave my job to pursue its production. With the Skatecycle, you don’t need a hill, you don't need a half pipe, you don't need anything. You can just swerve and carve, and get that same thrill from the slopes all year round. The Skatecycle’s 9" donut-hole wheels enable rides with power, quickness, and a small (2') turning radius. The rider stands sideways, while maneuvering his or her feet and upper body to propel forward and “carve” deeply over flat surfaces, much like a snowboarder on a slope.
2. What point of view did you bring to the challenge? Was there anything additional that you wanted to achieve with this project or bring to this project that was not part of the original brief?
I believe as the inventor of the product and the designer gave me a unique point of view to overcome the inevitable obstacles that happen on the road to production. I didn't just set out to make a prototype or concept. I invested fully in the project with the goal of mass production.
After working out the mechanics of the project and having a final form. I realized that the aesthetic design is secondary to your production means. The final outer aesthetic design had to be re-worked according to production capabilities once I found a factory willing to make it. So there are a few design elements that I had to let go in order to "move forward" on production. Each design tweak requires new tooling so you end up settling on the best you can get with what you can afford. Hopefully sales will allow for improvements on future generations of the product.
3. When designing this project, whose interests did you consider? (Discuss various stakeholders, audiences, retailing, manufacturing, assembly, distribution, etc., for example.)
Since I invested my own money into the project, the interests I considered where:
1. My original vision for the product.
2. Likelihood of production.
3. The retailers willingness to put a new product on the shelf.
4. The Consumers riding experience (the fun factor).
4. Describe the rigor that informed your design. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) If this was a strictly research or strategy project, please provide more detail here.
I was aware of all the downsides of manufacturing hubless wheels, and why one was never mass produced before. Previously all hubless wheels where using rolling pins or regular skate bearings as rollers. But this takes away from the opening in the center portion. With that type of construction you end up with an oval or a much smaller opening in the center of the wheel. I wanted a complete 360 smooth inner circumference that would hug the inner side of wheels. In order to achieve this, several different materials had to be used. Delrin for the outer rim core. This core is fused to the polyurethane tire, essentially making it one piece. The inner rim is solid aluminum, and the ball bearings are steel. This combination of heavy steel balls and the lightweight Delrin groove which they roll over is what allows the tire to spin freely without the use of grease or lubricants.
5. What is the social value of your design? (Gladdening, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, labor-mindful, environmental, cultural, etc.) How does it earn its keep in the world?
I believe that any product that gets people outside and riding is a good thing. I also believe that a lot of what we see in science fiction movies and comic books stay in the concept stage because large companies are unwilling to take a risk and get involved in projects that are heavy in research and development.
This product is part of an ever evolving culture of those that are willing to ride something new. Children grow up and see Skateboarders and snowboarders pulling off some amazing acrobatics and don't have the same barriers of what is possible to do on something you ride. The Skatecycle adds a new element of coordination to sideways riding (snowboards, skateboards..) where your feet don't need to leave the machine for momentum. Adding this skill to the language of riders will continue to further the evolution.
6. If you could have done one thing differently with the project, what would you have changed?
I would have presented the earlier prototype to the factory and skipped the last two prototypes which focused more on the aesthetics. I didn't realize that I would have to re-design the aesthetics according to the constraints of that particular factory.