A Life Changing Experience

Around 1982 right before I turned 11 years old, I saw neighborhood kids and family members riding new bikes such as the old school black and yellow “Mongoose” or Huffy. I wanted one so bad but knew that my foster mother would never spend that kind of money on something she didn’t see as necessary. I got a paper route with the local weekly trade newspaper in the Waterloo\Cedar Falls area called ‘The Hometowner’. I made $17 dollars per month delivering papers once per week. I bought my 1st bike from a man that had a junk yard next to his house for $10.00. It was one of those 1950’s era Schwinn bikes and it was in really bad shape. Tires were flat, chain was rusty, it had been painted black with house paint, seat had tears in it. This bike was basically a piece of junk!

This didn’t matter to me. I have always had the ability not to see what is in front of me with bicycles, but what they could become if I worked on them. You develop this mentality when you are used to shopping at places like Goodwill and St. Vincent Depaul, 2nd and sometime 3rd hand stores. I bought the bike and got new inner tubes with the remaining money, the guy, Mr. Shear, who I bought the bike from, oiled the chain and taught me over the course of a couple of weeks, how to do the basics of bike repair. I can never describe how proud I was of my bicycle. Not only did I buy it myself, with money I earned, but I finally had a bike of my own! Of course the brothers in the neighborhood laughed at me and my bike because it was ugly (to them) and theirs was better and newer. They said things like “Look at Brian riding that truck.” Or my favorite “Your momma can’t afford you a bike boy?” Well, I worked on my bike, despite the comments and the more I worked on it, the better it started to run. 4 months later, I rode this same bike in a bike race and WON! I was racing against other boys my age in the “My Waterloo Days” annual carnival and all of them rode new dirt bikes and the race was about 1 mile around a road course. Their sprockets were smaller and the distance gave me the advantage and I WON! Boy was I proud! I got a certificate and a green duffle bag, in addition to the free T-Shirt.

I rode these sorts of bikes for the next 3 years and in 1985 I saw a movie that changed my whole life. The movie was “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” As I watched the movie, I was in total shock and awe. Excitement was running through my bones like a kid on Christmas morning. Pee Wee had the most beautiful bicycle that I had ever seen!

That whole movie revolved around Pee Wee’s love for his stolen bike and he went all over the country to find it. This movie made me really happy because I realized, even at 13 years old, that I wasn’t the only one who liked those so-called “Truck Bikes.” I lied about my age that summer so I could detassle corn to make money. I was so inspired by Pee Wee’s bike that I wanted one of my own. I set about to spend some of my detassling money on bike parts. I bought an old red frame, repainted it to a glossy red, bought new rims, purchased about 15 reflectors, added a large bicycle lamp on front, two old school hand bells, 2 mirrors, a set of red and white streamers, polished up a front and rear fender set (Chrome), took my newspaper delivery basket off my old bike, wrapped the whole thing in red and white yarn, placed turn signals beneath the rear of the seat, added two tail lights and BAM- I had my own personal, ghetto style, Pee Wee Herman! Before I brought it out of the basement, I had a Cadillac hood ornament that I placed on the front fender by punching a hole in the fender with a screw driver and hammer. That Cadillac emblem was the ‘Cherry on top’ so to speak!

I remember the day I started to ride my bike at the park, all of the kids and grown ups were laughing at me and say things like “Look at the black Pee Wee”. I was so proud of my bike that I didn’t care what they said. After awhile, the tide of public opinion turned and the bike grew on people. All of the sudden, the brothers wanted me to ride with them in their little bicycle posse and be seen with me(Hello James Humphrey, Bobby Madison, Catfish & Others). They actually decided that my bike was funky! A boy we called Pooh Bear even offered to buy it from me, of course I said no! Others threatened to steal it, but with Waterloo being such a small town, everyone knew whose bike it was and they couldn't have gotten away with it.

I shared my experience to remind all of my readers that if you have a dream, a spiritually healthy dream, you have got to go with it regardless of what others say. This bike had such an impact on people that I talked to a guy I grew up with named Sam about a year ago, I hadn’t seen or heard from Sam in almost 16 years and the 2nd question out of his mouth to me, after all of that time was “What did you do with your bike?” Although I had not actually ridden it in more than 20 years! God has gifted all of us with different talents and abilities. They are to serve HIM, and also serve those people around you. You may be good at something and worried about what others will say if you try. I was, all I wanted to be when I grew up was a bike mechanic and bike builder but as I got older, people said it was stupid and I should get a ‘Real Job’, and ‘Kevin Culpepper fixes bikes better than you.’ I finally did, forgot, until recently my dream, and the result is I missed out on a whole industry opportunity. The bicycle I designed and built in 1985 was out of style but original. Today, there is a huge industry built around the same bike I built in 1985, you may have heard of this type of bike, it is called “A Beach Cruiser.”


Time to "Bring it!"

I have been going on and on about exactly what I believe is lacking in youth and junior bicycle design for awhile now. Some of you that are regular readers must be thinking "This guy has alot of criticisms but very few solutions". For this posting, I have opened up my design sketch book and scanned in a few images for your review. I am sorry I do not have anything in the way of electronic mock ups in the latest software ie, Dream Weaver, Image Ready, or others but I do not possess that skill set. The truth is I was so frustrated with the last renderings of my Graphic Artist that in the last few months I have attempted to sketch myself. Although they are not the greatest in the way of artwork, my vision on these is to 'Preserve the concept' for each new bicycle I dream up, partner with a Graphic Artist and then the funk will really flow!

To often people in every area of life have wonderful ideas, do not take the time to write them down and forget them. Don't be a victim of that thought process. I have had debates on whether to post my sketches or not. One side says "Brian don't do it because someone will see them, copy them and possibly make money off them!" The other side, which is only me says "That may happen but the fact is that they may get one or two of my designs, but they surely won't be able to keep up the high level of heat I bring each time I put my concepts on paper." The great thing is that not only do I have the two that are posted on this blog, but I have 61 others that are just as hot, and I can and do design 3-5 more each week!

When I put the Funk down on paper there are three things that I always remember about the viability of each. #1- Can this concept be produced and sold within the normal price points of $65-$250 that seem to be present at the big-box retailers where urbanites like myself buy most of our bicycles? #2- When potential consumers see these bicycles, will there reaction be "Oh, that's OK" or the preferred reaction of "Dang momma or daddy, I gotta have that!" I will not have anyone say "Oh, that's just another bicycle." #3- If I was meeting with a major manufacturer on the feasibility of partnership, are my designs so compelling, hot, and practical enough that they would not let me leave their place of business (Hello Madison, Wisconsin) without signing some sort of deal to manufacturer and distribute my bicycles in relevant, urban markets.

The 1st design that you see on this blog is called "Soldier". This concept came to me while I was here in Denver at a local Sam's Club. I saw this young brotha' that had the nicest brown bomber jacket that I had ever seen. It had a brown camouflage look to it with a imitation fur lined hood with black spots on it. I thought, "That would be funky as a bicycle design. Soldier was born a few hours later. Soldier is what I refer to as a 'Short Stack' design. That is to say it is about 7 inches shorter than a normal dirt bike but 4 inches higher. The next sketch you see on the blog is called "Humps". It has what I refer to as "Raptor Ear" handle bar designs, a slight hump on the cross bar, and the bust of the coolest Camel you will ever see. An area of focus on all my designs is the rims, spokes, and mags because in "The Hood", rims and tires is what separates a nice car from a car that is funky!

More later....

Inspired by:

Marshall 'Major' Taylor


What is Urban Bicycle Design?

Great question! There is little doubt that most of the major cities in this country such as Detroit, Chicago, L.A., New York City, Atlanta and others are more than 90% minority. Within the confines of these cities, there is a whole culture that some of you have lived while still others have only read about, heard about, or seen on TV or at the movies. When I say Urban, I am talking about a lifestyle that includes, but isn't limited to: Fashion, Music, Hairstyles, families, schools and a host of other things that are largely minority driven. When I say minority, I am not talking about African-Americans only, but Latinos (who recently became the largest minority population in this country topping 40 million), Asians, African, and others. Before I tell you what it is, I am going to tell you what Urban Bicycle Design is not.

It is not kids and youth riding around in city parks on bicycle trails. It is not bicycle parks set up in the suburbs with suburban kids and youth 'Jumping ramps', riding down stairs, doing tricks and all of that! When I say Urban Bicycle Design, the definition is "Bicycles that will appeal to an inner city market by representing its' culture, lifestyles, fashions and FUNK!" The key word in that definition is "Inner City". When some think of inner city life, they get an image of "The Ghetto" if you will. All inner city neighborhoods are not ghettos. That thought process may spawn into images of bicycles rolling around with "Spinners" (rims) or loud music. Again, that isn't URBAN! I think to put spinners and rims like that on bicycles would be tacky and totally miss the essence of Urban Funk. I keep using that word Funk don't I? If you do not know what funk is, I can't explain it to you but I can try and paint you a picture.

Chrysler has designed a really nice car called the Lincoln Town Car. The 2006 models are beautiful. However, Chrysler also designed a car in 2003 called the 'Chrysler 300' which was the Motor Trend Car of the Year in 2003 and 2004. (Incidentally, the lead designer on that car was an African-American.) The Town Car is a nice vehicle wouldn't you say? But the 300 is FUNKY! It's kind of like Soul, can't properly explain it, but one knows it when they hear it. Whitney Houston is one of the best selling female music artists of all time. She has a great voice but no soul. Aretha Franklin has Soul! Designing 'Funk' demands that one stay true to what is uniquely urban. Let me paint you a small picture of what I am talking about.

What if instead of just a regular, black covered leather (or pleather) seat on a bicycle, that same seat is not covered with leather, but denim? Not just a plain blue denim, but for the girls, a soft pink denim and for the boys a dark maroon denim covered seat. Let's take it a step further, what if instead of the status quo bicycle reflectors that are all shaped the same, those very same reflectors are made 1\3 larger and cut in the shape of diamonds? Put two on each rim and not just one. How would that look yall? Imagine with me if you will that instead of 32-45 spokes on a rim, that number was tripled to 120 spokes. The naysayers will say "Well that would make the rims heavy!" Well, what if the spokes are 1\3 as thin as normal! This would create an incredible "Bling-Bling" affect when the sun hits them.

Take a walk with me for just a few more moments and picture this: What if instead of a normal set of handle bars, someone designed handle bars in the shape of 'Raptor Ears'! What if instead of the run of the mill chrome mags, a little girls bike has chrome mags that are in the shape of daisies? These daisies could be outlined with a soft pink accent to match the color of the bicycle. What about a name for these bicycles? The junior girls soft pink, daisy styled bike could be called 'Baby's Beach' or 'Queen'. Many of you will not be able to picture what I am saying, but again, it's all about the 'Funk'. I can picture a bike theme of 'El Tigre' dedicated to our Latino brothers and sisters! How hot would a bicycle be that was painted like a Tiger? With a black imitation fur seat with dark orange tiger stripes on it!!!! Watch this yall- What would be really urban is thick black nasty tires, dark orange rims, with black 8 point, diamond shaped mags! The frame would have to stay light, but thicker than normal because those tiger stripes have to be an eyecatcher. WOW.

That is some Parliament P-Funk stuff. More later.

Inspired by:

Marshall 'Major' Taylor


Low Rider Bike Naysayers

I recently read a very popular bicycle blog where the writer made the statement "Some of the designs I receive are good and some are totally unrealistic". I do not know what he meant by unrealistic but let's wax philosophical on what he might mean. He might be talking about whether the bicycle has mechanical challenges and thereby making it unrealistic. In the 1940's or before, men were dreaming about space travel and there were those who thought that was a pipe dream, today, men being launched in space barely makes the news. When it does, it is because some millionaire has decided to pay $20 million to make the flight. The challenges with space travel are vast, yet, if men and women can travel in space, what is so hard about overcoming challenges with the industrial portion of bicycle design? Maybe he meant the cost would be to high IF it could be done at all. So what! If I bicycle costs $6,000 to $8,000, the company may not sell a ton of them, but there is a market for that as we find with the cost of some electric bicycles topping $8,000.

I helped launch a watch company a few years back, and the concept of the watches was to put all sorts of luxury woods down in the face of the watch (http://www.bannekerwatches.com/), the manufacturer that we worked with was totally resistant to the idea because as he put it "Their is a reason why this hasn't been done." He then agreed to make the watches, but said "We will not put our names on them as the manufacturer." The longer he worked on the proto-type designs, the more of a fan he became of the whole concept and now, one of the designs is even featured on his website. Not only that, others have copied the designs and are now marketing them. As a Reebok commercial proudly claims, "Impossible is nothing". This also applies to bicycle design. Yes there are some staples such as round wheels, a round sprocket, and the like that will stay consistent,(although even round sprockets have been challenged by the advent of the chain less bicycle of the late 1890's) but the design possibilities are infinite!

When I look at bicycle designs that are on the market now, I marvel at the lack of risk associated with the most simple designs by major brands. Take for instance the brand manufactured for Wal-Mart, "Next". I compared this design in 2006 to the designs by Huffy and Mongoose in the 1980's and it is sad to report that they are virtually, from an aesthetic standpoint, THE SAME! What would happen to Ford, GM, Chrysler, Toyota, Levis, Nike and other big companies if they manufactured the same products, with virtually no change, as they did 20 years ago. The answer is, they would be OUT OF BUSINESS because some young, hungry entrepreneurs would have exposed their weakness and bought them out. The same with Microsoft. What if they were still writing software like Lotus 3.1? They would be irrelevant today instead of commanding a market share of computer operating systems worldwide of 92%.

I am very excited on today because once some young Bicycle designer wakes up, designs funky and relevant bicycle designs that kids can relate to, want to ride, show off to their friend, and compel their parent to buy, Pacific Cycles, Huffy and the like are going to find themselves with a shrinking market share! I ask myself this question about the big boys "How can they pay someone to show up for 40 to 50 hours per week to design bicycles, day after day, week after week, etc?" Bicycle design isn't something that you can just show up and try to do, like a good song or book, it comes from INSPIRATION. They are wasting their resources conducting business like this. Again, think outside of the box or become irrelevant.

At this time, I am calling on young and hungry graphic\industrial designers to challenge the status quo. You do that by coming up with your own bicycle designs, product designs, fashion designs, software and anything that you may be passionate about. Yes people are going to laugh at you, mock you, tell you it won't work and that you are just a dreamer. Remember, a dreamer named Thomas Edison changed the world, an eccentric man named Albert Einstein made possible space travel, a pirate named Bill Gates and his company Microsoft now command 92% of the world's computer operating systems, a man named Stephen Knight, Founder of Nike starting by selling athletic shoes out of the trunk of his car at track meets, a few years later he signed a rookie in the NBA named Michael Jordan to a shoe contract and the rest is history! Live the dream designers.

Inspired by:

Marshall 'Major' Taylor