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Old 12-08-07, 04:01 PM   #1
hotbike
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Fiberglass Bicycle (Open Letter)

I would like to share my experience with Fiberglass Bicycles in this forum.

I have built a prototype and done some test marketing. (N.B. The "test marketing was done in Nassau County on Long Island, one of the wealthiest counties in the United States)

I will briefly mention Alexander Bowden, who built Fiberglass Bicycles in the early 1960's. The model called the Spacelander was the most popular. But unfortunately, Mr. Bowden went bankrupt before a Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle could be produced.

I aimed my efforts at building a Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle. I wanted to let a woman design it, but there weren't enough women in the Engineering School , New York Institute of Technology.
So I let my Daughter , Mellisa design it. She said the frame should be like a moped frame, and her suggestions for the fairing was to make it a quarter scale version of the spoiler on her Uncle's Kenworth diesel truck. We debated whether to allow the spar supporting the seat to be flexible, so as top avoid the need for a suspension. I made the depth of the fiberglass box-beam at least double what she had suggested, fearing that breakage would occur (Considering that I weigh three times more than her). The width of the box-beam frame member is four inches, the same as Mellisa wanted, which makes it easy to sit on.
Here are some photographs of the completed Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle:



This bike was test marketed as "Type 9" and I used the corporate moniker "NFA Vehicles".

The Type 9 has a single, massively oversize frame tube which runs the length of the bike. The intent is have bumpers to provide protection in a low speed bike-truck crash. (Although I hit a few cars and totaled them). The fiberglass is after all, a quarter inch thick throughout, and the prototype weighed fifty five pounds (55 lbs.) Fiberglass has a working strength of 45,000 psi, so there was nothing that could crush it. (Think of a 55 pound battering ram, mounted on bicycle rims).

I've been waiting and waiting for someone to build something similar. Electra Bikes builds some bicycles with a crank-forward design, so the geometry is similar, but the styling is nowhere near being in the same ball-park. The Giant Revive is more like it, especially where the seat is mounted on a sliding track. But neither of those bicycles has a cargo box. For something similar that would do the job, you would have to go to Bakfiets.

The test marketing reveals that this could be profitable. The cost for materiel was $270.00, and the bicycle sold for $1,215.00, a decent 450% profit. I was asking $3,000.00 O.B.O. because I wanted to get enough money to build ten of them and declare it a "Limited Production Run".
(Maybe I should stick to building custom bikes, and not try to build a prototype for mass production?)

This bike has a page on the bikerodnkustom website:
http://mywilson.homestead.com/gallery69.html

(Main page:
http://bikerodnkustom.com
)

Some of the features that are on the Type9 are:
Front and Rear Bumpers
Cargo Box
Built in Fairing/Spoiler
Crank Forward geometry
Moped style Seat
Step-Thru frame
and It Floats!

These features may be found on other bikes, but I don't know of one other manufacturer's bike that has ALL these features. As for the fact that it floats, I can't claim that it's 99 44/100ths % pure like a bar of Ivory Soap, but it really floats. Mellisa is familiar with Florida roads which have ditches along side them, and she asked if I could make it float. She accepts the fact that bikes might get forced off the road, on account her Uncle taught her to drive a Kenworth.

I would like to see someone build a similar bike. I can not sue anyone for patent violations, as this design is 17 years old now. I believe competition would be GOOD for business. If a customer doesn't like the price, whether it's it's twelve hundred dollars, or five hundred fifty dollars, I can tell the customer "Why don't you try that other bicycle dealer?"
If I don't have competition, I will have customers driving-me-to-drink and threatening to write a letter to the Federal Trade Commission, accusing me of fixing prices.
The only problem with such a bike is it's uniqueness, which makes my company a monopoly.

Respectfully,

Jim Donohue

NFA Vehicles

hotbike@hotmail.com
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Old 12-08-07, 09:03 PM   #2
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I ran across this item a day or two ago, had never heard of it (the Itera plastic bike):

http://cgi.ebay.com/ANTIQUE-BICYCLE-...QQcmdZViewItem
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Old 12-09-07, 08:59 AM   #3
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I ran across this item a day or two ago, had never heard of it (the Itera plastic bike):

http://cgi.ebay.com/ANTIQUE-BICYCLE-...QQcmdZViewItem
Thanks , Stephen, that is interesting. I never heard of the Itera plastic bike before.
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Old 12-09-07, 09:15 AM   #4
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Jim,

Maybe I'm missing the point, but I personally feel that this would be difficult to market, and extremely hard to sell considering the large price you've placed on the bike.

Whats the point of it? (I read the advantages, just doesn't seem feasible)
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Old 12-09-07, 03:19 PM   #5
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Jim,

Maybe I'm missing the point, but I personally feel that this would be difficult to market, and extremely hard to sell considering the large price you've placed on the bike. "...

The figure which I mentioned the bike sold for, twelve hundred fifteen dollars, is what the bike brought in.
But, I also said the cost of materials was only two hundred seventy dollars. The Nine Hundred Forty Five dollar -difference was my profit.
If I had the ~$3,000.00 , I would have built ten of these bikes and sold them for $700.00 each. Which would have left me with a profit of $4,300.00

But I didn't have enough money.
I did this project as an Economic Experiment and Feasibility Study.

There were in fact ten bidders who bid in the range of seven hundred dollars.

I had the notion in my head that I should build ten identical bikes, and declare it a limited production run. Otherwise, they are custom bikes, or "one-off" creations.

I don't have enough capital to put a bike into production. What I'm suggesting , is that if there is an entrepreneur who has a sufficient sum of money to buy enough materials and components, it might be profitable to pursue such a venture.

I would have put better components on the bike if I had more money. The cheapest components were used, like stamped steel calipers for the brakes, (not even cast aluminum) and the cluster was five speed. (There were very few five speed clusters left in 1991).

I don't think I'm too far off the mark, because in the intervening 17 years, there have been a lot of semi-recumbent or "crank forward" bicycles introduced. In addition, Electric Bicycle sales exceeded one-million in 2000, four-million in 2004, and 19 million in 2006.

This bicycle design blurs the distinction between a bicycle and a moped. Mellisa intended it to be that way when she designed it. Any number of hub-motor conversion kits could be added to this bike, and it would be a moped.

IMHO, this bicycle was at the very first position in catching-the-wave. Since it's 1991 inception, we have studied the sales growth in electric bicycles and scooters, Vespa made a comeback, and sales of Harley Davidson Motorcycles to women have increased 500% (five hundred percent).


"Whats the point of it? (I read the advantages, just doesn't seem feasible)
"

The main point is that the Type 9 is a Ladies Bicycle, designed by a woman.

Feasibility-wise, it might not be possible to ensure that the bike floats, especially considering that the fairing will be loaded with extra batteries or a generator, or the customer might want one without the fairing.

But I did have the chance to ride the prototype eight thousand miles before I sold it, so I am sure the design meets all those parameters.
Again, the customer has the choice of the bike being either with or without a fairing, and if he/she chooses without, then there is no front bumper.
The frame and fairing were cast in one piece, therefore it is a monocoque.

Thank you for your input.

PS-I think it would be awesome if the same bike design was cast in carbon fiber, instead of glass-fiber, a lot of weight would be saved.

The reason I wrote this post was to encourage some custom builder to try something similar, i.e- a moped style, Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle.
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Old 12-09-07, 04:11 PM   #6
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Jim,

Maybe I'm missing the point, but I personally feel that this would be difficult to market, and extremely hard to sell considering the large price you've placed on the bike.

Whats the point of it? (I read the advantages, just doesn't seem feasible)
I'm reading this as a glimpse inside the mind of a designer, and inventor. What may not seem feasible right now may be feasible and advantageous later...and it's interesting right now .

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Old 12-09-07, 06:01 PM   #7
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I'm reading this as a glimpse inside the mind of a designer, and inventor. What may not seem feasible right now may be feasible and advantageous later...and it's interesting right now .

East Hill
Close, an engineer. I just don't see the "cool" factor or the desire to own one, personally it see it as hideous, but what do I know.
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Old 12-09-07, 06:07 PM   #8
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Looks photoshopped to me.

I find it hard to believe somebody actually shelled out 1200 bucks for that thing.

Which is not to say that the idea isn't cool!
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Old 12-09-07, 06:25 PM   #9
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I think I'm missing the point. Ugly, 55lbs, fiberglass. The only 'benefit' being that it floats, and has some crash durability. Considering most crash damage is to the rider, not the bicycle, this seems altogether silly.

I don't mean to discourage innovation, but it appears all you did was add the equivalent of a plastic shell around the bike, and called it something new altogether.
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Old 12-09-07, 06:44 PM   #10
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The reason I wrote this post was to encourage some custom builder to try something similar, i.e- a moped style, Fiberglass Ladies Bicycle.
Wait.. you're posting this here in hopes that someone else will start producing a similar type of bike (which is now legal because your patent ran out.. you did have a patent, right?) so that you can't be accused of price-fixing, i.e. operating a monopoly?

I honestly don't mean to offend, but this has got to be one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed. Maybe I'm missing something, but I am incredibly confused.

By the way, you're not going to be accused of operating a monopoly or investigated by the FTC or whatever unless you're producing thousands of units and demand is really high. And I frankly don't see demand getting too high. I'm surprised you sold one, especially for over a grand (good for you though!). I just don't know of too many people who say that they want a bike that floats (just in case), has a molded fiberglass seat (can you adjust it? Or do you sit anywhere on that beam.. doesn't look comfortable), can withstand slightly harder crashes (although the expensive part, the fiberglass fairing would be ruined), and they don't care how much it weighs. Not to say they aren't out there, but I can say for sure that there aren't a lot out there.
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Old 12-09-07, 07:30 PM   #11
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.....mass production?
This is a joke right?............................................
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Old 12-09-07, 08:50 PM   #12
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You would think so, but this guy appears to be serious. As in seriously deranged.

He's made similar crazy claims before, like his claim in this thread that he's "hit a few cars and totaled them."
He even seems to seriously believe this is some kind of valid business venture. I also think his claim of having sold one has to be BS too...

Amusing, but a loon nonetheless. I actually want to see where this goes for the entertainment value...
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Old 12-09-07, 09:04 PM   #13
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This is not a fiberglass bike. It is a chunk of fiberglass placed onto a metal bike frame.
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Old 12-10-07, 04:07 AM   #14
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wow, i would love to test/buy one of these! when will it be available? id love to see this get off to a good start. i can see the benefits.
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Old 12-10-07, 10:22 AM   #15
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I will post some more photographs.

Here, the headlight can be seen, on the bottom left of the fairing/spoiler. It can be swiveled to face the rear, which is really cool.





Here is the Type 9 next to the Garden Railway train.

There are three paint schemes here, it was metallic green at first, then magenta/pink, then regular green.

Here is the bike with the Type 7 fairing/spoiler that replaced it when I sold it:


A close-up of the mounting bracket.
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Old 12-10-07, 10:29 AM   #16
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I want to repeat, the Type 9 sold for twelve hundred dollars. You would not get twelve hundred dollars if you tried to sell one where you live, but as I mentioned, Nassau County, where I live , is one of the wealthiest counties in America. Here's a list with Nassau at #10:

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/ar...TICLE_ID=58504

Median household income, 2006 inflation-adjusted dollars

1. $100,318 Fairfax County, Va.

2. $99,371 Loudoun County, Va.

3. $94,260 Howard County, Md.

4. $93,297 Hunterdon County, N.J.

5. $92,125 Douglas County, Colo.

6. $91,688 Somerset County, N.J.

7. $89,587 Morris County, N.J.

8. $87,624 Montgomery County, Md.

9. $87,350 Arlington County, Va.

10. $85,994 Nassau County, N.Y.
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Old 12-10-07, 12:09 PM   #17
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If you're frequently selling and making a good profit, then more power to you, however your product doesn't really make any sense. Those bikes you're adding the fiberglass to are garbage, and you're just making them heavier for no good reason.
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Old 12-10-07, 01:23 PM   #18
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That "Type 7" semi-recumbent thing looks like a comfortable bike. Does the fairing decrease the wind resistance enough to account for its extra weight? I'm a little skeptical about that.

And I wouldn't call it a spoiler.. spoilers are for cars that generate enough lift (because cars are shaped sort of like wings) to affect handling, so they direct some of the wind force downwards to compensate. You would definitely not want a spoiler on a bicycle, it'd just cause more resistance.

Also, I don't know if you're looking for feedback or something, but I'd feel really silly riding around in a bike that looks like a cross between a comfort bike and a jetski. Just sayin'
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Old 12-10-07, 01:55 PM   #19
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If you're frequently selling and making a good profit, then more power to you, however your product doesn't really make any sense. Those bikes you're adding the fiberglass to are garbage, and you're just making them heavier for no good reason.
I did use a cheap bike as the starting point for the Type 9. That is true, but it was an experiment, and if it didn't work, it would've been a waste of a good bike.

As for your second statement, I did make the bike heavier, but it was for a good reason. We wanted Flat-Foot geometry, and in 1991 , there weren't any crank-forward bikes to be found anywhere. In addition, I wanted a cargo bike, and the ones from Worksman were heavy, one-speed, and the cargo box was made of wood, with angle iron for the edges of the cargo box.
Worksman did come through,however; with the Y3K Ultimate Comfort Bike, which you see in the picture with the Type 7 fairing.

I don't think you realize the advantages of a utility-bicycle, with a frame mounted box. Perhaps I will start a new thread in the "Utility Bikes" forum, here at Bikeforums dot net.

I will continue to build one-off custom bikes, and this time NOT try to build any in numbers sufficient to qualify as a "production run".

If anyone wants a utlity bike with a cargo box, I will tell them they can go to Worksman, or Bakfiets, or that guy in Pennsylvania, Bilinkey. Please tell me if you know of any other cargo bike makers, buy replying here , so everyone else knows.

I should list the disadvantages of the Type 9: It weighs 55 pounds, due to the crash bumper design. Fiberglass has a yeild strentgh of 45 thousand pounds per square inch, and we decided to carry through at least one square inch of material, with a safety factor, from end to end. The stated thickness of the 'glass is a quarter inch, although one layer of 'glass is usually .030, and we used ten layers, which should equal .300, which is slightly more than .25, or a quarter inch.
I will state this again: Picture a 55 pound battering ram mounted on a set of bicycle rims. All the cars I hit are gone, with about $5,000.00 worth of body damage each, so if you *insist* on a photograph of a car after I hit it, I will have to find a used car that nobody wants, put a sandbag in the fairing of the Type 7, and ram the car. I would like to carry out this stunt with someone videotaping it, so I can put it on youtube. Please be patient. I will ram the car with one foot on the main tube, and kick the bike into the car, as I jump off, to avoid injury. I swear the Type 9 saved my life once when I was 'right hooked".

Other disadvantages: the five mile-perhour bumper law- bumpers are supposed to break at 5 MPH, to limit the damage to the other car. The Type 9 prototype would have to be changed to insure the fairing is more fragile. If you look at the photos of the Type 9 in front of the stuco wall, you will see some white dings in the paint on the leading edge of the fairing. That's the only damage after hitting a car.

The seat is all the way back , actually an inch past it's rear limit, and glued there with silicone caulk. I have not come up with a sliding track mechanism to adjust the seat. In production bikes, the Giant Revive has something like what was intended, but Giant has a patent on that.

Other reasons not to put this bike in production: The continous four inch width of the frame mono-tube invites kids to sit on it. The bike could become overloaded with too many children, and the brakes would fail from the weight.

The ability of the prototype to float could NOT be carried into production, due to holes that would be necessary to adjust the seat, or to mount the fairing, or mount lights on the fiberglass shell.

Furthermore, Mellisa wants the vehicle to be a quad, with FOUR wheels.
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Old 12-10-07, 03:40 PM   #20
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I had to look at the date of the original post. I was sure it would have been April 1st. If this is for real then I am speechless. I guess maybe P.T. Barnum was right.
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Old 12-10-07, 04:50 PM   #21
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unless you're going 50+ mph then a spoiler is useless
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Old 12-10-07, 06:36 PM   #22
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Okay, so instead of trying to avoid cars with a lighter bike, you just run into them.
And I believe the bumper law only applies to cars.
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Old 12-11-07, 07:42 AM   #23
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Okay, so instead of trying to avoid cars with a lighter bike, you just run into them.
And I believe the bumper law only applies to cars.
That about sums it up.

And I guess I do have a loophole in the law, because the bumper law doesn't apply to trucks, or anything except cars.
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Old 12-13-07, 06:45 PM   #24
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How does the average income of where you live, have ANYTHING to do with this?,,,,BD


Bowden Spacelander link. I think I'd rather ride one of them, if I could find one

http://128.83.80.200/taco/bowdenspacelander.jpg
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Old 12-13-07, 07:30 PM   #25
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Yeah, I may have missed the point here. You're interested in selling an unreasonably heavy, awkward, and obviously pointless bicycle to rich people in your neighborhood? I'm not trying to piss on your parade or burn your ego here but this almost seems like an elaborate joke. I'm sorry but it looks like some chinese-manufactured Flintstones version of those Motocykes bikes from Roadmaster. And it floats? Is that in case your neighbor gets sick of looking at it sitting on your front lawn like a plastic flamingo with elephantitis and throws it into the river? Seriously, the getting run into a ditch thing is just silly. If a Kenworth pushed me off the road and into a ditch, I think I'd be more worried about NOT DYING than wether or not my humongous pink bike floats or not. Again, if this is a big joke, bravo! You got me. If it isn't, well I'm going to strap a plastic wastebasket to the front of a cheap MTB, add a couple of life jackets to the top tube and become your competitor. I'd be happy to sell you my first model, the x-15, for the low price of $950 so that you can study it and improve on your own model, hopefully in the weight-reduction dept.
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