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Have an Idea for a New Kind of Folding Bike . . .

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Have an Idea for a New Kind of Folding Bike . . .

Old 03-04-19, 04:08 PM
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Have an Idea for a New Kind of Folding Bike . . .

There’s no way to put this that isn’t a little embarrassing, so: I have an idea for a new kind of folding bike. It’s a design that I’ve never seen anything like anywhere, which I think would be practical, marketable, would get many more people riding, and might even change the world. Of course, being a sane and reasonable person, I understand that I’m most likely mistaken and in reality the idea is mediocre to terrible and will never go anywhere.

Here is my question, though: Does anyone have any advice about how best to proceed from here? So far I have created a rough design using 3D drafting software (DesignSpark Mechanical is amazing and free, BTW), but even though there is nothing unusual or challenging from an engineering standpoint about the hinges and other hardware—at least as far as I can tell—I would have no clue about how to take the next logical step of building a prototype.

One thing I'm not willing to do is invest my life savings into the project. As I said before, I think that it's a good idea, but I know I could be wrong.

As I see it, probably in ignorance, I have these options:

I could take my plan and try to seek some kind of patent protection. Since there's nothing special about any of the hinges or other mechanisms, though, I'm doubtful that any such legal protection could exist. The overall idea is different from anything I've ever seen, but I'm not sure that the broad concept is novel enough to patent. I could be wrong about that. My little bit of understanding about patents also informs me that you have to spend some money to have even a chance of getting a worthwhile patent, so that may be out of the question for that reason alone.

With or without the step of trying to get some kind of patent, I'm still not clear on what inventors typically do with their inventions after they've thought of them. When reading about this subject, you come across the phrase, Shop it around, but how does one do that? Just call up Dahon or Brompton and tell the poor person who answers the phone, Hey, I've got this great new idea, you're going to love it . . . I don't think I could do that, even as a crank call.

A Kickstarter campaign? Just say, Here's my plan, send me money so I can build a prototype? After which I will still have nothing to sell or give you in return? This could work, I suppose . . . in the same way that I could win the next Powerball. Or is this not such a bad idea? It wouldn't cost that much to build the prototype. Or would it? I have no idea.I see that there are a couple of design competitions for bicycles. Does anyone know anything about these? I might be willing to come up with an entry fee, assuming it's not too much money.

Or, should I just post the plan right here and let everyone tell me how terrible it is, abuse which I'm sure I deserve—because really the chances of ever making money off something like this are absurdly small anyway, so why not just go open source with it? And, if anyone ever did actually use the idea and produce a product, at least I would have the benefit of being able to buy it.

There seem to be a lot of people on this forum who know about manufacturing and the bicycle business in general. I would appreciate whatever insights or advice you could give me.
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Old 03-04-19, 06:47 PM
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If you are thinking of producing a bike is it for yourself or manufacture. If it is for yourself look for a frame builder and start getting quotes. If it is a bike for retail contact Peter at Helix and I am sure he could give you some idea. He finally delivered the first 5 of his bikes after 3 years. Roger
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Old 03-04-19, 07:53 PM
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There are many technical schools in the USA. Many teach welding, you should ask the instructor to make a prototype. He will do it if he sees value in the design.

Don't do anything overseas until you are ready to place an order. Many overseas providers are scams, and the cost of jigs at legitimate factories can cost up to $2000.

Otherwise I think a small manufacturer maybe interested in your design. I have too much going on for anything else. Make sure to get a NDA signed before you release information.

FYI two factories have stolen IP from me. I didn't really care. I didn't want to create a legal business.... just a bike business.

Thanks
Yan
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Old 03-05-19, 12:04 PM
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History lesson: Alex Moulton (Moulton), Dr. David Hon (Dahon) and Andrew Ritchie (Brompton) all thought they'd designed amazing new bikes that would really change things. They all got patents to protect their IP. They all shopped their designs around to established bicycle manufacturers. They were all shown the door by those established bicycle manufacturers. They all raised the money to build the bikes themselves.

OTOH, Mark Sanders designed the Strida. And he got a patent. But he found a company to license the design and they found a company to build it (then another company built it, then another and then another).

I'm not being harsh, just realistic here: you seem to be unwilling to invest any money in pursing a patent, and you are definitely unwilling to invest any of your own money for manufacturing. Methinks you'll be able to tell your grandchildren you once designed a bike.
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Old 03-05-19, 07:18 PM
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Thanks very much for the advice, and for taking this seriously in general.

Just to clarify, it's a "high concept" idea and a prototype would be very challenging to build just because there would be a ton of first-time issues to work out. I really don't think I could do it just by a hiring frame maker/welder. Making a finished product would also require some significant R and D.

Maybe I will get the advice of a patent lawyer as to whether any aspect of the design is patentable.

Yan, can you think of anyone who would be interested in seeing it?

Also, does anyone have any advice about entering one of these design competitions?

My thanks again.
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Old 03-05-19, 07:53 PM
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Dahon is the biggest folding bike company in the world. I doubt they would be very interested. Contact Thor to see the level of interest.

Tern doesn't have a good reputation here....so I wouldn't try. Trust me on this one

I don't see Pingis doing this. I would be doubtful of Euromini....they are new to the industry, and I don't see them staying in long term. They entered the market about a year ago & they sell non bike products from the same warehouse. Feels sketchy to me.

Bike Friday is in need of a new product. They are a great company. I would recommend you contact them.

Otherwise a user here is an IP attorney. I recall his username is something like Manakea. He's in Hawaii and maybe a good partner.

Thanks
Yan
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Old 03-06-19, 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Headpost View Post

Just to clarify, it's a "high concept" idea and a prototype would be very challenging to build just because there would be a ton of first-time issues to work out. I really don't think I could do it just by a hiring frame maker/welder. Making a finished product would also require some significant R and D.

Maybe I will get the advice of a patent lawyer as to whether any aspect of the design is patentable.

.
If its a "concept", you jolly well sort out that patent before talking to any of the possible manufacturers.
Also, make sure you think through the technical challenges before presenting it else you won't get anywhere with them. At least have some detailed hand sketches of how the technical challenges such as hinges, latches etc will be met . There will be manufacturers interested in a new product. Provided that they are convinced that they have something viable and a reasonably protected market. And that they can bring it to market at the shortest time and with the least investment.

Otherwise, you're not going to get anywhere with them.

There are some design competitions out there which can help in the profile of your design, such as "Red Dot" . There's one or two based in Germany as one as one based in Taiwan.
Worth taking a look if you think you have a compelling idea.
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Old 03-06-19, 04:15 AM
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Two bits to add .

First, there is a bicycle design institute, in conjunction with the a Minnesota State College ,
opening in Red Wing, MN.

https://www.bicycleretailer.com/indu...n#.XH-adIhKjcs


Second.

I worked on a product intro with a similarity to your idea.

The product was a bicycle based item.

The design engineer spent months designing a bicycle from the ground up rather than copying the basic geometries,
basically a best practices.

First time on the prototype, I said this will never sell. It doesn't ride correctly-
a lot of understeer as I remember. More time/money spent on redesign.

The greater issue was when production and sourcing came along.

The engineer had designed major component outside of the norm's in the industry -
a steerer tube that was almost 18" long for example.

Very expensive and, if like us, the production runs are small, the manufacturer puts it on a low priority line.
Slow and a lot of room for inconsistency and QC issues.

Moral of the story -
a) use established design and engineering protocols

b) design with readily available parts in mind- use a little custom or unique engineering as possible.

Good luck,
rusty

Oh yes, there is also the CPSC..............

rusty
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Old 03-06-19, 05:08 AM
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I know that Pacific Cycles is keen to help designers realizing their dreams.
They have many bike projects on display at their museum, and that's also how they started with the birdy bike with Riese & Muller.
Perhaps it's worthwhile to contact them.
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Old 03-06-19, 12:06 PM
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I think Pacific Cycles is a great idea!

I would contact Bike Friday first. I understand that they have had some financial issues. I expect they need a new offering.

Thanks
Yan
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Old 03-06-19, 12:19 PM
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And a Patent Search, there are a lot of patents taken out on bicycle stuff, often your new Idea has been done before , but maybe that patent has lapsed..
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Old 03-06-19, 03:00 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
...often your new Idea has been done before , but maybe that patent has lapsed.
Either way, the idea is un-re-patentable.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:04 PM
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If it really is a good idea, talk to a patent attorney. It can be important to document the dates of discoveries. Perhaps open an extra e-mail address on something like gmail so you can e-mail things to yourself to get a date stamp on drawings or concepts.
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Old 03-06-19, 03:46 PM
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old wine, new bottle

Originally Posted by tcs View Post
Either way, the idea is un-re-patentable.
Just change a molecule or 2 , pharmaceutical companies re patent drugs , that way
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Old 03-07-19, 12:57 AM
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I can't comment as a patent person, but have looked into prototyping.

Often, there are a series of prototypes-- from really rough cardboard/foam board cutouts, to fully specced proof of concept.

Methinks you need to do your homework and do multiple iterations:
1. Cardboard cutouts...pinned...with moving bits to conceptualize the fold
2. Simplified 3d model...may ma with PVC
3. 3d printed scale model, articulating
4. Working model.

Fwiw, I recommend looking up the Product Design and Development book from Xootr's founder. Also, the Patarec frame building manual

Additionally, you don't need a torch anyone to make a frame. Epoxy and hemp have proven to work adequately for frame building.

This takes time, but not that much money
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Old 03-07-19, 01:10 AM
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Just to add, I was seriously looking into doing similar with a simple biomedical device.

After a few quick patent searches, I found three protective patents.

My understanding, from talking to industry is that a number of people just make the product first, get sales, and out muscle their competitors.

Case study: Ron Nguyen of ultralight optics made a headlight out of cheap Chinese parts and sold them for half what the established guys were selling it at. At the same time, I made my own lights.

He jumped full in. Ignored patents. Made a ton of money. Married my pretty classmate, and is a multimillionaire.

However, others prefer to partner with an existing company...so don't need the headache of distribution, manufacturing, sales, accounting...etc...via licensing or partnerships.
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Old 03-07-19, 12:34 PM
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Once again, thank you so much to everyone for all the help. There really are great people on this forum.

Just to once again clarify, I have already created a correctly scaled CAD 3D model that even has moving parts so it can be "virtually" folded. I shouldn't have called this a rough design. It is missing some details in some areas. Doing this took me quite a long time, as you can imagine, but Designspark Mechanical is incredibly easy to learn. A nonfunctional prototype, made with PVC pipe and whatever else, would be the next logical step, I guess, but I am terrible at building physical things so I can't see that I would gain or learn anything from what I would come up with.

The posts here have convinced me to take the first step of seeking the advice of a patent attorney after all. I will post back here with their response.

Last edited by Headpost; 03-07-19 at 01:42 PM.
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Old 03-07-19, 12:49 PM
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I had a bike idea two or three years ago but went nowhere with it. I didnt care to develop it, just get it out of my brain and in front of someone who could tell me it was worthwhile or not. This is why Im not self employed.
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Old 03-07-19, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
I had a bike idea two or three years ago but went nowhere with it. I didnt care to develop it, just get it out of my brain and in front of someone who could tell me it was worthwhile or not. This is why Im not self employed.
So post it here and get feedback. That's probably all I'm going to end up doing. (Please start a new thread for it though.)
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Old 03-07-19, 02:20 PM
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Originally Posted by mlau View Post
Case study: Ron Nguyen of ultralight optics made a headlight out of cheap Chinese parts and sold them for half what the established guys were selling it at. At the same time, I made my own lights.

He jumped full in. Ignored patents. Made a ton of money. Married my pretty classmate, and is a multimillionaire.

However, others prefer to partner with an existing company...so don't need the headache of distribution, manufacturing, sales, accounting...etc...via licensing or partnerships.
I work at an enterprise of which primary purpose of existence is to push boundaries. The success relies on collaboration of people bringing in different skills, obviously including those bringing in creativity. From what I hear about hiring, though, is that the hardest to get and retain are successful project managers, those who know how to make things happen, carrying them from the beginning to the end, not necessarily understanding details on the creative side. The same sentiment is expressed in Dragon's Den/Shark Tank shows. Creators/inventors are important, but there are far more of them in the market than can or should be hired ..
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Old 03-08-19, 09:31 AM
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Patents are expensive.... let us know how that goes. Building then testing a proper prototype is the first hurdle,
& cheaper than a patent. Super curious, it's always cool to come across a folder that one has never seen before.
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Old 03-08-19, 12:08 PM
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On first reading, thought this was a Helix spoof

Originally Posted by kraftwerk View Post
Patents are expensive.... let us know how that goes. Building then testing a proper prototype is the first hurdle,
& cheaper than a patent. Super curious, it's always cool to come across a folder that one has never seen before.
Wise words try this > https://worldwide.espacenet.com/?locale=en_EP

And as mentioned before, patents dont work (unless you happen to have a huge fighting fund)
Mark Sanders, (Strida and iF mode guy) on this: https://vimeo.com/40986270 and https://vimeo.com/126361887 (see Myth 2 - patents protect ~7min)
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Old 03-09-19, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by Simple Simon View Post
On first reading, thought this was a Helix spoof


Wise words try this > https://worldwide.espacenet.com/?locale=en_EP

And as mentioned before, patents dont work (unless you happen to have a huge fighting fund)
Mark Sanders, (Strida and iF mode guy) on this: https://vimeo.com/40986270 and https://vimeo.com/126361887 (see Myth 2 - patents protect ~7min)
These videos were also very helpful--and fascinating for me, so thank you. What Mark Sanders says about patents is about what I thought, although he does still advise applying for a patent. Maybe I'm going to skip the patent thing after all. What he strongly recommends is entering design competitions. Since my idea is already in a somewhat presentable form for these, I guess this is what I'm going to do first.
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