When someone doesn't know where to start telling a story
Since not everyone thinks like that, here is a point form of the process in chronological order of what I have done:
|July 19th, 2015||
It was a scratch
Since I had already lined up [MY PRIMARY WELDER] and had made some gussets I decided to go ahead with stiffening the swingarm even more.
[MY PRIMARY WELDER] finished up the work in time for me to have the prototype reassembled for my Sunday ride. I took some time to update the website since the weather forecast caused [THE LOCAL HILL] to make the unpopular but responsible call to cancel lift access.
Photographs of the damage and repair process.
|July 15th, 2015||
Repaired it - Rode it
The steel arrived on Tuesday.
I machined the steel tubing until 9pm when I had to stop because, as it turns out, the resonant frequency of my downstairs neighbour's apartment was the same as the milling operation I was running.
After checking with the folks downstairs, machining started again at 10am and the sleeves were ready for welding by Noon.
Since [MY PRIMARY WELDER] welder was out of town, I got a hold of my [ZERO NOTICE - BACKUP] welder to weld in what I have dubbed "the socks" that sleeve the broken portion of the swingarm.
I put the swingarm in the van - warm, drove home, reassembled the bike in a reduced travel configuration and got to the hill for prototype testing. Didn't miss a day.
The swingarm stiffness is improved and the bike handled really well... I was a little bit cautious at first but I got back up to my regular letting it coast pace soon enough. I had probably the best run through the Dump (high line) on Q-Cup that I've had in years. At the end of the run it felt like I did damage. Everything looked ok until I hung the bike back on the lift and I noticed a little line - 7mm long and 0.01mm wide in the steel swing arm - right at the other end of the gusset. I couldn't tell for sure if it was a crack or a scratch.
Knowing that I already had the tubing at home to repair a break - I once again rode the Prototype like I was trying to break it.
I made gussets and lined up welding with [MY PRIMARY WELDER]
|July 12th, 2015||
I snapped the steel swingarm.
If I had seen anyone riding any bike as abusively as I had rode the prototype in the previous year I would have voided their warranty.
The travel setting/configuration that I had selected to use to test the bike would allow metal to metal contact of the frame on bottom out. I could have reduced the travel to the original intent but since I was trying to get the most out of the machine and see where the weak points were - I let it ride.
It has been pointed out that I'm not a light rider.
I ordered more 4130 CrMo Steel that evening after designing a repair sleeve
|Early July, 2015||
I rode a bit too cautiously while recovering
|July 1st, 2015||
I had recently sprained my ankle
|June 28th, 2015||
I got a cold
|June 7th, 2015||
The Pursuit of Gravity
With only minor changes to the prototype I started another season of trying to kill either my invention or me.
Opening day cost me a rim .
I did smile.
|March 31st, 2015||
US Patent #8,991,846 - Granted
|December 11th 2014||
Notice of Allowance
The USPTO mailed out my notice of allowance for my Bicycle Chain Guide. I ended up filing a Rule 3.12 Amendment After Allowance but for the most part this was a win.
|October 21st 2014||
I received a non final rejection from the USPTO on two grounds. The first issue was that I had used indefinite language when I mentioned "the rear axle" without an antecedent. I was required to correct the wording to "a rear axle" thus instantiating an antecedent to later be able to discuss as "the rear axle".
The second objection came in the form of finding a prior art example... not of my invention, but more so of an invention that could be argued to be described by my very general claim. On first review this did however feel like I was told my invention of a screwdriver was being rejected based on a patent for a hammer.
|August 29th 2014||
Requirement to Elect a Species
As it turns out I didn't just invent a chain guide, according to the USPTO, I invented six (6) different "patentably distinct" chain guides. I elected Species E as the representative since it was on the prototype and then filed a Traverse in grouping Species C, D & E and obvious variants and then stated grounds for Species A being an obvious "pull then push" variant of the "push then pull" group of C, D & E. I modified claims to succeed both Species B and F.
In stating that these were obvious variants I was exposed to the risk that if any of the variants had been done before or could be found to have been obvious from something else then it would be grounds for rejection of the application.
|June 8th, 2014||
On the 4th anniversary of filing the Canadian patent application I hung the prototype from the chair lift at my local hill. When I got to the top I think I had a glimpse of what a test pilot feels like.
A week later a local photographer took some photos of me test riding the prototype.
|June 4th, 2014||
Prototype Introduced to it's Natural Habitat
I booked a car and drove the prototype up to the local hill. I picked up my season pass and then headed over to the base of the hill. I pushed the prototype up my favorite lower section of trail to see how it would coast. The bike held together and only needed to have the spring rate changed to be ready to ride.
|May 31st, 2014||
Around the Block
After 8½ months and a very conservative 500 hours of machining, a few minutes before midnight I had finished bolting the prototype together. I took it around the block for the very first test ride of any sort.
It was when I let it roll up the curb and front step of the walkway home that I first felt the hint that I had got the performance I was after out of the linkage.
Making a Jig From a Part
This might sound like a backwards way to go about it but by now I hope that you're starting to get the idea that sometimes that's just the way I see things and that it isn't always a bad idea.
I had made the model to fit the existing parts of the prototype. The prototype (reality) was the jig for the model; it made sense to me that the model would dictate the jig for the final part. Once again I worked to manufacture one of my "non-traditional" jigs. This would be how I would take the model to the local welding shop that specialised in Titanium welding.
|April 27th, 2014||
I had managed to finish the brass swingarm model that would confirm that the plans for the Titanium model and the manufacturing process that I developed for the assembly would work. The next step was to build the jig for the Titanium version and, once again, find a welder. My Aluminum welding team had given me a lead for local high quality Titanium welding. Coincidentally, the same folks that sent me to my Aluminum welding team.
Machining & Assembly
Machining & Assembly
With the frame welded together I was able to start mocking up assembly. I still had an entire swingarm structure to make... well... design and make but it made sense to get ready for that since I could keep working on getting the, what now appeared to be a countless number of, tiny little connecting bits, reducers, spacers, brackets, links....
Machining had gone into overtime. I had ramped up steadily from 40 hours a month early on to about 70 hours a month in preparation for welding. Months earlier I had run a sound test after showing a friend how to run the mill. I stood at the front door to my building where you can hear almost everything that happens in the building and I found out that even with a fly cutter cutting aluminum the sound was less than you would expect from a sewing machine and far quieter than the sounds of TV's and stereos in the other apartments. I was now machining nearly 120 hours a month.
|February 28th, 2014||
Soudage Aluminium - Welding Aluminum
It was ready, the front triangle, the shock box and the legs were welded and ready for final machining and heat treating. This was another turning point. There was a realisation. I held welded metal in my hands. I also got the impression that I might have overdone it a bit with the styling.
The Photo Shoot
You can tell the difference between my photos taken with my phone and photos that were taken by a professional photographer. I called Krull Photography in for the job.
I wanted to produce a welding assembly package that would show individual steps in the jigging of the frame. We did this by taking tripod mounted photos of the frame on the jig and detail photos of what I needed to show, step by step, as I disassembled the jigged frame. This ensured that I got the steps in the right order and that the finished alignment photo was already correct. The welding package consisted of two cross-referenced documents. One was the assembly Process document and the other was the Detail document. Pages in the Process Document such as Page 8 would link out to the Detail Document page D5 through D7 before returning to the next Process page Page 9.
At the end of the photo shoot we did a rather poor job of a time lapse reassembly sequence. We were both very tired and had taken far more time than either of us had expected.
Given the photo time stamps, at a leisurely and occasionally interrupted pace, I can jig the Triangle, Legs and Shock Box in 13 minutes.
This also put a new perspective on what I had done. I lived in the machine shop, I lived with the parts that I had made, this was part of me... when I saw the photo that Matt took of me by the parts that I had machined I heard his words in his voice. He had earlier commented that "I can't imagine how many hours you've spent at this mill". I was too close to the project to get a perspective on just how - out of my mind - I really was... well maybe not "out"... the truth is that I was IN MY MIND... let's just say that visitors are rare; friends are held in the highest regard.
I had finished the Chain Guide Mounting Plate, BB Shell and started the Feet.
My Machine Shop
I now had both my Mill and my Lathe set-up and ready to learn how to use them. This might be the time to point out that the reason the amount of noise that metalworking machines made was really important to me was because these machines were set up in my apartment. I built a structure to support sound baffles and a large canvas curtain to try to keep the noise to a minimum.
I might need to emphasize that I'm not a machinist. Less than two months earlier I asked a co-worker "What's a Mill?".
Visit to the Local Machinery Supplier
I walked in to the showroom and on hearing the noise of the CNC machine demo I nearly walked out. As it turns out the demo was cutting wood. Wood working machines are loud; metal working machines are (can be) quiet. I took up at over an hour of the employee's time getting advice on machinery, tooling and getting a demo of how loud the machines were.
|August 26th 2013||
The quote came in from the second machine and welding shop. I was ready to invest a substantial amount in a prototype but the quote came in 3 times higher than my ideal cost and 50% higher than my limit. For perspective the quote for the Feet was just over $1000 tax in - each.
This was a turning point. I had worked too hard to design a prototype that was easy to draw, manufacture and assemble. I decided to take an approach that I was toying with.
|August 14th 2013||
The USPTO mailed me a letter advising me that I risked abandonment of my application for my Bicycle Chain Guide because I failed to provide my mailing address.
|August 8th, 2013||
I purchased the 6061-T6 Aluminum tubing, plate and flatbar that I was going to (as I thought at the time) have someone make into a frame for me. This was the first time that I held raw tubing of the design specification and I was a little surprised at how heavy it was. This also was a bit of a driving force to continue to the next steps... after all... I now had a bunch of metal in my apartment.
|July 29th 2013||
With 3 days off in a row and unable to ride because of a torn tendon in my elbow I sat down to prepare and then file my second patent application. I filed the application online to avoid being charged the $200 "incentive fee" for filing in paper. Since the only internet I had at my apartment was on my phone, I left for work early on the Monday and made a stop at the regular Internet Cafe.
|February 19th, 2013||
US Patent #8,376,382 - Granted
While I've been told that #8,675,309 would have been way cooler, I had my first patent.
|December 13th, 2012||
Notice of Allowance
The USPTO mailed out the Notice of Allowance for my patent application. I did end up filing a Rule 3.12 Amendment After Allowance but the Notice of Allowance was the green light to pay the Issue and Publication fees to get my Patent granted.
|October 4th, 2012||
The USPTO had started examination of my patent application and had mailed a Non-Final Rejection based on the fact that my claims were "Narrative in nature and replete with indefinite language". It is at this point I started working with my Patent Examiner to resolve the issues of the wording of my claims. I can only imagine that a large portion of the Examination Fee goes directly to cover the costs of therapy for Patent Examiners that have to deal with Pro Se Inventors.
|June - October 2012||
The Pursuit of Gravity
Every year the same thing happens in the off season. I walk by my bike (it lives in my apartment with me) and I think to myself, as I am reminded of the full magnitude of the machine at a single glance, "This has got to be the stupidest thing that I could possibly do with what is left of my life."
With uncertainty I will make it to opening weekend at the local hill; I've let go the ritual of the pilgrimage to the first open lift 3 hours of driving (5 hours of traffic) away. I will gear up and after fighting with hook-and-loop fasteners for 20 minutes I will push my bike towards the lift. At the top of the hill a cloud of doubt will be escaped instantly once the wheels start rolling.
I think that I am describing an addiction.
I developed what I call 3D Foam Core. If you take Styrofoam house insulation sheets and cut them into strips (in this case 1"x2") and wrap them in Bristol board held in place with a liberal amount of carpenter's glue then you have a material that you can use to simulate tubing in terms of shape, ability to cut with conventional tools and a structural rigidity. Yes, I had gone from modeling in wood to Styrofoam. This got laughs from a lot of people that I know. I've been told by many that you can't test structures using one material when it is to be made out of another. I've held to the belief that it might not be ideal but it can still be beneficial. I got to find stress and flex points in my full scale "Foam-o-type" as it was dubbed.
Free Balfa BB7
At the hill one day, a friend of mine that had been until a few years past been riding a Balfa BB7 mentioned that since they couldn't find anyone to buy the bike that they had been trying to sell that (to them) it would make sense to simply give me the complete bike for parts to keep mine running (I had snapped my swingarm and had it welded back together and gussets added).
So there. I had a complete bike to be able to use as a test for my retrofit linkage as soon as it would be ready - on a Tuesday that has not yet happened.
I had designed the metal version of the retrofit option. I had dropped the drawings off at a local welding and light machine shop that advertised prototyping. It had been a couple of Tuesdays past the Tuesday when the parts were supposed to be ready. It would be many more months and much transportation cost before I would eventually give up on Tuesday.
|May 13th, 2011||
Ok. Eventually there will be a theme coming across of me constantly testing the soundness of the idea using a modeling approach and then approaching others to make me the prototype. I figured out that a bike company wouldn't want to take a risk making a bike that worked fine as a scale wood model. I needed to ride a prototype. Even if just once around the block.
Some long time customers had a retired Balfa BB7 in the family and lent me the frame to do my retrofit testing calculations. A friend of mine left me a piece of Styrofoam house insulation that they found near my apartment garbage dumpster and left it for me with a note that read: "How What's Stopping You?"... well mostly discouragement with the results of my approach... but here was a gift of what I would use to model a retrofit test for my Balfa.
|May 4th, 2011||
The US Patent Application
Time was running out to file the US patent application. Since there had been no interest in the project from any bike companies with money and lawyers I prepared and filed the US application Pro Se once again. I mailed in my application along with my self addressed stamped postcard to serve as a receipt. One of the more challenging things this time was to find US postage stamps in Canada, in a hurry. Luckily there is a retail stamp store 4km (2.5 miles) away from my apartment that, in addition to what appeared to be an absolutely enormous collection a collectable stamps, stocks some US stamps to be used for the purposes of US postage.
|March 8th, 2011||
Another Bicycle Company Said No
While I was lucky enough to get a response from another Canadian bicycle company and got some excellent perspective, the conversation ended with a quote that would stay with the project:
"There is no question that your science is sound and that your kinematics good;
I Snapped my Balfa BB7
Well, as it turns out it only took me 7 years to do it, but I can snap a Balfa BB7 steel swingarm.
All of my statements about vector physics and desirable wheel path made sense when analysing the breakage and cracks in the swingarm.
Also, apparently, it's only called "Un Whip" if you can bring it back.
|June 9th, 2010||
A Canadian bicycle company got the first call. I could now tell people about what I had invented. The Director of Marketing declined interest.
The timing was unfortunate for me since the company had recently made the business decision to stop helping other bicycle companies start up. They were also in the process of trying to break into the international market and had licensed a well recognised patented linkage.
|June 8th, 2010||
Canadian Patent Application 2,706,678
I'm lucky enough to live 5km (3 miles) from the Canadian Patent Office. I got on my commuter bike and hand delivered my Patent Application to the CIPO mail room. I had been working on the patent application, the engineering and the Physics of my invention in secret for well over a year. Please read into that; I was about to explode.
|May 9th, 2010||
The Pursuit of Gravity - Closed for snow
Apparently the lifts close if there is snow on the Sunday of opening weekend.
Those are my footprints.
I had introduced a friend and coworker to concept of "The Pilgrimage". I had even checked into a motel for this trip.
It was a sign that this would be my last pilgrimage. Keep in mind that this was my second season of opening day - with a secret.
|May 9th, 2009||
The Pursuit of Gravity
It was opening weekend. I went to the first hill open within reason and rode opening day. This is the camp that I had set up. My Balfa, my tent, my gear and my beer.
Fire going strong.
This isn't a hobby.
This isn't my job.
This is my passion.
The Wood Model
I've been laughed at for this by the bicycle industry, specifically for approaching bicycle companies when I was only this far along. But this model lets you feel the transfer of forces and demonstrates exactly how the suspension, chain routing, effect configuration and floating brake function.
Advice from a Patent Agent
I got some good advice from a Patent Agent that was a customer of the bike shop where I was working. I started preparing the Canadian Patent Application. I was, from the time of invention, working in secret to protect the patentability of my invention.
Early Concept Sketches
I was working on making lines of linkages into parts of a propose prototype for purposes of a patent. From the earliest concept sketches you can see that, while development happened, I had the idea of what I wanted right from the start.
These are some early drawings.
|March 5th, 2009||
After working on coming up with a linkage that would do what I wanted - for about a month of concentrated effort - I finished off the day of working in my "Mad Scientist Notebook" with a hastily drawn sketch. I drew a standard Horst Link frame and called it "Your Bike:", a sketch of my Balfa and called it "My Bike:" and a sketch of how far I had been able to get with my ideas and called it "Get Me:". I knew that there needed to be a protrusion below the pivot but hadn't sorted out how to activate it. I woke up in the middle of the night to take another look at the drawing. One of the lines scribbled in frustration made me question and rethink my approach; then I saw it. I tested it with cardboard, thumbtacks and a corkboard. I knew that I needed to get a patent. Finding out that you are incorrect or wrong can be mortifying; The first hint that I might actually be correct and right - was horrifying.