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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Loopwheels: for a smoother, more comfortable bicycle ride


The project

Yep, this project is about reinventing the wheel.  But don't let that put you off - this is serious!!  I have spent much of the last four years developing bicycle wheels with integral suspension.  
We showed our loopwheels for the first time in public at the Bespoked Bicycle show in Bristol 12-14 April 2013. The reception and feedback was brilliant - thank you to every one who came to our stand. There are pictures and Twitter feedback on the Loopwheels Facebook page.
We are at the final push now: I need your help to take our fully-functioning and tested prototype 20" front and rear bicycle wheels into production.  

What is a loopwheel?

Loopwheels are a brand-new 'pat pending' 20" bicycle wheel with integral suspension.  A spring system between the hub and the rim of the wheel provides suspension, cushioning the rider from bumps and potholes in the road.  
Loopwheels have a conventional hub with a hub brake and hub gears.  But the spokes are replaced by a spring system.  This gives an amazingly smooth, comfortable ride compared with a conventional spoked wheel.

Why do we need your help?

We now have high performing pre-production loopwheels for both a front and a rear 20" bicycle wheel.  Until now, our wheels have been made in very small numbers, and fitted onto bikes which we have bought individually.  I need funding to move forward into proper production, to pay the upfront tooling costs for the bespoke components that attach the springs to the rims and hubs, so that we can manufacture our loopwheels at an affordable price to share with the world.  Then we can make our loopwheels in batches not as individual wheels. 
So what exactly will I spend the funding on if we reach our target?
As well as the cost of pledge items (including bikes), I will use the money to fund:
  • the extrusion tool for the aluminium components of the loopwheel; 
  • the upfront costs of bulk orders of components;
  • a resin system for the springs.   (At the moment we make the springs using a simple steel tool which has been good enough for making springs for the small numbers of wheels we've done to date. But we need to invest in a much more sophisticated resin system for making springs in larger quantities and more quickly); 
  • materials to make assembly jigs, and other simple production equipment such as benches to fit out the industrial unit we've used for testing & development work.
And if we exceed our target: I might be able to afford some extra labour to help me out assembling loopwheels and posting them to backers!

What exactly is a loopwheel?

This picture shows the loopwheel and its various components.  The ones marked "JP" are the bespoke elements designed by Jelly Products (JP) (that's me!!)   Other components are standard bicycle parts that I've bought in "off the shelf".
The components of a loopwheel
The components of a loopwheel
The springs are made of carbon composite material, carefully developed and tested to give optimum compression and lateral stability as well as strength and durability.  I've designed connectors to attach the springs to the hub and rim, and these are aluminium extrusions. There are three springs in each wheel, which work together as a self-correcting system. The spring configuration allows for the torque to be transferred smoothly between the hub and the rim. 

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