Tuesday, April 17, 2007

My New Old Friend Earle


"If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door." This line has been attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson (there is some doubt as to whether or not he ever said this) but history has shown that, at least in the mousetrap game, the world is, in fact, indifferent to invention. Nonetheless, there are still tinkerers in this world, folks who putter in basements and create something new.

Earle Jones is one of those guys. Earle found me through Google and thought I might be the kind of guy who'd be interested in his invention.

Earle was right.

It turns out that Earle lives in my town, up the road on Squak Mountain, so this afternoon I went up to see his invention.

Earle's made a crank that eliminates the dead spot in a pedal stroke. It's clever. It's weird. And the damn thing seems to work. I rode it up and down the hill on Earle's street and it gives the bike an odd surging feeling. But I realized that I'm used to bikes with dead spots in their pedal strokes. It feels like somebody is helping push the crank. It's cool.



Earle patented his crank years ago and has made various prototypes and improvements over the years.

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6840136.html

Is this the next big thing? I have no idea. Earle isn't a big company with lots of R&D and marketing bucks. But he is a very smart guy who is a really good machinist.






And he's got an amazing basement. How can you not like an 86-year old dude who has a plasma-jet cutter in his basement?



I've ridden lots and lots of bikes over the years. Light racing bikes, low-down recumbents, fixed gears, $20 beaters, you name it. And they all turn in fairly similar times on my commute. Your basic bike is a pretty darn efficient machine. But, of course, there is always room for improvement. And maybe Earle's crank is a real improvement. I couldn't tell enough from a quick test ride, but I want to learn more, so Earle will be loaning me his bike for a week of test commutes. Stay tuned for more details.

Earle's the real deal. He's not making this thing to get rich, he really thinks he's got a better mouse trap. And maybe he does.

15 comments:

Sailinghome said...

Looks like a great idea to me.... I'm interested to find out how it works out on your commutes...

Sean said...

Sounds like Rotor cranks(http://www.rotorcranksusa.com/), interesting concept. I'm curious what you think after a week.

Brad said...

Wow! so the crank catches up on the back side and passes up past 180 degrees by the top I'm stunned. I would totally like to try one on my trailer pulling bike. Would it be possible? I'm so there!


Is there any play in the system or is it really that well made?

Wow......wow.

Coach Tammy said...

Stop harrassing old people.

So I made a bike fit appt for one of your friends the other day. She said she was a ranndoneaioeeieoer (however you spell that word!), and I said, "oh, do you know my good friend... um, er, what's his name?" I seriously forgot your name. What a great friend I am! Don't take it personally, I can't seem to remember my own name lately. I better eat more blueberries or somethin'. Coffee?

Cellarrat said...

Neato...

That shop looks awesome... it would be great just to be a fly on the wall for a few days there i'm guessing

Jill said...

Sounds really cool. I hope it works out for him. Good invention is great; good PR is even better.

Teemu said...

Isn't that effectively the same as a Rotor Crank? (http://www.rotorcranksusa.com/)

No way to tell from a couple of photos, really, but it seems both like the same basic idea and remarkably like the same sort of implementation.

I wouldn't put it past the Patent Office to give patents for the same invention to multiple inventors if they've managed to use different terminology in the description.

OTOH, the exact use to which these two cranks put the basic idea might be wildly different. The Rotor cranks move faster on the uplift, you could presumably make the cranks move slower on the uplift, and have different characteristics but also get rid of the dead spot. Rotor seems to give a performance benefit to some, but not all. Spinners don't, as a rule, like it; it messes up the flow of the spin.

Teemu said...

Further search proves that the same generic idea has been patented several times. The first one seems to be a hundred years old. Here's another hobbyist mechanic who says he came up with exactly the same mechanism as the Rotor folks, only fifteen years earlier: http://traylorfwd.home.mindspring.com/rotorcrank.html

I guess there are dozens of actual mechanisms designable to achieve the same design goal, so there will probably be further patents.

Dan said...

Looks interesting, but I have no idea what it is doing.

joedell said...

That is fucking awesome. Need a better video of it too. Can't wait to hear your opinion on the commutes. I'm sure Earl will appreciate your feedback too.

Kent Peterson said...

Oh yeah, the same idea has been around for quite some time. Earle made his first version shortly after WWII. He knows the Rotator guys and said something like "they have more money, I've got a better design." Earle's crank does this variable offset thing, at the top of the stroke the crank is 11 degrees off top-dead-center, but when the cranks are horizontal they are perfectly straight (180 degrees away from each other).

About the video, this was literally the first video I shot through my $100 Kodak camera and my first upload to youTube.

Perry said...

Kent, thanks for posting this. I think the company is Rotor, not Rotator. I only mention this because Rotator is 'bent manufacturer. (I don't believe the 2 companies are connected. Correct me if I an wrong.)

Anyway, I can't really see what's going on the video because it's too dark but it looks interesting. There have been many positive reports on the Rotor cranks (especially from recumbent riders). They are supposed to help out with climbing (harder on a 'bent) and folks with knee problems seem to especially like them. They also weigh about 1 lb. more than a regular crank and cost about $750. YIKES!!! Still, an interesting idea.

Brad said...

It looks as though Earle might have some pretty good legal grounds for patent infringement case against Rotorcranks. The royalties alone could at least get Earle a second plasma cutter.

beth h said...

>>How can you not like an 86-year old dude who has a plasma-jet cutter in his basement?

How indeed? That is some kinda putterer's dream.

nollij said...

Wow, I'd love to try something like that out. Too bad the Rotor cranks are $700+! Maybe Earle will have a lower price on his?