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.


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.
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