We are so excited to be funded! Thanks to all our backers! We got a lot of UK publicity last week, on the BBC East Midlands Today on Monday 23 March and here's a short glimpse of our wheels on show in the BBC national news item about Designs of the Year 2015 from Tuesday 24 March, 6 o'clock news.
Loopwheels are shock-absorbing wheels with integral suspension, which are designed to help a wheelchair user push over uneven streets, rough tracks, grass and gravel paths, with less effort. The carbon springs give you extra torque power to get up or down kerbs. Loopwheels are more comfortable than standard wheels: they absorb tiring vibration, as well as bumps and shocks. They’re extremely strong and durable, needing little or no maintenance. With quick release axles and several sizes, loopwheels fit most active wheelchairs.
But don't take my word for it - watch our Kickstarter video and listen to two people who use wheelchairs, Helen Lowe and Mark Briggs, talk about the benefits of loopwheels, for themselves and for other people like Helen's husband and her carer.
We reinvented the wheel, so you can tackle any path ahead.
Awards - stop press!
Loopwheels have been nominated for the prestigious Designs of the Year 2015! Announced by the Design Museum, London on 19 February 2015, we're one of 6 nominees in the Transport Category - together with the Google self-driving car and BMW's i8!! Designs of the Year 2015 will be exhibited from 25 March 2015 at the Design Museum, Shad Thames London. On display will be our new loopwheels for wheelchairs and our original smaller wheels for bikes.
Kickstarter no 2
This is our second Kickstarter campaign. In May 2013, 173 wonderful people backed our campaign to produce our first loopwheels, which are wheels for folding bikes. ("Loopwheels: for a smoother and more comfortable bicycle ride"). We smashed our £40k target, reaching over £61k, so we were able to start manufacturing loopwheels. We delivered all our Kickstarter rewards that same year. Now we need your help again!
Right from the start of our 2013 Kickstarter campaign, people asked us if we could make loopwheels for wheelchairs.
Helen Turner, who is a GB paralympian (wheelchair basketball player) saw our wheels at the very first bike show we ever did, 3 days before we launched on Kickstarter in 2013. She took me to one side and said she wanted loopwheels for her wheelchair. Over the following months we got more enquires from wheelchair users.
Scaling up to a bigger wheel for wheelchairs wasn't easy. For wheelchairs I needed to design and develop a loopwheel with a bigger diameter, which was technically challenging, and I had to understand the particular needs of wheelchair users.
I started talking to people in detail about what they wanted from loopwheels on their chairs. They told me they wanted to be able to go wherever they wanted to go – over long grass, off road, go up kerbs and uneven streets - more easily and more comfortably. They also wanted to reduce the amount of vibration they feel through their chairs and into their bodies.
I soon realised there is a need for loopwheels on chairs. Not just a "want". And I’m happy to say, after a year of design, development, testing and prototyping, I’m now ready with a new loopwheel designed specifically for wheelchairs.
Tell me again, what's better about loopwheels for wheelchairs?
Compared with spoked wheels, even high quality ones, loopwheels mean:
- extra driving power or torque transfer from the springs, which gets you over obstacles more easily
- you can go up a kerb/curb (and down again)
- it's easier to cope with uneven road camber (a sideways slope)
- suspension gives you more comfort
- carbon composite springs absorb road vibration, which is tiring and causes discomfort or even pain for some people
- it is easier for the user or their carer to push, because getting you moving requires less effort
- you're not restricted to smooth tarmac or paved surfaces - you can move more easily off-road and on badly maintained pavements.
What stage is the project at?
We’ve completed the design, made prototypes and done a lot of testing over the past year on these new loopwheels. We've built on our knowledge and experience of making our smaller bicycle loopwheels, gained over the last 6 years. (I spent over 4 years developing loopwheels for bikes before I launched them in April 2013). With the help of grant funding from Nottinghamshire County Council (our local government authority), we’ve already paid for most of the costs of new production tooling. This is the equipment for making our carbon composite springs, for die casting the aluminium hubs and the components that connect our springs to the rim and the hub, and for making the plastic connectors I've designed to attach the push rim to the rims.
So why do we need your help?
Now we want to plan our first production run and order the components in bulk - so that we can start to build wheels. (Yey!) Until now I only have enough components for 10 trial pairs, which are currently being put through their paces by wheelchair users. We need upfront funding to pay for a bigger volume order of components, and we need to know numbers so that we don't overstretch ourselves by ordering too many. This is where you come in, Kickstarter!
We need your help to fund our first production run of loopwheels for wheelchairs.
Your pledges will pay for the components and materials to make the first batches of true production pairs of loopwheels for wheelchairs.
Please back us! With loopwheels, you can help bring greater comfort, mobility and independence to people who use a wheelchair. So whether you need a loopwheel yourself, or whether you just want to contribute to making loopwheels available to people who do, please support us!
Some of the rewards are of course the very first production loopwheels for wheelchairs. By pledging on Kickstarter, you will be among the first to have a loopwheel for a wheelchair and the cost is cheaper than our eventual RRP (we plan to sell pairs of wheels at £695, including the push rim).
We've tried to choose rewards that will appeal to you - whether you want to put in a lot or a little to our project. The spirit of Kickstarter is personal creativity, so I've included rewards that are part of my loopwheels journey, making key rings and loopy monsters from the loopwheels parts I've designed myself. We welcome every pledge - thank you!
A Kickstarter campaign doesn't seem complete to me without a T-shirt. This time we've asked Trail 42, another small British business, to design a T-shirt uniquely for us. It is 100% organic cotton, certified by the Control Union and Soil Association, ethically produced and Fair Wear Foundation verified and is screen printed by hand in Trail 42's workshop using non-toxic water-based inks. We'll offer it in S, M, L and XL. (Sorry - no children's T-shirts this time - it's just so hard to get children's T-shirts in reliable age sizes.)
Limited unique sculptural art pieces
I'm parting with some of my treasured "archive" of early prototype parts. Each ones of these were important milestones in the development of my wheel. I'm keeping one of each for myself, but am offering the rest to you. I've built them into sculptures with beautiful hand-crafted wooden stands made from oak. I hope you'll love and treasure them. There's a lot of blood, sweat, and tears - not to mention hours of CAD time - gone into every one!
Wheel rewards - the main event!
And of course Kickstarter backers get the chance to pledge for some of our first production loopwheels for wheelchairs, as singles or pairs, in black or in a choice of colours, 24" or 25" and with either narrow or wider push rim spacing (11mm or 19mm). If you pledge for a wheel reward, we'll take all the information about choices and sizes after the campaign is ended with a "backer survey" that comes as a Kickstarter email to you.
So please go ahead and pledge as little or as much as you can afford - so we can order the components to manufacture our first production batch of loopwheels and get them out to people who want them . . .
Reward levels in US dollars
We're British so we've put the rewards in £ sterling. Your card provider will charge you in your own currency and the rate will vary. To help, here are rough conversion rates based on 3 March quotes by XE Currency Exchange site:
- £9 is approx $14
- £18 is approx $28
- £26 is approx $40
- £47 is approx $72
- £95 is approx $146
- £195 is approx $299
- £220 is approx $338
- £310 is approx $476
- £595 is approx $914
- £850 is approx $1,307
What exactly is a loopwheel?
A loopwheel is a wheel with integral suspension. Carbon composite springs replace conventional spokes and constantly adjust to shocks and the changes in the terrain that the wheel rolls over. In effect, the hub "floats" within the rigid rim. You can see more info on our website www.loopwheels.com and watch the videos. Or take a look at our 2013 campaign.
How is this loopwheel different from the bicycle loopwheel?
My original loopwheel for folding bikes is 20 inch in diameter. The springs were built around an off-the-shelf hub which has drum brakes and gears. This wheel has a new hub which I have designed specifically to be right for a loopwheel for wheelchairs. The springs are different. I've designed the special connector between the wheel rim and push rim.
Here's a list of the differences:
Original loopwheel for bike
Purpose: Comfort, anti-vibration and suspension on a commuter or folding bike
Diameter of wheel: 20” (BSD:406mm)
Springs: Up to 45mm suspension travel. Rear wheel springs are stiffer than front wheel (because of weight distribution on a bike)
Hub: “off the shelf” branded hub eg Sturmey Archer or Shimano
Axle: 9mm diameter
Weight: 2.05kg (front wheel) 2.95kg (rear wheel)
What do you get in the box? Complete loopwheel with integral drum brake (rear wheel with gears). Fitting kit for a bicycle (to attach brake & gears).
New loopwheel for wheelchair
Purpose: For comfort, anti-vibration and greater independence on all off-road and non-smooth surfaces on a wheelchair
Diameter of wheel: 24” (BSD:540mm) and 25” (BSD:559mm)
Springs: Up to 70mm suspension travel potential, but in practice less is usually used. Larger stiffer springs – because the feedback from wheelchair users was that they want enough movement to help manoeuvre over obstacles and no more
Hub: I’ve designed my own strong, lightweight hub specifically suited to wheelchairs and to the loopwheels design
Axle: 12.71mm diameter, quick release – fits all wheelchairs that take Spinergy wheels
Weight: 2kg including push rim and tyre - 1.75kg without the tyre.
What do you get in the box? Complete loopwheel with pushrim.
Risks and challenges
Last time around, we had a long list of risks and challenges. We'd never manufactured in any serious volume, we'd never exported products out of the UK, we'd never run a Kickstarter campaign before, and there were just two of us doing it initially. It was scary, and we did have frustrations. Not everything went exactly to plan, but we managed it. Successfully! We delivered all our rewards - some of them were later than we'd anticipated but the campaign ended in May 2013 and we were ready to dispatch all the rewards before Christmas 2013.
Since then, we've continued making and selling our loopwheels as our business, so whilst we're not complacent about the challenges of being a small manufacturing business, we do feel a lot more prepared for what's ahead of us!
Risk no 1. That we don't reach our crowdfunding target.
That's where you come in! If we don't get backers, none of this happens.
Risk no 2. That we get overwhelmed by orders.
We've calculated carefully and we know if we do reach our target, we will have enough money to make and deliver all the rewards we've promised. If we add more rewards, we will stage the timing of the delivery so we give ourselves enough time to manage the larger quantities. So our anticipated delivery dates are staged, with early birds being handled first.
Risk no 3. Manufacturing defects or faulty products.
We have tested, tested, tested and tested. I first began developing loopwheels in 2009. I now have 6 years of test data which has gone into the design of these wheels. We do a mix of theoretical and practical testing. We've had independent stress analysis done on the design, and we run our wheels through stringent mechanical testing. We've already trialled the first components, building them up into a small batch of wheels which we've put through the test machines and ridden off-road on my mountain bike. We use trusted suppliers for all our components.
Risk no 4: a delay in supply of components
We rely on external suppliers for the core components of our wheels. The risk here is that a delay in supply of one component will cause delays in production. But we've worked with all the suppliers before, we trust them, and we're already far into the project so we believe this risk is a small one.
Risk no 5: the unexpected
We know enough about this kind of project to know there is always something that you haven't planned for. As a small business, uncontrollable events like illness can have a major impact. But when you set out on a crazy path of reinventing the wheel, you get used to having to overcome every challenge in front of you, and you build up resilience. My pledge to you is that if the unexpected happens, we will communicate with you regularly and honestly.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (39 days)