I’m Sue Knaup, the executive director of One Street, an international bicycle advocacy organization. I designed this bicycle shift lever after countless complaints from our partner organizations in all parts of the world. Programs that provide bicycles to people who need them for transportation, hauling goods and carrying their children can no longer find shift levers that hold up to hard use. They can choose from ridiculously complex and expensive shifters that are usually integrated with the brake lever or cheap shifters made of plastic and pot metal. Both types wear out within months of daily use and cannot be repaired.
I owned a bike shop here in Prescott, Arizona for 13 years before founding One Street in 2007 (read more about One Street at OneStreet.org). Even as a bike shop owner I was frustrated by the lack of dependable, affordable shift levers being made. But when I started hearing from One Street partner organizations that they were setting aside multitudes of donated bicycles because they could not repair the shift levers, I knew we had to do something.
I am a trained welder (stick, MIG and TIG) and have designed and built many varied items for my customers at the bike shop. I used this design and build experience to create the early prototypes, then worked with experts in aluminum casting and CAD design to produce this final prototype. The prototype lever and base were created with a CNC machine. However, the shifters funded by this Kickstarter campaign will be cast from scrap aluminum here in Prescott using a primitive casting method that anyone can set up in their backyard using a flower pot and household charcoal.
One element to be funded by this Kickstarter campaign will be the permanent casting molds. These molds will be CNC machined out of steel, which has a higher melting point than aluminum so that each mold will produce thousands of these shift levers. For the first production run, I will personally use the first mold with the primitive casting method and scrap aluminum I have already been collecting for this purpose. During this first production run, I will work with the casting experts to refine this method and capture every step in our manual for producing these shift levers.
The shifters that come from this first production run will be collector quality, marking the beginning of a new paradigm in bicycle parts production (we expect these shifters to be just the first of many bike parts from One Street Components). This new paradigm will center around local production using simple, even primitive methods and parts that are readily available in all areas of the world.
The funding goal for this campaign is set at $10,000, which is the minimum we need for the design and production of the early casting molds as well as the first production run.
If this campaign is successful and you are one of the lucky recipients of a shifter from this first run, I would very much like to hear your ideas for refinements. The next molds will be refined after receiving feedback about the shifters produced in the first run. These molds will be made available to our partners around the world who choose to license with us for producing and selling the shift levers themselves.
Even if someone does not want to license with us to produce and sell the shift levers, we will make our production manual available at a reasonable price. The manual will explain all the steps needed to produce the shift levers, including in depth guidance on the primitive aluminum casting method.
I so appreciate any support you can offer through this campaign and look forward to hearing your stories about helping people get their bikes rolling and shifting again with these shifters.
• Symmetrical – works on right or left side.
• Compatible with all bikes and all gear ranges, front and rear.
• Uses only six parts.
• Easily repaired and customized with common parts.
• Primitive casting using scrap aluminum.
• Simple, durable design for people who depend on their bike.
• Lever is slightly longer than others with a broad face for people with weak or injured hands.
• Supports upside-down bike during repair.
• Hose clamp is a common item found throughout the world.
• Friction is created by spring of stainless steel hose clamp and adjustable bolt tension.
• Bolt and nut are a common size, coarse thread; fits either an 11mm or 7/16” wrench.
• Nut rests inside recessed hex hole in bottom of base so bolt can be tightened easily from the top.
• Bottle cap visually emphasizes DIY design and functions as a slippery washer; customizable.
• Holes in bottle cap and hose clamp can be punched with large nail for easy repair and replacement.
Risks and challenges
The biggest challenge along the way has been convincing the experts and helpers I’ve worked with about the principles of this project. The first reaction from many has been to recommend outsourcing and mass production using high-tech methods and exchanging the common parts for complex ones, even plastic! Sound familiar? This has helped me to understand why bike shift levers (and other bike parts) have become complex, fragile and unrepairable. Just one slip – like adding an unusual part or succumbing to the enticingly cheap costs of outsourcing production – and we’d simply be adding to the flood of throwaway bike parts that miss out on supporting the local economies where they are used.
Another challenge I have yet to tackle is the creation of a simple, replicable jig to accompany each permanent mold for our license partners to ensure speedy production and assembly. This jig will hold:
• The bottle cap for punching a perfectly centered hole,
• The hose clamp for punching a perfectly centered hole,
• The lever for drilling one fine cable hole, and
• The base for drilling two fine cable holes (casting can’t handle these small holes).
One rather enjoyable challenge has been defining and clarifying the distinction between our license partners who want to produce and sell the shifter and folks who simply want to make some for their own use, DIY style. This challenge has connected me with other DIY designers who have solved it for their products. I am stunned and thrilled to discover so many great DIY visionaries! These peer connections are not only helping me with this particular issue, but many other inspiring ideas as we look ahead to designing and producing more bike parts that anybody can use, repair and even produce themselves.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (34 days)