The KneeFlyer: a binding system for kneeboarding!*
A performance binding system that mounts to your snowboard or skateboard creating a fun and easy way to ride all year round!*
The KneeFlyer: a binding system for kneeboarding!*
A performance binding system that mounts to your snowboard or skateboard creating a fun and easy way to ride all year round!*
The KneeFlyer Story
What is the KneeFlyer?
It's a new way to ride. This binding system secures a rider in a seated kneeling position and mounts to any snowboard or other device. It is made up of a plastic tray, a removable foam contoured knee pad with a seat extension, and a set of retention straps that come together to provide the rider with a comfortable and controllable way to ride their favorite device.
What is so special about the KneeFlyer?
Unlike a kneeboard for the water that forces the rider to sit on their ankles with their feet flexed back, the KneeFlyer’s patented design has a contoured knee and shin cavity as well as a seat extension that supports the rider's weight up off of the ankles. The seat extension also acts as a lever for the rider to grip and lean on when turning and stopping, adding more overall control. The knee pad is also raised up off the board which allows the rider's feet to hang in a natural position. These features add more comfort and allow longer rides with less fatigue.
Oh, and getting buried in powder is epic!
Well, that is pretty fantastic! But what is wrong with normal snowboards?
Normal snowboards are great, except for the long, painful learning curve that most beginner riders experience. The KneeFlyer has almost no learning curve due to its low center of gravity! This allows the rider to easily balance and touch the ground with their hands. Using their hands, like a skier uses poles to push off, they can get going, right themselves when needed, and push through flat areas.
In addition, the rider's forward facing orientation on the KneeFlyer makes turning in either direction equally easy, unlike the sideways rider stance of a standard snowboard, which forces the rider to have a strong and weak side when turning.
I’m sold, but if you had to provide two more details about the KneeFlyer that would make me extra happy, what would they be?
The KneeFlyer is designed to be ridden in a seated kneeling position, but can also be ridden in a seated position like a standard sled. Just secure the straps around the tray, turn the board around and sit in the knee cavity, wrapping your legs around the seat extension, and GO!
The KneeFlyer is a multi-seasonal binding system that attaches to a snowboard for the winter, your skateboard/mountainboard/longboard or other device for the remaining seasons of the year.
Ever since the first person saw the early prototype designs of the KneeFlyer, the question about its adaptive possibilities has repeatedly been raised. Understandably, this was a common assumption drawn throughout the development of the product by people who were not part of the adaptive community and had little idea about what it really meant to be an adaptive rider. So, after years of prototype testing and refining the design of the KneeFlyer, I decided to talk to people in the adaptive world and discover the possibilities of its adaptive use.
I loaded up my prototypes and headed out to Colorado to visit some of the top adaptive programs. I met with directors of these programs to discuss this question with them. After the meeting, they all liked the product and thought it had something to offer in the way of adaptive use for amputees, as well as people with mild muscular situations and those who may have been forced to stop their snow activities due to an injury. On the other hand, people thought it might need more support for some riders with limited mobility and that it would need to be adapted to riders on an individual basis. Overall, after showing me their equipment and cumbersome devices, these folks thought the KneeFlyer was an interesting and simple design. The adaptive program directors also commented on the low price point of the KneeFlyer compared to the high price of the adaptive equipment currently available on the market.
However, the main thing we learned is that every adaptive situation is unique and needs to be addressed on an individual basis. Each person has different needs due to the nature of their injuries, size, flexibility, general aptitude and athleticism, as well as overall mobility. I also learned that each person needs custom fitted equipment. We also talked about how to get on and off the ski lift. Unlike most adaptive equipment that is designed to load on the lift with the rider still attached to the device, the KneeFlyer is a walk-on device, which means the rider cannot stay strapped in when loading the chair lift.
With all this in mind, we hope that the KneeFlyer can help get any injured skier back on the mountain and offer something new to the adaptive sport community.
We have designed the KneeFlyer to meet all the requirements of most commercial ski areas by enabling it to be mounted on any production metal-edged snowboard and by providing a safety leash to prevent runaway boards. That being said, this does not mean that the KneeFlyer will be allowed on all ski areas yet, which is similar to what riders experienced when snowboards first entered the market.
Some areas may refuse the use of the KneeFlyer on its chair lifts and mountain until it is generally accepted by the industry. I have personally ridden on a number of privately owned ski areas without a problem, but it may take some time before corporate resorts allow the use of the KneeFlyer on their mountain. The ones that do let it on the slopes may also choose to restrict the lifts and runs because it is a walk-on device – for now.
However, the recent downturn of the economy has affected the snow sports industry, and many ski areas are looking for ways to increase lift ticket sales and have become more accepting to walk-on and alternative devices on the mountain. Additionally, many ski areas use public land overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and are required to follow the BLM’s use guidelines to prevent any discrimination by resorts against alternative, walk-on, and adaptive devices.
KneeFlyer Can Save the Family Trip
Planning a first, big ski vacation for the family can be fun and exciting. You look forward to enjoying the fresh air, spectacular views, and the rush of flying down the mountain. Once you arrive at the ski resort and get your rental gear, you soon realize that snowboarding is a bit more challenging than what the pros make it look like on TV.
You take a beginner class in snowboarding for an hour and end up with sore wrists and knees from falling forward, a sore butt from falling backwards and having to get back up multiple times. When it is time to practice on your own, you are frustrated and too tired to have fun as planned. This is where some people end up going back to the rental barn and returning their equipment disappointed and fatigued.
But what if you had an alternative option to ride on the slopes with your friends and family members? What if this alternative option did not require much of a learning curve or experience? This is where the rental barn can offer you the KneeFlyer! You immediately feel hopeful and recharged to take on the slopes...this time with more confidence and excitement.
You take the lift up to a smaller mountain to practice and find that once you are strapped in, the comfort of being on the KneeFlyer feels natural. You place your hands into the powdered snow and push off. Wow! This is like being on a sled, but with full control and the liberty to make some awesome moves down the slope. The KneeFlyer experience did it! You are now pumped to join your friends and family without any more concerns about falling and balancing, sore muscles, or frustration.
The KneeFlyer’s Aha! Moment by Chris T. Brown
I grew up in southwest Ohio where I developed my love of all board, wheeled, balance, outdoor and action sports. I got my first skateboard in the mid 70’s, a G&S Fiberflex with ACS trucks and Roadrider wheels. In those days, it used to snow regularly in the Midwest and because there were no ski areas in the region, I grew up sledding and tubing on the local hills. In the late 1970’s, I started snow skiing and then began snowboarding in the early 1980’s with an all-wood Burton Performer. I started water skiing around the same time and got my first water kneeboard, an O'Brian Bullfrog, and then got a Skurfer, the first wakeboard, shortly after it came to market.
I then attended the University of Cincinnati where I studied at the College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. I learned about the fundamentals of product design. My passion for music was equally strong and for the following 11 years toured with bands playing drums, delivering pizza, and continued to dream up new sporting products.
The KneeFlyer’s aha! moment happened when I wanted to merge my water kneeboard with my snowboard and ride on my knees with control. I simply removed the foam pad and strap off an water kneeboard and then attached it to one of my snowboards with the boot bindings removed. To make the wider kneepad fit on the narrow snowboard, I pushed the pad together and the middle part of the pad lifted up. This made a raised seat to sit on and that was the KneeFlyer’s aha! magical moment!
Now, I have a winter sled I can ride kneeling down that offers full control, is safer, and more fun than traditional seated sleds or tubes. My water kneeboarding experiences taught me that being on your knees gives you much more power to control and absorb bump impacts than any seated position.
In 2001, I moved to Austin and continued to play music, worked at bike and ski shops and started building bent wood products out of my apartment. My passion to build with my hands soon turned into a business, Stardust Boardwerks, where I hand make all wood snowboards, skateboards, and other custom bent wood products. I also continue to develop many new products for outdoor fun.
Finally in 2007, I met Ryan Coover, an architect and artist by trade, that loves cycling as much as I do, and who just became a stay-at-home dad, putting his architectural practice on hold. One day, I showed Ryan my closet filled with ideas. He was inspired by my work and offered to help me take my best idea to market. The KneeFlyer was chosen! For the next 6 years, we refined and tested the design to get us where we are today!
The Design Development Years
Pros: Simple and light. Cons: Hard to lean and turn, ankles still bend backwards wearing snow boots and no adjustability to move forwards or backwards for proper weight distribution. Solution: Create a tray mounting system.
Pros: Allows for front and back adjustment while holding straps in place, gives rider something to hang onto. Cons: Still too wide to fit onto a 10" wide snowboard. Solution: Create a tray that is 10" wide at the base and widens to 15" at the top.
Pros: Protects and secures foam pad, gives straps a solid base, ankles are comfortable and less effort needed to make turns. Cons: Rigid tray does not allow snowboard to flex, keeping part of the metal edge off the snow during turns; it's heavy, it's hard and wood won’t hold up in wet conditions. Solution: Create a system allowing the snowboard to flex and make a plastic tray.
Pros: Allows snowboard to flex and holds the metal edge in the turns; plastic tray is lighter and perfect for wet conditions. Cons: The metal mounting system adds even more weight, making it hard to adjust on the slope; center of gravity is now too high and would cost too much to mass produce. Solution: Design the tray to flex and include a simple and easy-to-use mounting system to accommodate all snowboards.
The KneeFlyer has a mounting system built into the plastic tray giving adjustability forwards and backwards. It allows the KneeFlyer to mount to all snowboards. This is a critical feature; so when you ride the KneeFlyer in the backcountry or deeper snow, you will want to move your center of gravity back. When you are carving turns on groomed runs at the ski resort, a more forward position gives you more edge control.
The refined shape and thickness of the tray walls, along with the new fin design, create a flexible, yet rigid system. The current KneeFlyer design will complement any board and properly fit to perform.
The KneeFlyer seated kneepad has a seat that slopes down to accommodate a variety of different sized riders. In order to safeguard and protect our design, we applied for and received two official patents.
The Next Step after KickStarter
With the funds raised, we can pay for tooling and manufacturing costs, bringing the KneeFlyer to the masses at an affordable price.
We have secured RIM Mfg. (http://www.rimmfg.com/), a reputable manufacturer and their toolmaker, to help us produce the KneeFlyer. Both associates are located in Ft. Worth, Texas. RIM Mfg. is a leader in the “reaction injection molding” (RIM) industry and has developed a great working relationship with its toolmaker across town. The RIM manufacturing process is perfect for the KneeFlyer because it allows for both the detailed hard plastic parts and durable foam parts to be run in the same method and location. The fact that both the plastic tray and the foam insert pad will be made in the same place by the same toolmaker will help everything fit together properly and run smoothly. In addition, since they are located just a few hours north of Austin, where we are based, it will make the manufacturing process far easier to navigate.
Our Manufacturing Game Plan
- We will work RIM's engineers to finalize our existing model and produce a "design for manufacturing" (DFM) drawing that includes all finalized designs and details. The DFM becomes the master file used to coordinate the building of the molds and secures the manufacturing process.
- Apply the DFM to computer stress test analysis for safety and durability.
- Send DFM to Fain Models (http://www.fain.com/index.html) for a “computer numerical control” (CNC) model of the two parts, tray and foam pad, to ensure that all parts fit together before making the final molds.
- With the prototype model approved, the DFM drawings will be sent to Tiger Ridge Manufacturing to have the tools made for the manufacturing molds of the tray and foam pad. It will take an estimated 8-10 weeks to complete the molds.
- After RIM Mfg. receives the molds, they will have the molds in their presses within 72 hours. Test runs will begin immediately producing three final working production parts for sign-off. RIM Mfg. estimates 20-25 completed parts per day.
- The parts will be sent to Stardust Boardwerks where final, assmebly, packaging, and shipping will take place.
Made In The USA
Keeping it "Made in America" means a lot to us. The overall value of keeping jobs in America, along with having better communication with the manufacturer, greater quality control, and shorter lead time, are the main reasons why we support producing the KneeFlyer in the USA.
The successful KickStarter support will also allow us to continue developing a broad range of KneeFlyer accessories to accompany the product when it hits the market. Ideas include webbed gloves, grip pants, jacket, a snow paddle, a land paddle, land gloves, lighting brackets, front pouch, tool holder, custom board shapes and more!
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The KneeFlyer has been used and tested on ski slopes, the backcountry, backyards, grassy hills and the pavement. Future testing will be done on paddleboards, kayaks and more.
Longboard or Skateboard
Through your pledge of support, you will receive a discount off retail pricing, free shipping and the Kickstarter lime green strapping. You will be one of the first people to take the KneeFlyer out on the slopes and enjoy having a new toy for your winter fun.
- You - We cannot do this without your support in pre-buying the KneeFlyer, sharing this idea and believing in us, so that we can all have something new to do!
- Chris T. Brown - inventor, designer, wood bender, craftsman, drummer, skateboarder, cyclist, snowboarder and full time dreamer!
- Ryan B. Coover - creative mind, architect, fine artist, cyclist, guy behind the guy and just crazy enough to believe that this could happen!
- Anlo Sepulveda - video director, editor and artist
- Riley Ergonsen - camera man, musician and artist
- Ron Grayzk - engineer, fine human
- Parker Norton - engineer, daddy of three
- Canan Yetmen - wordsmith
- Shirien Coover - freelance editor who specializes in dermatology
- Carlos Garcia - adaptive test pilot
- Lili Kriens - backcountry video
- Josh Haggerty-Behjat - financial advisor, business guru
- Stephen John Stark - patent guru at Miller & Martin, PLLC
- Spacecraft - website gurus
- Rim Mfg - manufacturer and their toolmaker across-town
- Maisy - shop-dog, Frisbee catcher, bike trailer rider, swimmer, skater and first non-human to ride the KneeFlyer!
- Friends and Family - continued support and encouragement along the path
Safety & Disclaimer
I have designed the KneeFlyer binding system with safety in mind. However, as with any sport activity, there are inherent risks of injury. Please wear protective gear and use the product responsibly and for its intended purpose.
All of the prototypes shown in the photos and videos are fully functional and tested, but details shown may change in the final product development and manufacturing.
More KneeFlyer Action Clips
Risks and challenges
As with any project of this size and scope, there are always things that can take longer than estimated or not go exactly as planned. We are prepared to deal with these circumstances. We have secured a reputable manufacturer and injection toolmaker in the USA and have built a relationship with them to work through any problems or production delays, should they occur. We are confident in our design and production methods. We will do our best to remedy any setbacks or delays as quickly as possible and will keep you in the loop along the way. After several years of developing the KneeFlyer, our team is dedicated to seeing this project through to production and getting a quality product into your hands.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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