Ogden man reinventing the bike pedal

Thursday , May 29, 2014 - 8:12 AM

Standard-Examiner correspondent

OGDEN — Sam Hunter isn’t reinventing the wheel, but he has reinvented the pedal that turns the wheel on a bike. Hunter, a 38-year-old Ogden resident, is an avid mountain biker and bike commuter that just finished a successful Kickstarter campaign that will fund the release of his invention, the Mobius Infinity Pedal, a pedal that promises to make clipping in and out as easy as, well, riding a bike.

Hunter began mountain biking on the trails behind his house just five years ago, when he noticed a bike sitting in his brother’s garage.

“My brother said, ‘Go ahead. Try it out.’ And I honestly just feel in love with it,” Hunter said. “But I always had a hard time clipping into my pedals on technical situations especially when I was just starting, when I wasn’t strong enough to make it up steep climbs. I’d have to clip out and rest, and I’d always have a hard time clipping back in. So I looked at my pedals and realized why I was missing them. I thought to myself, if this pedal was round, I would never miss the engagement with my pedal.”

Even though he’d only been mountain biking a short time, he’d always been an inventor. His favorite book to curl up under the covers with as a child was “How Things Work.” When Hunter was just five years old he felt frustrated with having to carry around long, clunky ski poles along with his other ski equipment, so he came home from a day of skiing and drew out a collapsible ski pole, drawings he still has.

“I’ve always been an inventor,” said Hunter. “I’ve got honestly 20 or 30 failed inventions that I’ve pursued, but I haven’t taken any to this degree. I’ve always had that mentality that if I’ve had a problem, how can I solve it rather than live with it. There was a problem [with bike pedals], a lot of people complain and deal with this problem, and there’s got to be a better solution. I focused on what was causing the problem and solved the problem. Hopefully the cycling community will hop on this.”

At the time of his “aha!” moment, Hunter worked as an engineer at a foundry and had access to the machinery and software he needed to design a pedal. Within two weeks he had designed and machined his new pedal. At the same time, he entered the pedal in Grow Utah Venture’s Concept to Company entrepreneurial contest and won the grand prize in the 2009 Outdoor Recreation Contest.

“I won that competition,” said Hunter. “And I thought, ‘I’m off to the races.’ That’s quite a bit of cash: $10,000 in cash and a bunch of services, so I was able to pursue it, and able to go to the next level with it.”

Hunter was optimistic that with the winnings he would have the pedal ready to sell in a few months. But there were a few things he didn’t like about the pedal, so he completely redesigned it from his initial product.

“I made that first prototype, me on a lathe. I machined it myself. But, after I made those first prototypes, I realized there were some real downsides to the pedal, it was hard to engage, so I did a complete redesign. One of the parts required a tool, and that took all the money.”

He also outsourced some machining on the redesigned Infinity Pedal and waited a few months to get back his pedal.

“I got it all put together, got on my bike, and two seconds later, I knew I was totally hosed. I hopped on my bike, but could not get my feet off my pedals; They engaged, but the pedal wouldn’t release. I fell over on my lawn to get my shoes off so I could get off my bike.”

Instead of giving up, Hunter examined the problem and went to work redesigning again. Alhtough he graduated as a manufacturing engineer from Weber State, Hunter brought his infinite curiosity, background in welding, machining and programming into play while working on the pedal.

“I had used it and I liked it, and knew I could do it better. The right concept was there, but the design just wasn’t there. It’s a very iterative process of ‘Oh that didn’t work, let’s try it again. That’s a little better, but we can try it again.’”

Since that initial contest win and redesign, Hunter has kept throwing his extra pennies and time at the Infinity Pedal, selling a company he owned, “superbudgeting” with his wife Alisa and their family, and slowly but surely making the pedal into what he hopes will be a perfect pedal for both mountain and road bikers.

Right now, he uses the Infinity Pedal daily in his commute to his day job at Enve Composites, and he’s confident that the 360 degree engagement of the clips will make this the safest and best pedal for bikers everywhere. The timetable for release of the pedal with a mountain bike cleat is September of this year, and for a pedal with road bike cleat is December 2014.

“It’s progressed from something that didn’t work at all to something that is very functional. That’s been really gratifying and cool to see how that’s all worked out,” said Hunter.

To see the pedal in action visit mobiuscycling.com.

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