More details to follow, but I thought that would be the most important thing you’d want to know.
This will be you on Christmas:
Talk to you soon!
This will be brief, without the bunch of photos I’m usually fond of:
The High Rollers have begun shipping!
Here’s how it happened:
Our Seat supplier had an issue with uncured adhesive glue leaking out onto the seat. I found this out the day after I placed the order for 300 seats. Their remedy was to clean each of the seats and get it up to spec, then ship out in October. Evidently this didn’t go so well, and they had to order a new manufacturing run of seats. We finally got a partial shipment of 49/300 on Monday with the remainder coming “soon”.
Despite being “ready to go at any moment” yet 3 months behind schedule, our Rear Wheel molder in Ohio was totally surprised when I placed the order and required delivery before Thanksgiving. This was after he had misquoted the order, failed to read the part drawing, made the molds wrong, and used the wrong material. Fixing all that, he finally rushed out 30 pairs of wheels and then informed me last week that he’d taken a position at another company and was shutting his business down. [Note to politicians: this is why we send work to Taiwan instead of Ohio.]
“That’s bad. No, wait, that’s good!” Immediately we were able to replace the molder with a quality factory here in Denver. We’ve rushed the molds to Littleton Plastics who will receive them on Monday and be making sample parts by Wednesday, and production parts by Friday. I’ll be there on site to watch the whole process and work with them to ensure it’s done right. It will be four times the cost, but it will be done right and fast.
The warehouse has ordered extra boxes and is staged to ship as soon as parts hit the floor. My “do or die” is to have all the High Rollers to our customers by Christmas. I remember that Christmas morning in 1974 vividly, and I think everyone should have that same experience!
I’m writing to you from the road as my sis (yup that’s here in the Strawberry Shortcake dress in the pic above) and I have road tripped to Memphis for the 2nd annual Beale Street Big Wheel Relay races featuring the High Rollers this Saturday. Along the way two of the High Rollers have been hand delivered to customers in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Ryan, a Kickstarter backer, has been waiting about 5 years since he first contacted us about making an adult size big wheel!
To Ryan and all our backers, your day has finally come.
p.s. If you didn’t see it, the Wall Street Journal just featured the High Roller trikes in a great front page article. They also have a really fun video they put together while they were out here in Denver.
Well it feels like just a couple weeks ago I posted an update, but looking back I realize it was the end of June since you got a data dump. That’s testament to just what a jam-packed, crazy summer it’s been for us here at High Roller. Before we launch into the meat of what’s been happening, let’s cut to the chase:
1) Shipping container from Taiwan arrived on schedule and we’ll be unloading it Wednesday!
2) Domestic suppliers of the Seat and Rear Wheels have both had problems.
a) Seats had a recall and all supplies have been pulled back (we’re working to release acceptable seats right away).
b) Plastic molder has been using the wrong material for the wheels (we’re working with them to correct the problem or source a new manufacturer).
Upshot: We won’t have enough parts to complete the build until late October. It’s been absolutely maddening for us that our suppliers with the hardest job from the furthest away were able to deliver as expected, and our American suppliers have been tripping over themselves trying to produce one good part.
Ok, so here’s what’s been happening:
Throughout July, parts flowed into our assembly factory and got put together. Here’s what 300 rims look like when they arrive.
And here’s 300 wheel sets all built up.
And 300 frame sets back from the painter:
In August, everything got put together and was packaged for shipment:
Here’s all the front wheels assembled with the disc cover:
and ready to be mated to these 300 forks:
And boxed with these 300 handle bars:
With all the talk lately about foreign labor, outsourcing, and manufacturing, did you ever wonder who actually builds your bikes in Taiwan? These guys do:
And they had to put every sticker on every frame by hand:
There are no automatons that do this for us. No gleaming assembly robots. It’s all people like us who have a job and do it to the best of their ability, day in and day out. And trust me, having built up just a handful of these things, they have my utmost respect. It’s hard, tedious work done to exacting standards (demanded by you and me), where mistakes are not tolerated easily.
All of the small parts and fasteners are boxed separately, including all the tools you will need for assembly!
At the beginning of September, everything was packed into a shipping container and sent to us:
Ours is the red one!
So what’s left to do?
We’re negotiating with the seat supplier right now to see if there are 300 good seats in the 1600 seats they recalled (the recall is for cosmetic reasons, not structural or material issues). We’re willing to drive or fly out to their warehouse and cherry pick the best ones if they’d be willing to accommodate us. We should know in the next couple days if that’s something that can happen. If they say no and make us wait for the replacement seats, it will be mid to late October before we see them.
Our rear wheel molder is getting a sample of the proper material in this week and will be making some sample parts by the weekend. They’ll then send those parts to us for evaluation. All of that will take at least a week. Once we approve the parts, they can begin molding and will work around the clock for about 3 weeks. The wheels will get freighted to us and we’ll repackage them with the rest of the High Roller and send it out to you. If all goes well, that will be about late October.
Not putting all our eggs in one basket, we’re also getting quotes from local rotomolders in parallel. That way if we hit another snag with the first rotomolder, we have a backup plan. It will probably take a little longer, and will definitely cost a little more, but we will have the quality control to ensure that we get good parts.
Well folks, that’s probably enough for one big message. Tomorrow I’ll update you with some of the fantastically fun stuff that’s been happening in the last couple months while we’ve been waiting for production! Trust me, it’ll be a kick! It’s what keeps me going every day.
The High Roller is featured today on the front page of the Money section of the USA Today. The tone of the article initially seemed a little bleak (“Crowd funding’s dark side“). But as we read it, High Roller again came out smelling like a rose. Evidently we were the only ones they could find that actually answered the phone and are shipping product (September, by the way)!
What you don’t see in the online version is that glorious front page cover photo of the High Roller!
Wow, it’s been a crazy busy month! Here’s the lowdown:
1) The very first samples of the plastic rear wheels arrived, and they look sweet. Our rear wheels will be thick HDPE plastic with ball bearing hubs to keep them rolling straight and smooth.
2) The manufacturing sample Serial Number 0001 arrived last week and we’ve build it up for testing and evaluation. Now that all the tooling has been built, the manufacturing sample is the first test run of all the processes. We have to verify every dimension, every specification to ensure that it is exactly what we ordered. And to make sure that what we ordered is what we actually wanted.
What you don’t see in this picture is that there will a plastic front wheel cover that is printed with a graphic inspired by the 1974 Marx Big Wheel front wheel.
3) Additionally, we will include all the tools necessary to build your High Roller! So, no scrambling for oddball metric wrenches, it will all be in the box ready to go. Here’s a quick video of me building up the very first High Roller. Yours will actually be simpler to put together than this, as I had to install cranks, stem bolts, brake lever, etc. Here will be your assembly steps:
a) Bolt frame together.
b) Install rear wheels.
c) Install fork and stem.
d) Bolt on seat bracket and install seat.
e) Install pedals.
f) Go ride!
4) And then, what we’ve all been waiting for, the very first ride!
6) More good news is that our front freewheel hubs are coming in ahead of schedule and is a big relief to the assembly factory. We’ve got them custom laser etched, and they are things of beauty. Gloss black, riding on sealed bearings, fully internal freewheel mechanism.
Even with all this good news, we’re still faced with challenges. After two days of riding, one of our rear wheels broke. It was the very first sample, and it was no big surprise since we knew that the plastic was much thinner in places than we wanted. We’re working with the mold makers right now and are zeroing in on a solution.
Also, we’re in what is known among program managers as a “day for day slip.” This means that for every day we’re delayed, that’s another day that gets added onto the ship date. There is no margin left in the schedule. As we work through manufacturing processes, testing the sample, and making tweaks to the tooling, it all takes time and delivery date is affected.
We’re gunning for a late July completion, but it’s still going to take a month in shipping and customs. So realistically we should plan on early September for shipment of the High Rollers to backers. Of course we’re hoping for an earlier delivery, but we’re trying to be realistic instead of optimistic. There’s a lot of “firsts” to get through yet before we see the whites of their eyes (first manufacturing run, first assembly, first overseas shipment, first time through customs, etc.).
As always, I can’t thank you enough for your support and your understanding as we all get through this. This has been a mind-bending, epic project that you’ve allowed me to undertake and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Keep the faith. It’s real!
p.s. Here’s a couple of fun videos of the manufacturing sample in action:
Riding the 14 mile Starlight Spectacular midnight ride in Colorado Springs
And testing out the cup holder on the Cruiser Rocks ride in Denver:
Ok, I just got these photos in right after I posted the last update, but I’m excited enough about it that it warrants another message!
Here are the molds for the rear wheels right after casting. Next step is to etch the logo into the sidewall and then the final texturing. After that we’ll be able to run a couple sample parts.
These are rotomolds. Each one of these is about 17 inches in diameter and stands about 6 inches high. Plastic pellets will be put inside, the two halves will be clamped together, and the whole thing put into an oven and rotated. The plastic beads will melt to the walls forming our wheels. It comes out of the oven, cools down, and our parts pop out.
So basically getting these molds for our plastic wheels cost more than my car. In fact, more than my last 3 cars put together… Have I said thank you lately for your funding support that makes all of this possible? THANKS.
Over and out,
Well, some of you should be receiving a yellow manila envelope of joy in the mail soon, if you haven’t already – all of our T-shirts went out! Jackets are going out next! Local folks, if you can make it out to 303 Vodka in Boulder [map] this Thursday (May 3) at 7:00, I’ll have your shirt/jacket and the prototype of the High Roller for you to ride in person! (this will also coincide with the start of the Boulder Cruiser Bike Ride!) If you can’t make it, let me know and I’ll drop in the mail or swing it by.
Now, the big stuff. I know you’re all anxiously awaiting your High Roller to ride, and it won’t be long. We’ve had a bit of a shock that our hub supplier announced that it would take them 2 months just to get the front hub! We’re fervently working with them to see what we can do to expedite the process. The hub is a thing of beauty and will be an amazing mechanism so I know we’ll be thrilled with the end result, we’re just trying to get it sooner.
All other aspects are moving along FAST. The rear wheel molds are near completion, frame tooling is being made (for bends, welds, bending and stamping), and part orders are being placed. The tentative date to receive our first production sample is May 20th.
If all goes well, as it stands we’re looking at getting delivery of the production units in July. If all does not go well, we’ll just roll with the punches and keep pushing forward. Of course I’ll keep you updated as we go.
As always, if you have any questions at all, please drop me a line.
Just a mini-update to catch you up since our last chat:
Ok, now a little more detail:
We got the huge box of t-shirts in from the printer, and they’re sweet. And mighty comfy. I didn’t just get a few bags of Walmart undershirts and some iron-ons, we had the good folks at Contagious Graphics emblazen our 3 color logo on plush Tultek blend shirts.The Jackets are all up-cycled threads, so no two are alike. Logos are affixed and now we’re sending them out.
COLORADO Shirt and Jacket owners: Let’s get together for an apparel party and you can pick up your togs in person! Time’s a little short this week, but let’s meet next week. Time and Place will be announced!
CALIFORNIA Shirt and Jacket owners: You too can pick up your shirts in person! The High Roller prototypes will be thundering down the street in San Francisco on Easter Sunday at the BYOBW Race. Plan on meeting up at the race and you can grab your shirt and take a spin on the High Roller!
Tuesday and Wednesday (Apr 10-11) we’ll be in Los Angeles to ride the Stand bikeway, all 22 miles of it! Contact us at 720-989-1969 to arrange a meetup!
We’ve finally gotten through getting the manufacturing contracts approved (“…The Manufacturer acknowledges that its right to be the Manufacturer during the Term is on the fundamental and essential basis that it will not during the Term…” Yeah, 25 more pages of that), and issued our first Purchase Order and signed our first check. Things are going to accelerate from here!
We’re still on track for a June delivery. I’ve put the pressure on and have gotten my manufacturers to share in the urgency of getting the first 300 High Rollers on the streets in June. While this isn’t necessarily a complex project, a couple caveats: a) this is the first time I’ve ever done this, b) anything can happen! But as many of you are backers of several Kickstarter projects, I trust that you have an idea of how this whole system works. Know that we’re working as hard as possible to get this completed and fast!
As always, if you have any questions at all, feel free to contact me any time.
Things have been cranking along here in the High Roller Labs, and while January is usually a notoriously slow month, this year it’s gone by blindingly fast with tons of work being done in the background.
First, let me wish you a Happy Chinese New Year! Did you know that yesterday was the start of the Chinese New Year? Either did we until recently. This is one of the things you find out when you’re working with Taiwanese partners and they mention that they’re taking 10 days off for New Years. Turns out ALL of the Chinese and Taiwanese do this and go back to their home towns for New Years. Evidently it is the largest annual human migration on Earth. The upshot is that the whole country shuts down.
Luckily we were able to make great progress with our manufacturer before the holiday and we’ll be able to use this time to refine our design and processes.
If you’re wondering why we’re using manufacturers in Taiwan you can check out the explanation in the blog on the main site.
Here’ a summary of what we’ve been up to:
If all goes well, we should see first deliveries about May-June. When people say things like “if all goes well” or “in a perfect world…” or “best case scenario” it means they’re about to launch themselves into an endeavor with a great amount of optimism and only about 80% of the information they need. Fact is, this is a development and manufacturing project with associated risk. If all doesn’t go exactly well, we’ll roll with the punches and take care of the issues as fast as humanly possible, keeping you informed every step of the way. Here’s a sobering account of what can happen during manufacturing by the creators of the Pen Type-A. It’s a great but harrowing story of expectations, cultural oddities, communication, and unrelenting dedication to exceptional results. All that being said, rest assured we are 100% committed to completion and any other result is unacceptable.
In the frenzy of the last couple months in trying to get the manufacturing on rails I failed to get your thank you gifts out in December. Fear not, we’ve got our graphics ready to go and shirt and jacket orders are imminent.
Here’s things we still have to do that you may not really care about but will take up a big portion of our brain time:
As always, if you have any questions feel free to drop me a line.
A few weeks ago, we received an email from a potential yet undecided customer:“I was really excited to find this. I’ve been wanting to buy something like the High Roller for a long time. But I’m very disappointed that they are not being manufactured here in the USA.
We’ve got a lot of passion about this and have considered a lot of alternatives so here is my response. It’s worth noting that after this we got a solid paying customer.
Thanks for dropping us a line. I share your concern about being manufactured in the USA. I looked long and hard for a way to make this stateside, but came up short on several fronts. First was the manufacturing. The metal fabrication house I had do my prototypes was very interested in making the full production run for us, but their cost for just the frame was the same as the quotes I was getting for the entire product. As the owner put it, “Problem is, we’re a bunch of white guys with 401K’s.”
I then even looked for a domestic bicycle assembler, thinking that even if I had to import the components we could get is assembled here. Hunting through all the industry associations it appears that the last domestic bicycle assembler was in California and closed down around 2000.
I then tried to even keep it within NAFTA and tried to source bicycle manufacturing in Mexico. After several discussions with Mexican bicycle shop owners their consensus was there wasn’t any good bike manufacturing to be had in Mexico either.
The problem isn’t that there’s not any bike or component manufacturing in the US, it’s just that it’s very high end. I agree with your “made here and made better.” The US has got the brains for design, but we don’t have enough manufacturing anymore, everything would have to be hand crafted. We could get titanium frames right here in Colorado, as well as handmade cranks, brakes and other components, but the costs would be astronomical. I had a similar discussion with retired UAW worker who’s stated mantra to me was, “Live better, buy union-made.” (I think the premise was that the union provides great wages and therefore a great quality of life for its workers. But those wages come from somewhere.) He looked at the High Roller prototype and proudly stated, “We could make that for a thousand bucks.” For starters, that means I’d have to raise over $300,000 just to get the first production run started. Well doing some simple math, at $1000 cost I’d have to wholesale it for about $2500, then the retailers would keystone it and sell it for $5000. In a nutshell, I’d never sell a single High Roller, my investors would want their $300K back, I’d be homeless and none of the union workers would have a job either.
But here’s what has happened: Taiwan has established itself over the last decade as the premier bicycle manufacturer in the world. From automation, to design, to materials, they’ve invested heavily. The best bikes used to come from England, then Italy, then Japan, and now its Taiwan. And because of their advances, it’s become affordable for startups like us to come in with an idea and actually get it produced.
All that being said, we consider this “Phase 1.” Once we’re established and have reduced the risk, we’re hoping that some domestic manufacturing will step forward and want to help us out. Trust me, it would certainly make things easier.
I appreciate your comments and it’s got me thinking about ways we could nudge this in the direction we both want.
“It’s never too late for a happy childhood!”