How We Designed Spokester
The idea of mounting a flexible noisemaker on the frame of a bicycle to simulate a motorcycle sound is not new. Parents have put playing cards on their kids' bikes using clothespins for decades. I recall the joy of riding my bike so equipped on the streets of my home town in the sixties, pretending to be a motorcycle cop.
When my own son was old enough to ride a bicycle, I fastened a playing card on his bike. As he rode around, his neighborhood buddies liked the idea and asked me for their own noisemakers! This is when I began to think of ways to bring a new product to life. I came up with the name Spokester before the product was designed.
As he rode around, his neighborhood buddies liked the idea and asked me for their own noisemakers!
The design parameters were basic, but exact: Spokester had to be simple and inexpensive, easy to install, and durable. It had to look good and provide a satisfying sound. We also felt that we should provide a one-size-fits-all product for ease of purchasing by the storekeeper and consumer.
After much thought, we settled on a molded plastic noisemaker. It would be molded from a flexible plastic material so that the clamping tube would adjust to the various bicycle fork diameters and the flapper would deform easily when struck by the spokes.
The design process involved researching all children's bicycles on the market. We visited numerous bicycle shops, toys stores, and mass retailers to take measurements of fork diameters, wheel sizes, spoke counts, frame configurations, fork spread, etc. All of this data was tabulated according to bicycle make, model, and wheel diameter. Once this information was analyzed, we began to design the product.
To ensure that Spokester would fit all children's bikes, we made the inside diameter of the clamping tube smaller than the smallest fork diameter measured. This would ensure a constant squeezing force was applied to the fork. The outside diameter was selected to allow ample flexing to fit a wide range of fork diameters, yet thick enough to spring back around the fork. The flapper was designed to be long enough to reach into the path of all spinning spokes. It also had to be thin enough to flex when contacted by the spokes, yet have enough memory to snap back and create a satisfying sound.
Once theses design parameters were established, some samples were machined out of a rigid plastic material. These initial samples were too hard to press on to the forks. So, we took a risk and had a single cavity mold made with the dimensions specified. A local injection molding company ran some samples for us to test. The product worked: It produced a nice low-pitched sound and fit on all of the bicycles we could find.
Next, we refined the noisemaker by adding a lead-in flange to the clamping tube. This enhancement made it much easier to install on the bike with just a simple pressing motion. We also added fins to the toy to make it look cooler. Finally, we added Spokester name and logo to the flapper for branding and visual appeal. These modifications were made to the production tool, and we were off and running. We selected five bright colors according to the most popular bike colors offered.
Spokester Bicycle Noisemaker design met all of our criteria: it is a simple, yet elegant one-piece toy that fits all children's bikes, and produces a satisfying motorcycle sound. It requires no assembly, no tools, and no batteries. It is very durable, as randomly-tested Spokesters last over three million flexing cycles, which equates to riding more than 200 miles. We are very pleased with the results of this design project, and believe we have created an enduring toy that will provide children with hours of creative, active play.