We finally bit the bullet and hired a professional photographer to take some product photos of Companion Bike Seat for use on our website store and wherever else Companion Bike Seats are sold. Gotta admit the money was definitely well spent, as the photos look great, and really show off the bike seat. DIY is great and incredibly cost-effective, but there's no substitute for working with a professional. The photographer did a great job highlighting the important elements of the bike seat, including the stash-box, placing just enough items in it to show off the storage capacity available.
We did some home-grown load testing to make sure that the backrest could support reasonable weight against it and it held up without a problem. We also filled a pannier with over 25 pounds of water and hung it on the side rail and there were no issues at all. It's very sturdy, and we have just a couple aesthetic elements to clean up to be ready for production.
As soon as the Chinese New Year holiday is finished the factory will start making a second prototype, accounting for all of our change-requests based on this prototype. Hopefully manufacturing won't be too far around the corner from there!
Earlier this week Blake finished up the designs for our bike seat pannier hooks! We spent a couple of weeks trying to figure out a way to make the pannier hooks compatible with the backrest. Then we decided no need ... we'll just make the backrest capable of hanging panniers onto the side rails of the backrest, and avoid the compatibility issue altogether!
The factory is shipping this prototype out to us as we speak and we expect to receive it sometime next week. We'll provide an update as soon as we have this new prototype in hand. If all looks good, we'll start manufacturing right after Chinese New Year!
Our Indiegogo campaign finished up last night, helping us raise almost $4,300 to go towards the development of the backrest for our bike seats! Thank you to all of our supporters and backers in helping us exceed our campaign goal by over 100%.
We continue to work with our factory on the backrest development. Here's a picture of the first prototype that the factory put together:
We're reviewing the functionality, installation, and durability of the prototype to make sure it meets our requirements. The factory will be shipping the backrest to us very soon. Once we've worked out all of the kinks with the design, manufacturing will begin, and we'll have our backrests available a couple of months later.
As soon as Blake Johnson (the new designer I started working with) was done completing the design specs for our backrests, I had him start working on designs and specs for the pannier hooks I had prototyped back in October of last year. Besides a backrest, the number one thing our customers have asked us for to date is the ability to hang their panniers on their bike seat.
The design is relatively simple: "hooks" that hang on the side of the stash-box that pannier hooks can hang onto. My first prototype pannier hooks ultimately left scratches on the side of the bike seat, so we decided to add a small, thin piece of foam material to protect against this scratching.
Here is the latest iteration of the design that Blake is working on. The challenge we're facing is making the pannier hooks compatible with the backrest, such that both can be installed on a bike seat at the same time. This latest version seems to have overcome this challenge, with the pannier hooks extended enough past the support arm of the backrest to provide enough clearance for the pannier clip to hang onto without bumping into the backrest frame.
Next steps for Blake and I are to come up with a way to make a quick mock-up of this new design, and make sure that the pannier hooks don't extend too far off the side of the stash-box such that it's awkward or cumbersome. More news to come as we make more progress!
I gave Mark a bike seat to play with late last year, as well as a couple extra bike seat cushions I had lying around, so that he could do some initial "prototyping" with some extra leather he had at his shop. This is a picture of the first custom leather bike seat cushion he made for me, including our Companion logo on the seat. It's a beautiful black leather cushion, incredibly soft. You can't really see it, but through the perforations that make up the logo, he included our colors behind the top layer of black leather.
We figure folks aren't going to want to have a Companion Bike Seat logo on the seat of their custom leather bike seats, so this is just an example of the quality craftsmanship that Mark brings to his work.
Each of our custom handmade leather bike seats will be made-to-order after they're purchased. We're offering them in a variety of different colors of leather for the custom seat, including, brown, black, white, red, and blue. You'll also be able to choose the color of the stitching used at the corners of the cushion, for a completely customized bike seat.
Consider these the "Eddie Bauer edition" of Companion Bike Seat ... or better yet, the "MCB edition" Companion Bike Seat! Our custom handmade leather bike seats will be available mid-January for order on our website, and will take two to four weeks to ship (since Mark doesn't start on your bike seat until you order it).
After a couple of weeks negotiating with our factory on pricing and going back and forth on the design, we're finally ready to move forward with prototyping our bike seat backrest! According to our latest quote, it will take the factory about 15 days to complete the first prototype, and we'll post some pictures of it as soon as we receive them. Hopefully we won't have to go through too many prototype iterations, and we'll begin manufacturing before the end of January next year. Once manufacturing begins, it will take about a month to complete, then another couple of weeks shipping across the Pacific to get here to California.
Below is the complete assembly specs for the backrest, with all of the components, both assembled and an exploded view. Initially, our backrests will only be available in black (same with our bike seats), though over time, we hope to offer multiple different colors for the frame color and for the cushion.
First, I needed to remove the seat cushion and the stash-box from the top of the bike seat frame. Once those were removed, I used a rivet tool to affix the lock directly to the frame (since it feeds through the stash-box for our bike seats).
I had to come up with a modified seat-post mount, since his seat had two seat posts rather than one. But taking advantage of most of the existing components, I was able to come up with a solution that worked great!
And the best part is, we have the makings of a new product line for Companion Bike Seats now: the Companion Cargo Rack! Being that our frames were load-tested at over 4,000 lbs, this is the beefiest bike rack on the market! Stay tuned for more on when we release our new cargo racks!