Redondo Beach's Jay Dougherty started customizing bikes after he found a trashed Schwinn beach cruiser a few years ago. As an inventor and tinkerer, he took his machining skills to the test, and took apart the bike and fixed a broken chain ring. He finished by repainting the bike, but he wondered: what more could he do?
“I was talking to my brother one day and he said, 'You can put a steering wheel on there,'” recalled Dougherty, who formed the company and riding club Felony Flats Cruisers. “I did a lot of research and found out they were putting those on in the 1960s (the Huffy), it was done by 1970. There were some safety issues.”
Dougherty found a car steering wheel at an antique store and bought it for $15. His next project was figuring out how he was going to attach it to the bike.
“I cut the gooseneck off a stem and welded the steering wheel to the stem and went for a ride,” Dougherty said. “I was shocked how easy it was to ride and how maneuverable it was. Every time I'd take that bike for a ride people would trip out, compliments, pictures and questions they hadn't seen anything like it before.”
Dougherty needed some help to see his dream of producing the Wheelster come to fruition. So he started an Indiegogo.com crowdfunding campaign, which started last week.
Dougherty said he worked on a number of designs until he got it right.
“I used a stem with no gooseneck and placed a steel disk the same diameter as the center of the steering wheel and drilled with the same bolt hole pattern on top of the stem then weld the two pieces together,” he said. “Boom The 'Wheelster' was born. I put them on all my bikes and I am working on an idea how to apply 'The Wheelster' to bikes with hand brakes and gear shifters.”
One of his biggest obstacles is finding someone to manufacture the bike parts for a cost effective price. He hopes to purchase his own machines and to make parts himself, which would keep the price of the Wheelster more affordable.
He also hopes to partner with a bike manufacturer like Firmstrong to produce a line of Wheelster bikes and company themed bikes. So far, he's produced one for AFLAC and WeeMan's Chronic Tacos in Redondo Beach.
The Indiegogo.com campaign ends on Oct. 15.
For more information, visit http://bit.ly/1LilbBY.