There are three things you should know about Joseph Prosnitz that explain how his project Up-Ride, the bicycle-to-elliptical conversion kit, came into existence. The first is that he volunteers at The Recyclery, a Chicago nonprofit that operates as an educational bike shop. Second, he does long-distance triathlons and is an avid cyclist and runner. And lastly, he has ankylosing spondylitis, which is a kind of juvenile arthritis, related to Crohn’s disease.
Joseph was looking for a way to train for long-distance running without the hard impact that often exacerbated his pain. He knew there were elliptical bikes on the market, but they were out of his price range. He ended up purchasing a knock-off online.
“It was just complete garbage,” he said, “I looked at it, and I looked at my bicycle, and I looked at this piece of junk I had in my garage and I thought ‘This could be a bicycle accessory.’”
Now in its third prototype, the Up-Ride conversion kit consists of three components—a stationary trainer that holds the bike in place, a conversion device that allows the rotation of the pedals to stretch to the motion of an elliptical, and handlebar extensions that allows the user to hold on while standing. With these parts, the user can take a traditional outdoor bike and use it as a stationary bike, stationary elliptical, or mobile elliptical—four different pieces of exercise equipment all rolled into one.
However, as Joseph himself will say, the road to produce the Up-Ride hasn’t been an easy one. He created the first prototype by tinkering with existing bike parts he had in his garage, trying to figure out if the idea was even feasible. Then, he sought out assistance from SCORE. SCORE is a national nonprofit organization that helps small businesses get off the ground and operate efficiently, and one service it provides is business mentoring.
SCORE introduced Joseph to Mark O’Brien, a manufacturing executive and chairman of the Chicago chapter of SME. O’Brien guided Joseph through the arduous tasks of writing business plans, navigating the patent process, and pitching his concept in entrepreneurial competitions in order to obtain funding.
Joseph also sought out other resources wherever he could—he hired engineers to help with parts of the process, worked with local fabricators, and researched organizations that provided attorneys for entrepreneurs with limited funds. His second prototype was funded with his winnings from design competitions.
Joseph is still working on improving the design’s user experience. He doesn’t know if he’ll be successful or not. But the experience has sparked his passion for manufacturing. He has plans for several other designs and wants to make his career in commercializing hardware products.
“Manufacturing to me is just awe-inspiring, that the things you touch in your everyday life all went through this very elaborate process of being thought about and then produced and sold,” he said. “I have a big passion for this.”
He’s set up a metal shop and wood shop in his garage, has taken welding classes, and plans to get NIMS certified in the future. He’s also collaborating with Design for America and Northwestern University on other projects.
Joseph is seeking additional mentorship, learning opportunities, corporate sponsorship, and collaborators.
This article was first published in the July 2016 edition of Manufacturing Engineering magazine.