John Tolhurst’s Story

From Corker to Cruzbike, or Easybiking to Cruzbiking: Part I – Corker
Edited by Dennis Perry

When looking at the successful product line for Cruzbike, it’s unavoidable to get the impression that the idea behind cruzbiking emerged fully formed from John’s mind. However, as Thomas Aliva Edison said; “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
John has made some early material available, which has been lightly edited and selected to show the antecedents to Cruzbike and cruzbiking. John’s own words are in italics, and show the mind of a tinkerer and enthusiast, slowly approximating the solution we know as Cruzbike.

“I define an easybike as a bike that you ride in a comfortable laid-back seated position. The widely used term is recumbent, but I think that’s a bit clumsy. I have two easybikes. The first is a long low cruiser called a Torp that I made with a colleague [William Croft]. It’s a great design and I give him the lion’s share of the credit for it. The second is a front wheel drive that I have named a Corker.”

John’s brother, Kim Tolhurst, was in Perth at the time of Corker’s gestation. Kim said he felt like a midwife assisting in the delivery. He also rode Corker and John’s Torp.

Kim Tolhurst on John’s Torp – with single crank and idler pulley

One can only guess what was going through John’s mind at this point.But the thought of the complexity of the double cranks, in Croft’s version of Torp, and all that chain noise from the long, long, chain, must have been rattling around in his head.

“I really loved the front wheel drive concept of the Flevobike, but although a lot of people love them, they turn out to be way too hard to ride. Their handlebars are connected to the back of the bike, not the front and the front wheel is held roughly straight by a rubber block arrangement. The only way to ride is in effect, “no hands.”

Information on the Flevobike website is in Dutch on the website.

If you are using Google’s Chrome, it will prompt you to translate it into English. There is one comment on the site that confirms John’s assertion that it is not an easy bike to ride, and the promotional material makes it clear that you are unlikely to ride it the first time you try to ride it, and it will take a few weeks to learn how to ride it.

The Bike from the website

To continue in John’s words …

“Then I found Tom Traylor and he explained the concept properly and what you must do to make it handle well. He was awarded a patent for the first front wheel drive bike in 1982 as well as $15 from me for a copy of his plans!”

Tom Traylor’s front-wheel supine recumbent bicycle

“So armed with this background I designed a bike based on a small mountain bike or BMX frame. I took this approach since the only area I have to work is our back courtyard that I share with my wife, the boy, the barbie, the clothesline, the veggie patch – you get the picture. The result is great. It’s easy to ride, although quite a different experience. The head stem [height / angle] is a little taller than Tom Traylor recommends.”

The Corker by John Tolhurst

A couple of things are immediately visible in the Corker that shows a tinkerer at work, and a fertile imagination. For example, the frame is from a donor bicycle, and the seat has the characteristic Cruzbike profile – more of these later. The front tube was bent around a tree to get the right leg length, before being attached to the front forks.

“The proof of the pudding is in the riding, so to speak. One week after first getting on it I was competent enough to use it to take the boy to day care.”

John and Nicholas off to day care

The photograph of John and Nicholas off to day care also suggest a couple of things. Unless John was having a Michael Jackson moment, and recklessly endangering Nicholas’s life, he was comfortable with the stability and safety of the Corker after a week – but he concedes it was a different riding experience to riding a rear-wheel drive upright bike. Was this the start of the cruzbiking experience – it certainly was a new and agreeable experience for John.

In terms of cost, we are looking at a tinker’s economical mind at work.

“Every year, there is an opportunity to throw out junk in most suburbs. This was my lucky break, but I did have to purchase the following:
Welding at the local bike shop ($10)
An old steel head stem ($5) (Thanks Pal and Panther, North Perth, Western Australia)
Aluminium for the seat ($15)
A few bolts for the seat ($3)
 One tyre ($14), and a cable ($4)
Oh! and most importantly, a mirror. ($9)
So … project cost was $60 – who could argue with that?.
Then I thought I better get a decent child seat and helmet for the boy which together cost $115 – no argument there either.”

Moving on to the seat, we pick up the story from John.

“The seat is a bit cute. It’s cut from an aluminium street sign (no, get it from a recycler, don’t just unbolt one from its post) with a jigsaw. The shape is carefully worked out so that when you fold the edge, very gradually in a vice, the sheet develops some curvature just as you need it. Then you put some padding on it. A sleeping mat used for camping seems to work OK, glued on with a bit of contact cement. Here’s a detail:”

The Corker seat: recognisably a Cruzbike seat

The following video illustrates John at ease and in complete control of Corker.

Kim Tolhurst joined in the project and built his own “Corker”, with its own distinctive seat. Corker 2 was built in New Zealand and Kim had to manufacture the seat, without the benefit of Perth’s street signs. What he built shows the seat post assembly that made its way into the Conversion Kit support for the back of the seat. The front tube was initially a telescopic tube, and welded once Kim found the correct leg length adjustment.

The Kim Tolhurst’s “Corker 2” with large O-ring seat

Neither Corker nor Corker 2 had suspension, and one can only imagine that further thoughts in this area were, if not going through John’s mind, then were going through other parts of his anatomy. The seat on Corker 2 was eventually covered and by all accounts quite comfortable. Still, suspension was going to be an important consideration.

In Part II of the story, we pick up the development of what became the original conversion kit.

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