|One of Wade's working drawings of the Black Diamond|
A few months ago I heard, out of the blue, from Wade Lander who designed the Black Diamond version of the TrailRider.
He told the story:
I first encountered the Trailrider in 1999, while at the Emily Carr Institute in Vancouver, studying Industrial Design. A student in another year had chosen to redesign it as part of an assignment and had brought in an example for study. After looking it over, I was impressed by the concept but wasn't too impressed by the design. I distinctly remember thinking though that it would be a interesting project to redesign.
Forward to 2004; My interest in designing assistive devices led me to volunteering with the Tetra Society, which is one of the organizations within the Sam Sullivan Disability Foundation. Through Tetra I was reacquainted with the TrailRider and its parent organization BCMOS. At this time David Ostro of the Disability Foundation was finishing off a technology grant application with the Canadian Government (IRAP) to fund a redesign of the TrailRider.
By the spring of 2005, the grant had been approved and I signed aboard as the designer with David as project manager. As of this time, the Trailrider had already undergone two revisions with mixed results. The IRAP grant stipulated that a fairly large amount of research needed to be completed to identify the shortcomings of the existing design and to create a design brief for the new version. Something that hadn't been done with the two earlier attempts.
The next few weeks over the summer, I spent most of my weekends conducting research. Which meant, in practice, racking up the miles as a sherpa, pushing and pulling a TrailRider up and down dozens of trails to find out what worked and what didn’t work and what people liked and disliked about the design.
While the majority of what I was doing was of a practical nature, I got to experience first hand what the TrailRider meant to the hikers who rode in it. I participated in one hike to take a man to the beach where he injured himself almost 30 years before. We travelled along the beach at low tide below the bluffs that surround the western edge of Vancouver to the place in question. Though the beach was only a few hundred meters from the nearest road, it would have remained inaccessible without the Trailrider. This experience moved me and made me realize that the TrailRider was more just a simple product, It had a significant impact on people lives.
The actual design work began in earnest in September of 2005 and I teamed up with Toby Schillinger who had built the previous version of the TrailRider. The previous designs had been well made, but were seriously flawed in regards to the ergonomics of the hikers and the sherpas, so a lot of my effort focused on improving those areas. The design work went smoothly as it essentially involved coming up with a design that met all the criteria laid out in the research phase and that could be built efficiently in the small quantities required.
|This could be a picture of Wade conducting action research|
on the Black Diamond design - but isn't. It is the 2006 access
The first of the new TrailRider Black Diamonds were ready in August 2006, just in time for the annual Access Challenge Hike; A three day backpacking trip to Tetrahedron Provincial Park on the Sunshine coast, just north of Vancouver. The TrailRiders almost weren't ready; I had to help out to complete them the day before by sewing the various seatbelt straps, staying up till three in the morning and then preparing for the multi day hike ahead. Other than a preproduction prototype that had been quickly whisked away to a buyer a few months before, the new design had seen almost no testing and the six that were going had been assembled only hours before. The team that I was hiking with (friends I had met through the TrailRider program) had brought almost everything they could think of with the result our TrailRider with its hiker weighed well over 300lbs. The design has a rough weight limit of 250lbs, so that fact, combined with bringing five other hikers into the mountains for three days with an untested design, was a bit stressful. The TrailRiders nonetheless performed flawlessly, and all the hikers and sherpas, though a little beat up, survived the trip.
Since its introduction, I've been happy to see the numbers of my design and the places they've been to slowly increase; from their baptism on the coast mountains of British Columbia and now on to the continent of Australia. Of all the work I've done, the TrailRider stands out as a favorite, not only as a successful piece of industrial design but as a design that has measurably touched peoples lives.