Joe Clevinger’s kids had a problem. While riding their bikes through the neighborhood, the three girls heard the deep throttle of some Harley motorcycles. Enchanted by the mechanical roar, they wanted their own bicycles to mimic the noise. Only, the kids weren’t quite sure how to do it.
Luckily, their father has a way with inventing things. To solve the conundrum, Clevinger constructed the "Wheel Popper," a metal device with a plastic flap that attaches to a bicycles’ wheel dropout and creates a loud motor-like sound when ridden.
“Ever since there were bicycles ... and there was a child, he was trying to figure out how to put a motor on the bike,” the Jeffersonville resident said. “I did when I was a kid. We had fenders on our bikes though. We’d hook a clothespin and a card to it and it would hold it. But the new bikes don’t have fenders anymore.”
What began as a family project has turned into something more for Clevinger. He quickly discovered no other products delivered quite the same results as his Wheel Popper did. Unlike similar inventions, this doesn’t wear down the bike tires, cause increased strain on the pedals or easily slip out of position.
“People have tried but most of this stuff they come up with just mounts [higher on the fork] and rubs on the wheel and has a tendency to move,” he said. “This stays in place.”
After obtaining a provisional patent, Clevinger entered his invention into Walmart’s “Get on the Shelf” contest. In its second year, the competition accepts a wide range of product ideas from budding American entrepreneurs and inventors. Once the entries make the initial cut, the public then votes online for their favorites. Winners receive an opportunity to sell their items at Walmart.com, while the overall champion has the chance to market their creations in actual Walmart stores across the nation.
At the beginning of August, Clevinger received notification that the Wheel Popper cleared the first hurdle. His invention had been selected to progress to the second round of the competition in the “For Kids” category. Now his advancement to the next stage depends on how many votes his invention receives online.
More than just a fun noisemaker, the Wheel Popper can also have a practical application. Drivers pay attention to bicyclists when they hear the loud noise. This, the 51-year-old inventor said, reduces the chance of a child getting hit by a passing car.
“It’s a safety thing. They hear them coming. With more and more people not paying attention while they’re driving, you’re more apt to turn your head if you hear an unusual noise,” Clevinger said.
As far as its construction, Clevinger does everything in house. The brackets, which he constructs by hand, come in two different lengths depending on the size of the bike. Soft metal allows for easy reposition if bent. Using an old soda bottle, the plastic piece that hits the wheel and causes the pop can be easily replaced when worn down. Just take a credit card to measure the size of the rectangle, cut the plastic and refasten. The noise varies depending on the placement of the plastic on the spokes. A higher location allows for a louder Harley-like rumble. Placing it lower produces a faster, racing bike sound. All his girls like the deeper reverberation the best.
“When I was riding my bike, every kid was looking at my wheel thinking it’s kind of awesome to have one,” said 13 year-old Brianna Clevinger. “My dad said just give them one but if you want another one it will be five bucks though.”
So far, the local handyman hasn’t yet sold his invention to the public. With a please and thank you, children in the neighborhood have received the item for free so they can try it out on their own bikes. It’s Clevinger’s way of doing market analysis. When they do go on sale, the price for the product will run between $7 and $10 with each piece having a guarantee.
Regardless if the item races off the shelves, Clevinger said his children already have gained knowledge from the invention. All understand the science behind the product, and that in itself is a win.
“We’re promoting it for (the kids),” he said. “It’s all for them. It’s because of them that I came up with the idea.”
Fans of the invention have until Monday to vote for Clevinger through his Walmart contest page at www.getontheshelf.walmart.com/product/123d/Wheel-popper. Those interested in purchasing a Wheel Popper can contact the local inventor through email at email@example.com.