Whenever we meet new acquaintances here at AEC, one question that everyone asks us is how and why we came up with the idea to design and build a new adult trike. So here’s the story:
Gary Webster owns an engineering company in Westfield, MA called Berkshire Group, Ltd. He started the company in 1987 and has been providing robots and automation systems to Fortune 500 companies ever since. Each project that the company builds provides a unique solution for a specific problem. Over the years, Gary has watched as several of his customers moved their manufacturing operations offshore; gradually decreasing the available work for Berkshire Group. In 2003, he decided that in order for the company to continue its success, he needed to come up with a product that the company could build over and over again using its engineering expertise.
In order to come up with a product to design, Gary and his staff held brainstorming sessions where ideas from converting cars to electric to home energy surveys arose. Altogether there were about 26 ideas that reflected the energy crisis, rising gas prices, the aging of America and the decreasing number of manufacturing companies. After establishing a variety of possible products and services, four criteria helped to narrow the list down: 1) there must be a clearly defined target market (like the baby boomers), 2) the product needs to be unique and premium quality, 3) the product needs to benefit from Berkshire Group’s engineering experience and 4) the product must be “cool” and beneficial to use. This narrowed the list down from 26 to 2.
After weighing these two options, Gary moved forward with the AEC trike because it met both his business and personal goals. Starting AEC meant establishing a new American manufacturing company and creating a product for active older adults. Gary and his wife (who are baby boomers) were avid bike riders for many years but after a while, it became obvious that the bikes were uncomfortable, unstable and difficult to get on and off. Designing the AEC trike became personal and not just business. This also gave him a head start on the design, already knowing many of the issues baby boomers experience when riding a traditional bike. Although there are many adult tricycles already on the market, the majority of them are either giant versions of a toddler tricycles or electric scooters for the elderly.
After settling on the trike, Gary began working on the product’s development in his spare time. He wanted the trike to be robust, comfortable, easy to get on and off, stable and most important, stylish. After working out the details of the mechanics, he hired a graphic artist to design the image of the trike that existed only in his head. The style of the trike was inspired by the Bugattis and other high-end cars from the 1930s and 40s. Thus the first AEC trike was born.
Once the product was designed, Gary hired me in January 2010 to join the AEC team and conduct research to determine market potential. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how vast the bicycle market is in the US alone. Everything I found indicated that this was a solid product to move forward with. In July of 2010 we filed a design patent for the trike and have since been working to get the business started. The design of the trike has evolved over the last 18 months and is almost ready for production. We are currently building the final prototype and working out the mechanical issues. We expect the trike to be finalized in the next few months, so stay tuned for the release of the final design and pictures of the first actual trike.