Every now and then we feature thinkers and tinkerers on our site and Canadian Brent Curry clearly fits into that category. He is the man behind BikeCAD but also developed several unique bicycle related projects like a Couchbike, Treadmill Bike and a Hula Bike. Media from around the world has jumped on him because of the Treadmill Bike, but it is the BikeCAD system that is most impressive.
Slowtwitch: How are you Brent?
Brent Curry: I'm doing great. Last week, I released a new update of BikeCAD. It's always satisfying to see the new features I've been working on for months put to use by the frame builders and fit specialists who use my software.
ST: The name Brent Curry rings a bell. Could you explain to us why that might be so?
Brent: Although I did my first triathlon back in '89 and have done a ton of races since then, most of the people I know in the long course triathlon community I've met through my younger brother Scott Curry. Over the years, I've traveled to a lot of Ironman races to watch Scott compete in the pro field. Along the way, I've had the privilege of meeting a lot of really great people like Jonathan Caron, Jasper Blake, Jordan Rapp, Jill Savege, Heather and Trevor Wurtele, Scott Molina, Peter Reid, Clint Lien, Sara Gross, Brent McMahon, Simon Whitfield, Chris McDonald and Mark Van Akkeren.
ST: You are a tinkerer of sorts. When has that started, or should we ask your parents?
Brent: Yes. The tinkering started before I can remember. My parents were very good about encouraging creativity in my brother and sister and me.
ST: As far back as you remember, what is the first bicycle related project you had your hands on?
Brent: It was a bike that hinged at the middle. You'd jump up and down on it to make it move along like an inchworm. I regret not having any photos.
ST: I think many years back you built a Couchbike and a treadmill bike. Do you still own and use those machines or have they been recycled into another product or gone straight to the recycling bin?
Brent: Yes, after building the Couchbike for a cycling trip through the Maritimes in 2002, I continue to enjoy the odd ride on my Couchbike to this day. The Treadmill Bike was built as a joke. So I never anticipated the attention it would get. After multiple appearances on Japanese, German, British and North American TV, and almost losing it to a contestant on the Price Is Right, I still have the original Treadmill Bike.
ST: So who is your riding partner when you get on that Couchbike?
Brent: In 2002, I traveled through the Maritimes with a Norwegian friend who'd last visited Canada 10 years earlier on foreign exchange. Since then, most of my friends have taken at least a short spin on the Couchbike.
ST: What exactly happened on The Price is Right?
Brent: The Treadmill Bike was once selected to appear among other prizes in the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right. The contestant was incredibly close with her guess, but was $362 over. I managed to get the bike back from the show and eventually sold the second of two Treadmill Bikes to a Japanese TV show. In Japan, they ended up putting training wheels on it. Then they dressed up a chimpanzee in overalls and had him ride it. I'm not making this up.
ST: Wow, that sounds like a monkey business. So when did you start with BikeCAD?
Brent: The spark for BikeCAD came in university where I did a number of internships with bicycle companies. I started at Vitus in France, and moved on to Syncros in Vancouver, BC, Southcott in Australia, and finally Dekerf Cycles in Vancouver. During those internships, I spent a lot of time preparing technical drawings of bikes. I saw a need for a parametric design tool specific to bicycles. I began developing BikeCAD in 1998. I used it to design a few mountain bikes and tandems - which I built in my garage. I also made the program available for free on my website.
ST: And what inspired you to dig deeper into this topic?
Brent: I may not have done much more with BikeCAD if it weren't for Serotta Cycles - who contacted me about developing a custom version of the program for their own site. Through working with Serotta, I began to see the potential for a more comprehensive bicycle design and fitting tool. I started selling BikeCAD Pro in 2004 and have been enhancing the program ever since.
ST: Who is your target audience for this BikeCAD?
Brent: BikeCAD was initially aimed at custom frame builders. The interface provides a means to quickly design a frame and obtain the lengths and angles at which to cut all the tubes. However, the program has evolved to address the needs of bicycle fit specialists as well. A parametric model of a rider can be placed on the bike and customizable formulas can be used to determine optimal frame geometry for any given rider. BikeCAD can also be used in conjunction with other fitting tools. If another fit methodology such as F.I.S.T., Retül, Guru DFU, or Specialized BG Fit is used to determine the saddle and handlebar position, BikeCAD can be used to explore the various options for achieving that saddle and handlebar position. For example, one solution may be a different frame and another solution may be a different seat post, saddle, stem, headset and spacers. With BikeCAD you can consider all the options. Fully dimensioned drawings from BikeCAD are a useful tool for ensuring that the customer and the fit specialist or builder are both on the same page.
ST: Does BikeCAD occupy you full time or do you have something else that pays the bills?
Brent: Yes, I used to do a lot of non-bicycle related design work with a solid modeling tool called Pro|ENGINEER. However, my attention gradually shifted more and more towards BikeCAD and I have been fully occupied with that for the past six years.
ST: Both you and your brother raced triathlons. How long was it serious for you and how much do you do now?
Brent: I started racing triathlons at 16 and was pretty serious about it through university when I represented Canada at the World University Triathlon Championships in the Czech Republic in 1996. Later, I attended World Age Group Championships in Cancun, Lausanne and Vancouver. I still swim, bike and run regularly. However, this is the second summer that I haven't actually raced.
ST: Is Ultimate the current passion?
Brent: I do love ultimate. For a number of years, I had to limit my running due to a chronic knee injury. Along the way, I got back into soccer, which I'd played as a kid. It seemed that running on turf didn't aggravate my knees as much. So I started playing once a week and eventually switched to ultimate. Hockey is another sport I played as a kid and have come to enjoy again.
ST: As a Canadian I guess you could not get around playing hockey. Otherwise you may get kicked out.
Brent: Yes, that's a risk I'm not willing to take.
ST: Is there anything else we ought to know?
Brent: You can try the free version of BikeCAD at BikeCAD.ca. BikeCAD Pro costs $350 Canadian. This is a one-time fee. As new updates of BikeCAD are released, all owners of BikeCAD Pro receive the new version at no extra charge. Many new features in BikeCAD are added at the request of the builders and fit specialists that use the software on a daily basis. In this regard, I consider the development of BikeCAD to be a collaborative effort. I am always grateful for feedback and suggestions.