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Inventor to try crowdfunding to launch cycling product

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An Indiana inventor plans to use the power of the people—and the World Wide Web—to secure funds to produce prototypes for the Land Zeppelin, a Zeppelin-shaped apparatus that allows bicyclists to ride in the rain without getting wet.

Jim Gorman, a civil engineer by trade, got the idea for the project in November 2011, though it took years to bring the Land Zeppelin from notes on paper to the prototype stage.

Named after the airship of the late 20th Century, the Land Zeppelin is a plastic, see-through cover, roughly shaped like a a football — though much larger — that encloses the cyclist and bike and protects him from the rain.

"One ride will convince you," Gorman has said.

When he rides the Land Zeppelin in the rain, Gorman said it feels as though he is cheating the weather.

But to protect the invention with a patent and to produce more LZs for beta testing, Gorman and his business partner, Mark Keillor, a semi-retired social scientist and tinkerer, require about $50,000, the Greensburg Daily News reported.

They are launching a three-week crowdfunding campaign at indiegogo.com to collect funds from bike-enthusiasts around the world. Indiegogo, like Kickstarter, enables people to spread their ideas via the Internet and to ask other people around the world to donate money toward achieving a goal, from writing a book to producing a video game or supporting a new invention.

Gorman said Tuesday that he is "really excited about the opportunity."

Supporters can go to www.indiegogo.com and search for the Land Zeppelin and pledge to donate money. Money will be withdrawn only if the campaign reaches its $50,000 goal. If the campaign falls short of its goal, no pledged donations are withdrawn, and the money remains with whoever made the pledge.

The website features an explanation of the project and an animated video that shows the approximate look of the Land Zeppelin and its use.

It also lists perks that people get for pledging certain amounts. For example, people would receive cycling socks with an LZ logo for a $13 pledge, an LZ T-shirt for $27 and an LZ logo classic cycling jersey for $70. A pledge of $975 will get you the beta testing package.

Hoosier businesses have more options available to them now under new crowdfunding laws.

Through crowdfunding, Indiana firms can use the Internet to raise up to $2 million in a single securities offering, and Hoosiers can invest up to $5,000 each online, according to rules the Indiana Secretary of State's office announced in July.

The rules apply to a law the Indiana Legislature passed earlier this year. The state passed the law to mirror similar legislation on the federal level.

Crowdfunding began as an online fundraising strategy to collect donations for not-for-profit, artistic and humanitarian projects. Indiana's new rules allow small businesses and entrepreneurs, for example, to sell equity stakes to investors online.

If his crowdfunding campaign proves successful, Gorman hopes to set aside about four months for production and deliver the product to beta testers in January.

Gorman said that getting prototypes produced and into the hands of other bicyclists is critical to spreading the word about the project.

The crowdfunding campaign primarily will pay for patenting, which is projected to cost $10,000, and engineering, testing, and production, which is expected to cost about $30,000.

Gorman said he knows that the product works, but he would like to get feedback from about 50 other beta testers who can tell him what they like and dislike, what they think about the ease of installation, what happens in a crash and how the design can be improved.

Gorman emphasized that perks and the LZ's parts will be sourced and made primarily in southern Indiana. The jerseys, for example, will be made in Bloomington, and the socks in Martinsville.

The Land Zeppelin is projected to cost about $650 retail, and the inventor envisions a kit that can be assembled by the cyclists at home. And bike shops probably will assemble some of them and sell them as sets with the bike.

Gorman said that worldwide, 130 million bikes are sold every year, and about 10 percent are to serious bikers and/or commuters. He figures that he can generate significant revenue if he can sell the Land Zeppelin to just 1 percent of serious cyclists.

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  • Seriously?
    If you are that concerned about getting wet because you are cycling outside when it is raining, maybe you should just not cycle when it is raining! Or wear a rain suit/slicker, as a previous poster noted. What a colossal waste of money. But the old adage goes, a fool and their money are soon parted.
  • Gives me an idea!
    You can take a sheet of vinyl or nylon or polyurethane, put a hood in the middle of it, make sure it won't tangle in your works, and use that in a similar fashion. It's kind of like...a poncho. Yeah, that's it. Or make a zippered version that's more form fitting and zips up or snaps up the front. The rain would run off because it's slick. you could call it...a slicker! And you could probably sell 175 of them for $650 dollars!
  • Not Crowdfunding
    The Land Zeppelin is not raising equity or selling securities at this time. They are selling various perks (from socks to beta testing opportunities. The new crowdfunding rules apply to selling securities: equity in the company. Many people (including apparently the IBJ) seem confused by this important distinction.
  • Nice Try, Bad Idea
    No offence to these two guys, but this idea stinks. I have been an active cyclist for over 40 years, and I ride daily. This bubble has terrible safety issues.... Can you imagine two idiots trying to ride side by side on the Monon with this thing?
  • is this practical, a good wind and it will blow the cyclist over
    I don't think this is a good idean unless the bike has a system to remain upright like a stabilizer to offset wind, and what about the encumbrance of taking up more room on the road and a car hits it. I don't see it as practical unless it compensates for and is stable in wind and when vehicles pass by, trucks, cars, semis. A better invention would be a powered gyroscope that keeps a bike upright no matter what.
  • Helpful
    It would probably more helpful to the inventors and potential investors if you provided the link to the Land Zeppelin page, as opposed to telling people to search, etc. Best of luck to them! https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/land-zeppelin

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  1. Great article and post scripts by Mike L (Great addition to IBJ BTW). Bobby's stubborn as a mule, and doubt if he ever comes back to IU. But the love he would receive would be enormous. Hope he shows some time, but not counting on it.

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  4. Jim, your "misleading" numbers comment is spot on. This is the spin these posers are putting on it. News flash, fans: these guys lie. They are not publicly traded so no one holds them accountable for anything they say. The TV numbers are so miniscule to begin with any "increase" produces double digit "growth" numbers. It's ridiculous to think that anything these guys have done has awakened the marketplace. What have they done? Consolidate the season so they run more races on consecutive weekends? And this creates "momentum." Is that the same momentum you enjoy when you don't race between August and March? Keep in mind that you are running teams who barely make ends meet ragged over the summer to accomplish this brilliant strategy of avoiding the NFL while you run your season finale at midnight on the East Coast. But I should not obfuscate my own point: any "ratings increase" is exactly what Jim points to - the increased availability of NBC Sports in households. Look fans, I love the sport to but these posers are running it off a cliff. Miles wants to declare victory and then run for Mayor. I could go on and on but bottom line for God's sake don't believe a word they say. Note to Anthony - try doing just a little research instead of reporting what these pretenders say and then offering an "opinion" no more informed than the average fan.

  5. If he's finally planning to do the right thing and resign, why not do it before the election? Waiting until after means what - s special election at tax payer expense? Appointment (by whom?) thus robbing the voters of their chance to choose? Does he accrue some additional financial advantage to waiting, like extra pension payments? What's in it for him? That's the question that needs to be asked.

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