This unusual bicycle is called a skate bike or unitrike. It has three wheels and is a cross between a BMX bicycle and a skateboard, comprising a rear-wheel driven unicycle with a set of skateboard trucks and wheels at the front. A disc attached to the seat stays would have indicated the manufacturer but it has been sprayed with paint. It was most probably made by Skate Bike America Inc., Boynton Beach, Florida, USA or Minson Enterprises (USA) Inc., Los Angeles, California, between 1984 and 1986.
The skate bike enjoyed limited popularity during the mid-1980s. It was a short-lived fad but apparently achieved something of a cult following in America and other places including Australia, especially in skate parks amongst some skateboard riders. The former Australian skateboard champion, Tony Hallam, rode his first skate bike at a skate park in Melbourne in 1982. According to Hallam, this was just after BMX bike riding had become popular in skate parks and the popularity of skateboarding had hit an all time low. To remedy this some manufacturers made the skate bike to combine both a BMX bike with a skateboard.
Skate bikes were probably first made in America by the Michigan firm, Le Run, in the late 1970s or early 1980s. By the mid-1980s personal youth transport such as inline skating and skateboarding had become very popular using more sophisticated and modern materials such as polyurethane wheels which allowed for greater speed, manoeuvrability and tricks to be performed.
The popularity of the skate bike was limited due to the difficulty in mastering it and time required to learn to ride. Riding a skate bike has been described like being on a bicycle with no handle bars and with the front wheels failing to swivel. Another limiting feature was the fact that skate bikes needed careful calibration and maintenance and were ridden in quite a different way to conventional unicycles in terms of balance and manoeuvrability. Nevertheless, it is a rare and interesting example of an adaption of the traditional bicycle and tricycle.
Email correspondence with John Main
Email correspondence with former Australian professional skateboarder, Tony Hallam
Advertisements in 'Boys' Life' August 1984 and December 1984.
Advertisements in 'Popular Mechanics' December 1985 and September 1986.
Advertisement in 'Popular Science' December 1985.
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