Style & Usage Unabating Inventor Finds Believers TexT by Valerie DemicheVa Biking On Water Schiller Bikes founder, Judah Schiller, guides me through narrow channels between rows of polychromatic Sausalito houseboats on Richardson Bay as he shares his story of trial, error, and success. “When I first launched Schiller Bikes, I had a lot of skeptics,” he says. “Nobody believed in the vision…nobody really ever saw a waterbike before, did you?” I certainly hadn’t. And neither had the prestigious San Francisco design company that Schiller initially hired to create the first prototype two years ago. After that first setback, Schiller brought the design and engineering in-house. He hired a team of bike designers, hydrodynamic experts and fabricators. They created a second prototype: a water-jetted aluminum frame bolted together with twin foils and propellers that broke while Schiller was riding the waves of South Beach in Miami. “I immediately sent everyone back to the drawing board,” Schiller tells me as he points to the “wall of shame”— an area of Schiller’s Marin offices filled with failed, pretty water bikes. He wanted to build a water bike that would be compact enough to carry on a flight and capable of assembly in under 10 minutes, yet durable enough to withstand salt water corrosion. “And it had to be fast,” he explains. “Fast enough to make anyone say: ‘That’s awesome.’” The team drew inspiration from an array of forms for inspira-tion, including dolphins, sharks, water bugs, yachts and a variety of bicycles. They ultimately took design cues from the horizontal mast and vertical boom of the sailboat. The cantilevered frame was sleek and modern. It gave the rider an unobstructed view into a marine world below, yet it was barely functional on the water and far too costly. A few months later, the company launched its third model, the X1 Founder’s Edition. The X1 was fast and gorgeous. But it was impossible to scale given the complexities in manufacturing which included nearly three-dozen custom made components within the drive train and steering system. Finally, Schiller brought on industrial designer and kite board 18 pioneer, Bobby Frick. Within two weeks, Frick reinvented the X1’s complex drive train and propulsion system— the final ele-ment that kept Schiller from launching the bike at scale. They called it the S1, after Schiller’s son, Satya, who had been a believer of the waterbike since the beginning. Today, Schiller has achieved a bike that allows for a true cycling experience, delivering the handling, speed and vir-tues of traditional cycling. There’s a sense of calm on the S1 in the expansive bay. Land bikers reckon with traffic, pedestrians and concrete falls. By contrast, a rider on Schiller’s waterbike is only affected by swells in the bay— more lulling than ominous due to the bike’s sturdy pontoons. The glossy S1 now boasts customers in more than 25 countries and a myriad of luxury resorts, including the Four Seasons, Viceroy, and Andaz. While the execution was technical and complicated the outcome was singularly focused on creating a simple and com-pelling rider experience. For Schiller, kids’ reactions have long been a key metric to longevity. “Now that I’ve seen how teens and kids react to it, I know I have a unicorn that has the potential to transform the face of cycling and water sports.” How did you create the first Schiller bike? The overall form factor of the bike has been pretty consistent since the first prototype. Really I sought to invent the world’s best water bike and the one that would truly inspire a new fron-tier of water biking on a planet that is two-thirds water. I used a 20 year-old Italian made kit that attached to a road bike to make the first ever bike crossing of the San Francisco Bay and Hudson River in Fall of 2013. This type of design or any other was not appealing to me—and in my mind, to any discerning consumer... They just didn’t function well, the salt water corroded the bike, and on top if, no athlete or cyclist would find these compelling let alone want to have their picture taken on it. But I bit the bul-let because I wanted to prove that cycling across a large body of water was possible.