Skibike History - The 1970's
The modern history of skibikes in Canada begins in Calgary, Alberta in the mid-seventies, when an artist/entrepreneur by the name of Kevan Leycraft, probably inspired by some European "ski-bobs" he had seen and tried out himself, set out to build a better machine of his own.
Starting with bicycle frames, he welded together several prototypes in his backyard of what would later become the first of several successful later models. However these early machines were not that easy to use, and based on this experience, Kevan realized that to get the maximum performance from the machines he envisioned, he would have to build them from scratch. Unfortunately, of these very early prototypes that were built, none have survived and no photographs of them are known to exist.
Fortunately however, one early machine built around 1975 has survived. This particular skibike is remarkable because so much of the design innovations of later machines can be found in this early model. It featured the first shock mounted rear seat (on a homemade spring), a triangular frame, rigidly mounted rear ski and the classic dimensions that would later characterize future models.
The Patent After a few more years of trial and error design, Kevan arrived at a sleek, lightweight design that was fast, fun to handle and easy to build. He took out a patent on this design and on Dec 25, 1979, was issued patent number #1068751 for a "ski-supported recreation vehicle".
Kevan set up shop in Calgary, Alberta and began to manufacture these skibikes in early 1979, long before the patent was even approved. About fifty of the "classic" designs were built and many of these original machines are still being ridden today. There is a very loyal following that continue to use these skibikes, with some riders still considering them to be the best skibikes ever made.
Kevan continued to experiment, looking for ways to improve the handling and performance of the original design. It was during this period that Kevin also began to experiment with racing skibikes. The early prototypes didn't look that much different from the classical design, except being slightly longer and lower. The slight increase in overall length of these racing versions revealed additional advantages in stability and control at higher speeds, especially over the European designs.
These early skibikes represented the first stage in the evolution of the modern skibike. Although not state-of-the-art by todays standards, they were still vastly superior in performance to anything else available on the market at the time. However, as much fun as these skibikes were to ride, this design still had its shortcomings, including most notably, the noisy spring-loaded dampener on the front ski and the spot-welded clamps on the rigid rear ski that could crack under the stress of a hard days riding.
With a few years of experience behind him, Kevan realized that the basic skibike design, although successful, could be dramatically improved and that this would most likely involve redesigning the way the rear ski was attached to the skibike.
The Floating Rear Ski So Kevans next objective was to make the rear ski stronger yet more flexible, with the intention of allowing the skibike to turn more easily, to carve turns instead of skidding around corners, the way the rigid classic design was prone to do.
This led to the design of the "floating rear ski" concept which first appeared in the late seventies. This single innovation was one of the most important improvements ever made to the basic skibike design, an innovation that dramatically enhanced the skibikes performance.
The benefits of this simple but revolutionary design change was significant. By making the rear ski flexible, the handling characteristics of the skibike changed dramatically. Instead of skidding around corners, which the earlier rigid designs tended to do, this skibike conformed to the contours of slope and carved around corners in a more natural fashion, very similar to the experience that expert skiers are familiar with.
This one design change permanently transformed the nature of the sport. Since then, every Canadian skibike built since the early eighties has taken advantage of the improved handling of this floating rear ski concept. The skibike had entered the modern age.