Shark Wheel: Reinventing the WheelAfter 5,500 years, one man claims to have improved on our greatest invention—by turning it into a square.
The Ideas Man
David Patrick, 51
While working in his usual field of rotors and turbines, the California inventor stumbled upon a new shape of wheel that rolled faster and more smoothly and provided more grip.
Teaming up with former tennis pro turned businessman Zack Fleishman, he raised almost $80,000 on Kickstarter before walking away from entrepreneurial reality show Shark Tank in 2015 with another $225,000. The Shark Wheel had scored its first bite.
THE RED BULLETIN: What is the Shark Wheel?
DAVID PATRICK: There are two types of wheel: One has little friction and goes fast; the other has a lot of grip but is slow. Ours is fast and grippy. It moves in a sine wave, like how a fish moves its tail. You push less with your foot, because it rolls forever, and when loaded up with grip it grabs hard. If you hit a speed bump with both front wheels of a car, you feel the full shock, but taken at an angle it’s far gentler. Our wheels do the same, always approaching at an angle. The number-one concern of a skateboarder is if you hit a rock, you die. Our wheel kicks it out of the way or goes right over it.
How did you get the idea?
We came up with the shape while we were developing a propeller. One day this part fell onto the floor and rolled. Spotting its potential, we turned it into a wheel to get a patent on the design. Skateboarding was a great market to go into, because people buy just wheels; I didn’t have to do a deal with a stroller company and convince them.
Has it been a success?
Initially, the pro longboarding industry viewed us as a gimmick and we were abused on social media as a joke. So we sent wheels to all those who hated us; every single one gave us a glowing review. Then we got in touch with some pro riders, who helped us develop them. Now, we’ve won some big contests, like the 24-hour Ultraskate in Miami. We know we’re a long-distance wheel and we roll great, so we ended up winning. Now, we’re making a wheel for the professional market.
Does it have any other uses?
Being a wheel, there ought to be an infinite number, though not on anything that leans [due to its undulating shape]. There are industries we’re just going to crush. Number one is casters, like you see on a hospital trolley. Ever pushed a grocery cart with a fluttering wheel? Our wheels never do that. The second is agriculture. Tractor wheels dig ruts and slip; ours bite their way out like a snake moving through the grass.
Would it benefit cars?
We were asked to develop a prototype for a military Hummer: The wheel would dig its way through sand and also be crazy smooth on the highway. But to make a car tire you have to go through the Department of Transportation, which is so expensive I can’t imagine us undertaking that. Golf carts, on the other hand—we’re perfect for those. It’s being prototyped right now.
How else does the Shark Wheel beat the regular kind?
In water, our wheels are crazy good—they act like propellers. Whether it’s a pleasure craft or a bicycle that goes on the water, we want to do an amphibious vehicle. That would be fun.