Creative inspiration can come from pretty strange places. For Glen Burnie resident Jim Scott, it came from a squashed miniature bicycle.
Scott purchased the little bike, one of the first of its kind, forhis nephew, Brian McKean, seven years ago when Brian was 3 years old.
Although he grew out of it a couple years later, Scott's nephew loved the bike so much he kept riding it around the back lot of Scott's business, Jim Donnie's R.V. Service Center on Crain Highway.
Butone day three years ago, a truck rounded the corner, and splat. The little bike was left a small pile of twisted metal.
"All that was left was the front tire," Scott said.
Scott couldn't bring himselfto throw the tire out, so he set it down atop his tool box until he could think of something to do with it.
More than two years later,that wheel became the original "Scott Trailee," a one-wheel bicycle trailer that Scott believes could make him a rich man if the idea is picked up by the right manufacturer.
The Trailee, on which Scott has a patent pending, looks like a little rack with a single wheel that pivots. It easily snaps onto the back axle of a bicycle and can carry a large duffel bag -- specially designed by Scott -- or a plastic bin for cargo.
A search of existing patents, completed by a firm specializing in such searches, shows that Scott's trailer design is the first of its kind. Other devices exist for carrying cargo or children on the back of a bike, but most have significant shortcomings, Scott said.
The most common child carrier, a seat that goes over the back wheel, makes a bicycle very unstable, he said. He has seen people topple over using them, and Scott doesn't consider these seats a safe way to travel with children.
"The higher the weight is, the worse it is," he said.
A newer device -- a two-wheel trailer that works basically like a U-Haul -- makes a bicycle much steadier but harder to ride, he said.
The two wheels, which generally do not pivot, make it hard to turn corners and maneuver the bicycle.
"With the one-wheel trailer, when you turn, it turns with you," he said.
A test drive of a bike hitched with Scott's trailer proved an easy ride. The Trailee sits close to the ground, so it is stable and would be very difficult to tip over.
Scott believes a rider can haul up to 50pounds or a child weighing up to about 40 pounds without feeling toomuch burn. Since theTrailee sits so low to the ground, the cyclist barely feels the weight, he said.
Designing the Trailee is not something Scott, 51, did overnight. It took him nearly six months of working on the plans daily to come up with the design. Since he put the first Trailee together more than a year ago, he has assembled at leastsix more in his workshop in the back of Jim Donnie's Service Center.
Scott gave the first Trailee, which he made with the wheel from the miniature bike, to his nephew. Brian's mother, Stella McKean, saidher son, now 11, still uses it all the time.
After Scott revised the Trailee design, he began the process of getting his invention patented. The patent process, which will end up costing $4,000 to $5,000by the time it's finished, can take from six months to a couple years, he said.
Once he gets a patent, Scott hopes to sell his design and ideas for compatible cargo units to a manufacturer, who could mass produce them.
"Because it's so new and so different, I think a lot of companies would jump on it," he said. He expects the Trailee and its accessories would be sold at specialty bicycle shops. The steel-framed trailer unit and a cargo carrier should sell for about $150, he said.
Scott, a Glen Burnie resident of 25 years, said he believes the Trailee would be great for long-distance cyclists who now havelimited options for carrying their gear. Some carriers, which act like saddle bags hanging over the back wheel, make a bike as unsteady as rear-wheel child seats, he said.
The Trailee also would be useful for urban courier services, he said. A courier could carry a lot ofpackages in it and easily maneuver around traffic.
The inventor is not pushing the Trailee as a child carrier -- yet. Although he is convinced it could be one of the safest methods for transporting a child, he believes a specially designed plastic seat, with foot rests and safety belts, has to be manufactured first. The molded seat would be bolted onto the Trailee.
He hopes to sell the idea for the companion seat to whichever manufacturer might be interested in producing the Trailee.
When Scott is not designing bicycle trailers, he is usually at Jim Donnie's working on custom designs for vans and trucks -- the business's specialty.
Although he never graduated from highschool, Scott has been fascinated with engineering and designing things most of his life. He figures out how to design most things by trial and error. He determined the bicycle trailer should ride low, he said, from racing certain types of motorcycles. The motorcycles that had their engines -- and most of their weight -- placed the lowest, had the best stability.
Scott doesn't consider himself a renaissanceman, although he has many hobbies and interests, including inventing, building models and photography.
Renaissance men dabble in many things, he said; he likes to "master" them.
Which explains why Scott is still trying to come up with the "perfect" design for the Trailee.
"I probably won't ever get it perfect," he said. "But I've gotten it so it works real good."