Rear Suspension of a Motorcycle
Inventor: James Parker
Day job: Self-employed
His all-time favorite invention: The airplane.
How his invention could affect our lives: It improves motorcycles’ performance and makes them look really awesome.
What the actual patent says: “A rear single-sided swingarm suspension for a motorcycle includes a single-sided swingarm that has an axle bearing assembly pivotably connected to the rearward end thereof for swinging motion in a plane parallel to the plane of travel of the swingarm.” (Got that?)
Meet the inventor: You don’t have to know much about motorcycles to see how James Parker’s invention differs from traditional designs. Instead of having a telescopic fork attached to the front wheel, Parker devised a single bionic-looking arm that stretches from the motorcycle’s steering column to the center of the wheel.
“This system is three times as strong as a fork but with the same weight,” Parker says, in an interview in the living room of his South Capitol home.
Unlike other Santa Fe inventors, Parker came to inventing circuitously: He graduated from Stanford University with a degree in industrial design and later owned a construction company in town. He began racing in the 1970s and then started designing motorcycles.
After he left the construction industry in ’96, Parker devoted himself to inventing full time and has since been featured in numerous magazine articles, in addition to penning a column for Motorcyclist Magazine.
He’s amazed he has such a low profile in Santa Fe.
“I easily have more magazine covers than any independent motorcyclist inventor in the world,” Parker says, “and it’s funny, because Santa Fe doesn’t know about me at all. I feel a little bit touchy about that.”
More attention is given to television shows like Orange County Chopper, where mechanics pimp out bikes in a way Parker says “is irresponsible.”
“Those shows really, really, really disgust me,” he says. “It’d be fine if these guys said, ‘We’re doing sculpture and this really shouldn’t be ridden because we don’t do any testing of it.’ That’s what bothers me.”