St. Helena’s Universal Carrier wins North Bay Maker Award
What started as a personal quest by Bruce Coulthard to develop the ultimate universal motorcycle carrier that could be attached to a trailer hitch for his own use, is becoming a popular way for all categories of on-and-off-road enthusiasts to transport their bikes.
“The impetus for this motorcycle carrier design was triggered by the dilemma of how to carry my ten-foot long snow bike on a Mercedes Sprinter without towing a trailer. Heavy bikes can flip and pin you, so safety is a main concern when it comes to lifting 500 to 600 lb. large adventure, street, dirt and track bikes onto traditional carriers,” Coulthard said. “As more women embrace the sport, having to pick up and maneuver a heavy bike is an issue for them as well as for a 210 lb. guy like me.”
He set out to create a new type of carrier that could be operated by a single person instead of two. After sketching a preliminary design, he said, “This thing has legs.”
Coulthard developed a system with a carrying plate ramp that could be lowered to the ground so one person could walk the bike on and tie it down safely in just minutes. He also wanted a longer ramp, a 12-inch higher lift, as well as a swivel turntable – that he calls the “Thang” – able to rotate the carrier 45 degrees or more so his snow motorcycle would not extend beyond the width of a car or truck.
The end result is known as The Universal Carrier weighing 160 lbs., with a load capacity of 1,575 lb. It is billed as a way to safely and easily transport motorcycles of all kinds on the rear or front of vehicles. This carrier capable of handling long snow bikes for all terrain use, such as those factory-built or constructed using conversion kits available from a number of suppliers. It can also be modified to carry two midrange bikes in the 250 lb. category by installing a parallel base plate.
The carrier is designed for use with class 4-5 hitches. The top link of the system is installed on the vehicle bumper above the hitch receptacle. A built-in 12-volt powered worm-gear actuator raises and lowers the ramp plate for easy loading and unloading.
The Universal Carrier was launched in May at the Overland Expo West and East. “About 150 people came to my exhibit area and their response was 100% positive. The carrier is now available for sale ($3,400). Advertising is by word of mouth, and news is getting around fast,” Coulthard said.
He first conceived his idea back in June 2016. He knew what he wanted and went to a welding shop in Nevada for fabrication assistance. From start to finish the development process took about a year. Patents are pending for his unique design.
When ready to go into production, Coulthard, a resident of St. Helena, made a cold-call visit to J&M Manufacturing, Inc., a Cotati-based precision sheet metal fabricator headed by co-owners Jim Judd and Paul Matthias that serves the medical, industrial, electronics and consumer products industries.
“My goal was to work with a full-service shop able to meet critical turnarounds on small runs and prototypes as well as larger production runs.”
He liked the fact that J&M’s owners were receptive, professional and eager to fit his carrier into their production schedule. J&M uses the latest CAD and solid modeling software, along with CNC laser cutting and turret punch tooling equipment in an all-digital workflow environment. It has a complete paint shop that includes silk-screening, and offers assembly, full contract manufacturing and vendor inventory management. Today J&M manufactures everything for The Ultimate Carrier except the 12-volt actuator.
Coulthard is an entrepreneur and owner of five businesses, including Global Stabilization, PZS Stabilization, Genesis-Soils.com, SNCA Technologies and now The Ultimate Carrier. His newest business interest goes beyond the definition of “lean,” since he has no employees, just three independent sales reps who work on a commission basis.
He knows from experience that startups can be a challenge.
“My father would tell me, make sure your ups are longer than your downs.” He also said, “Adversity builds character, so son, I think you’ve had enough.”
He knows from experience that “necessity is the mother of invention” and sees other uses for his carrier. Coulthard is currently working with Wounded Warriors to modify his carrier to transport track wheelchairs for disabled veterans.