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Old 2014-03-26, 04:13 AM   #1
johnfoss
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Tom Miller, The Unicycle Factory, featured in the Kokomo Tribune

Bob Swaim sent me a link to this really-well-done article from Tom Miller's local paper today. There's also an 8-minute video. Tom, or Tomi as he is also known, is an important part of unicycling history. Before the Coker came along, he was the guy you would go to if you wanted a unicycle bigger than 24". Or a giraffe over 6'. Or a multi-wheeler. Or a tennis-shoe wheel. Or a simple kit to turn a rim and a piece of plywood into an Ultimate wheel. He was the go-to guy for anything custom with pedals and one wheel. Or more; he once built a 10-person bike (actually a tricycle for practicality reasons) that was used for parades and promotional events. Unlike an actual 10-person bike, anyone could ride his 3-wheeled version.

Tom built my 45" big wheel (1982) my 12" tiny uni (1984), my 9' free-mountable giraffe 1986, the insert in my old Ultimate wheel, the customized Miyata frames on my old Freestyle uni and my current 24" Track uni, and tons of other stuff. He also made a replacement for the big VW logo on my old Volkswagen Van. See it and the 9-footer below.

The picture of all the big wheels is from the 1983 USA Convention in Syracuse, NY (I called that event Unicon 0, as it was followed by the first IUF convention the following year in the same place). All those big wheels were stacked up so they could be stored overnight instead of in peoples' cars. My 45" is the one in back.

Enjoy the Kokomo Tribune article, and please share your stories of Tom Miller and The Unicycle Factory.
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Old 2014-03-26, 08:26 AM   #2
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Two things I adore in one picture...



Thanks John !
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Old 2014-03-26, 08:48 AM   #3
UniSpud
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Quote:
Tom Miller, The Unicycle Factory, featured in the Kokomo Tribune
Thank you John. I've sent an email to the author of the article to see if he will pass on a request of contact to Tommy.

He seems like a very interesting person and I'd like to get to know him more. I'd like to order a unicycle from him. I admire people who find their passion and follow it regardless of the reactions of others around them.

We are sorely lacking of driven people who don't fit a mold these days and he is a ray of sunlight in these less than sunny "modern" times.

Cheers

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Old 2014-03-26, 01:32 PM   #4
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I remember my uncle, The Amazing Larry Vee (who taught me to unicycle in the early eighties) always talking about Tom Miller. I think he built his ultimate wheel from that kit, and I think Tom Miller would work on my uncle's Schwinn and and Sem giraffes, which got a lot of abuse from the constant performances and practicing.
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Old 2014-03-26, 01:52 PM   #5
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Great video, John.

It reminded me why I've always loved unicycling so much. I still feel like a 10 year old when I ride.

The only thing is the video might make one think that the sport has faded, which it certainly hasn't. It's sad that hand made cycles are a thing of the past, mainly. But the easy availability of unicycles and the general improvement in durability and comfort has opened the sport up to more of us older folk and younger folk alike.
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Old 2014-03-30, 03:12 PM   #6
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I enjoyed reading the newspaper article and watching the video. So, I looked up the Unicycle Factory online and called Tom about some cranks. We ended up talking for 45 minutes. It was like talking to an old friend. By the end of the conversation he invited me to come see some of the unicycles and other things he's created. I only live three hours away. This is a trip I will have to make.
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Old 2014-03-31, 12:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kahunacohen View Post
The only thing is the video might make one think that the sport has faded, which it certainly hasn't. It's sad that hand made cycles are a thing of the past, mainly. But the easy availability of unicycles and the general improvement in durability and comfort has opened the sport up to more of us older folk and younger folk alike.
Centralized mass production is far more efficient than some guy toiling away in a backyard foundry, and will make unicycles affordable and available to lots more people. The Internet also makes it possible for more people to get unicycles and spare parts and to learn riding skills that they couldn't learn from anyone they're likely to run into in person.

Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, and it is based on monopoly, so I'm surprised, in the midst of all these imperialist wars, that a tiny little outfit like the Unicycle Factory didn't vanish a long time ago, but they do have some cool stuff on their website, such as the 22-foot giraffe and all kinds of other inventions. Kokomo also seems to still have a decent local newspaper. That's rare these days as well.
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Old 2014-03-31, 02:01 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by UniSpud View Post
I've sent an email to the author of the article to see if he will pass on a request of contact to Tommy.
Oops, I totally spaced on including contact info! I don't feel comfortable copying his street address here, but you can find it on the Unicycle Factory web page. Phone number: 1-765-452-2692

Quote:
Originally Posted by kahunacohen View Post
I remember my uncle, The Amazing Larry Vee (who taught me to unicycle in the early eighties) always talking about Tom Miller.
Larry Vee was quite a character. I think he's the only person I've ever seen do unicycle juggling. Many people juggle a single unicycle and two "easier" objects, but I'm pretty sure he got three unicycles going, briefly, probably at one of the USA conventions he attended in the 80s.
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Originally Posted by kahunacohen View Post
The only thing is the video might make one think that the sport has faded, which it certainly hasn't.
It's kind of about how Tom Miller has faded, or that the unicycling world rotated away from him. But what he's doing with his local group of kids is still the same grassroots stuff that creates unicyclists all over the world. Nothing fancy, just riding around the neighborhood, basketball court, and possibly the occasional parade.

Kokomo had a fantastic parade in 1980 when the USA convention was there (hosted by Tom and his club, the Kokomo Roadrunners). The Hayes-Apperson Parade was the same weekend, and we were a unit in it. All the unicyclists. Judges were located along the route, and it served as the parade competition (I think; or maybe they didn't do it as a competition yet). It was my first Nationals, but not my first parade.

In this parade, they put all the bands in one section, all the floats in another section, and all the Shriners in their own section. And Shriners were a big part of the Hayes-Apperson Parade. They had Shriners riding on every kind of wheeled vehicle you can imagine, from tiny motorcycles to mini-bike motorcycles to big fat Honda Gold Wings to antique cars to antique race cars (real ones) and even a group with just Indy race cars! Pretty cool, but a really weird way to set up a parade.

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Originally Posted by song View Post
Imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism, and it is based on monopoly, so I'm surprised, in the midst of all these imperialist wars, that a tiny little outfit like the Unicycle Factory didn't vanish a long time ago...
He kind of did, but he was very small anyway. There's always room for boutique custom builders, and there's still plenty of room for him. He just has to decide that he wants to build stuff for people, at a price that's reasonable for him (not to undersell himself), and to have some sort of a schedule for finishing projects. The market for custom stuff is not only still there, it should be way bigger than it was in the 80s.
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Old 2014-03-31, 10:10 AM   #9
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Thanks for sharing this with us John.
It's a great video and newspaper article. I'm glad there are still people like this guy around.
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