I went to the pantry and raided our stash of “Koozies.” You know, those neoprene foam can coolers… Good grief! How did we get so many of these things! Koozies from BBQ cooking teams, real estate agents, school fundraisers, weddings and baby showers… At least I had plenty of raw materials to start chopping up for prototypes, and I didn’t care how many were destroyed in my efforts! I chopped and folded and cut slits in this way and that. They weren’t exactly pretty, but I was on to something. The little bit of padding was a nice touch, but they didn’t prevent the straps from loosening.
To solve that problem, my initial idea was to use the BOA fastening system. This is a very slick retention system you see on a lot of high-end cycling shoes, medical braces, snowboard boots, and so on. They adjust by simply turning a dial for more tension, and quickly and easily release. I just needed to figure out how to source them! Sadly, they aren’t something you can buy on Amazon/Ebay or even Alibaba! To get started with a prototype, I bought some ACE knees straps that used the BOA system. They were intended to help with patellar tendonitis issues, but I deconstructed and re-engineered the BOA parts for my foot straps. They worked pretty well, but not well enough! Their downfall was that a lot of pressure was put on a lightweight plastic piece, and they failed after a week of rowing. I needed a much beefier version! I tried different avenues to contact the manufacturer and other developers, but they were simply not willing to work with anyone outside of their existing network. A dead end indeed.
I spent many hours wandering the aisles at Home Depot/Lowes looking for a better solution. And on top of that, countless hours of scouring the internet for ideas! The hardest thing was trying to figure out what pieces and parts were called. “Doohickey” and “Thingamajig” are not technical terms. In any case, I’m not one to give up easily… I finally found my solution in that metal doohickey with the gnarled teeth on a spring… Or, as they are known in the biz: a “cam buckle!”
Not all cam buckles are created equally and finding the right one took quite a while. Finish and quality were very important to me, as well as being strong, sweatproof, and reliably sourced! The last requirement nearly proved to the hardest, as I started this venture in the middle of a pandemic with major global supply chain issues!
For months I experimented with different cam buckles and all sorts of materials for the footpad. Let’s just say, I rowed a lot of meters in my R&D laboratory! There were small victories and massive failures along the way, but they all contributed to making RowStraps even better!
Stay tuned for the next step in the journey!