Michael Harthorne
David Hawkins and Ballard resident David Krafchick with a bicycle installed with Brake Director, their invention that allows both front and rear brakes to be controlled with one lever.

Ballard company revolutionizes bicycle braking

Back in the 80s, Ballard resident David Krafchick's girlfriend at the time enjoyed bicycling. But, Krafchick's physical disability prevented him from using his right hand to properly apply a bicycle's brake, keeping him from joining in on her rides. He needed a solution.

Twenty-two years later, Krafchick is the co-creator of Brake Director, a power-braking system that utilizes a single hand control to engage both the front and rear brakes on a bicycle, allowing cyclists with physical disabilities, as well as other riders, to get on the road with greater safety and ease.

Krafchick met his partner in Brake Director, David Hawkins, when a number of bicycle shops told Krafchick they couldn't help him find a one-handed solution for his braking problem, but they knew someone who could.

For more than 15 years, Krafchick funded the development of Brake Director himself while Hawkins, who has more than 30 years of experience in bicycle technical service, designed and engineered prototypes, which Krafchick tested and analyzed.

The final result was Brake Director, the first market-ready solution for riders with upper body limitations, such as arthritis, birth defects, heart attack, stroke, amputation and injury.

Hawkins said before Brake Director there was no product on the market that truly addressed the difficulties faced by disabled riders. Their invention is a full solution that gives one hand the strength and control of two, he said.

"It's just been a resounding success," Hawkins said. "It works great."

Krafchick said he recently heard from a Brake Director user in London who is excited to now be able to ride his bike to his physical therapist. He no longer has limited transportation options, Krafchick said.

That kind of response from disabled riders is why he spent his time on money on Brake Director, Krafchick said.

"It empowers them," he said.

Brake Director is installed at the front of any regular bicycle and increases control and braking power, Krafchick said. Even in an emergency stop, the worst that will happen with Brake Director is the rider will stop and then tip over, he said.

Hawkins said it is nice to have complete control of the bicycle and not be distracted by having to use two hands to brake.

That is one of the reasons Hawkins and Krafchick are marketing Brake Director to all riders, not just those with physical disabilities.

Krafchick said his braking system is great for novice riders or those who are nervous about braking. He was off his bicycle for 10 or 15 years before he was able to ride again, and Brake Director greatly simplified the process, he said.

Hawkins said he has heard from users who think it should be on every bike. One response from a customer who used Brake Director for downhill mountain biking raved about it, saying it keeps his bike from pitching forward when he brakes hard, Hawkins said.

Brake Director can work for cyclists who want to maintain full brake control while signaling with their hands or reaching for items, such as drinks or maps.

Hawkins said the goal is to increase the visibility of Brake Director through word of mouth and by putting it in front of people as another approach for braking.

"Bicycle culture has laws of what is and what should be," Hawkins said. "Two brakes had been written in stone. You have two breaks on a bicycle, and thou shalt use them this way."

Ballard's Brake Director is looking to change that.

For more information, visit the Brake Director website.

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