The man who brought the world Rollerblades is now a high roller.
Scott Olson, the athletic Minnesota inventor featured in Keeping Fit last spring, has emailed me some photos of his latest creation, which he’s busy perfecting.
He calls it the SkyBike – basically a metal-framed pedalling contraption suspended from a giant circular rail on his sprawling farm in Waconia, Minn.
In case you missed it, here’s last year’s column on the one-of-a-kind Scott “Mr. Rollerblades” Olson.
Edmonton Sun — Monday, June 1, 2009
Row, row, row your bike, gently down the street …
That’s just one way Minnesota inventor Scott Olson works his buff bod these days.
But what else would you expect from the creative genius who reinvented the wheel with younger brother Brennan and introduced the world to Rollerblades more than 25 years ago?
Working out and having fun are synonymous for Olson, who’s 50 years old but still a child at heart.
“My whole life revolves around having fun,” he tells Sun Media in an exclusive interview. “Health and fitness are very high on the priority list, besides family and making a living.”
Olson has been on a roll since he founded Rollerblade, Inc., in 1983. He sold the then-fledgling company in 1985 and reportedly went on to rake in more than $10 million in royalties.
“I got really lucky,” admits the former semi-pro hockey goaltender known as Olie the goalie who toiled in the now-defunct Winnipeg Jets’ farm system. “Most inventors and entrepreneurs, they don’t get to see the monetary success that I was able to see.”
The eccentric pioneer continued his inventive ways and in 1996, he introduced the Rowbike — a creation that marries “the beautiful motion of rowing with the control and speed of a bicycle,” he explains.
Although the Rowbike hasn’t come close to achieving the mass-market acclaim of the iconic Rollerblade, the two-wheeled invention is Olson’s favourite when it comes to a full-body workout.
“It’s amazing more people aren’t using that rowing machine. When you go into a club, there it’ll sit. Most clubs only have a few of them, but everybody’s lined up to get on the treadmill or the bike.”
Of course, the scenery gets stale after just a short time on a rowing machine. That was a major impetus behind the development of the hybrid Rowbike.
“Heck, you can ride it for over an hour and you’re still having fun,” he says. “When you learn how to row and start using your legs, you can drive this thing. It gets going plenty fast and that’s the fun of it, too. You try to make it go faster. Or you try to go climb the next hill.
“Sometimes I’ll get on it and just work my abs. If you’re coasting down the hill, you can lay back and do ab crunches until you come to a complete stop if you want.”
And so, his Rowbike has become a mainstay in his workout regimen.
But Olson, a fit 172 pounds at 5-foot-10, thrives on variety.
He still enjoys his claim to fame. In fact, last year he skated three marathons on Rollerblades.
“I’m blading as much now as I ever bladed,” he says.
Plus, he swims daily in an Endless Pool, routinely goes jogging, and religiously ekes out 100 reps each of various basic exercises such as pushups, chin-ups and sit-ups.
Olson lives on a 40-acre farm — complete with chickens, miniature donkeys and swans — about 55 km west of Minneapolis. The doting father of a 14-year-old daughter has also been known to play Kong Pong — his oversized, outdoor version of table tennis — in his spacious backyard.
“The Edmonton Oilers back in the Gretzky era, they had a ping pong table right in the middle of their locker room,” Olson says. “It’s such a great way to get warmed up and it’s such a great game for any athlete. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play all the time.”
In the winter, Olson doesn’t let a little cold and snow keep him from a friendly game of Kong Pong.
“We bring the table out on the lake and we put our skates on and we play with our ice skates,” he says. This past winter, he completed a 50-km cross-country ski race. He still plays ice hockey year-round about once a week, and he dabbles in bandy.
“I like mixing it up. I’m blading, I’m rowing, I’m swimming …” he says. “We all have it in front of us. There’s so much to do.”
… Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily, life is but a dream.
Visit rowbike.com for more on the Rowbike.
Scott’s fitness tips:
1. Find something you like to do.
2. If you’re looking for probably the best and most efficient workout machine you can get your hands on, get a rowing machine or a Rowbike.
3. Don’t rely on the gym or weights. A lot of people have that for an excuse. They can’t get to the club, they don’t work out. Well, the fewer excuses you’ve got, the more you’re going to work out.
4. Use your bodyweight. The body doesn’t know if you’re lifting a 50-pound dumbbell or doing a pushup. Start with pushups and pull-ups. Don’t be discouraged. Do a couple here and a couple there and keep adding to it.
5. Find a good workout partner. But then don’t count on them either. At the end of the day, you’re the one that’s going to have to do it.