Saturday, May 26, 2012

The perfect wheels for riding around the concrete jungle

Bicycles have long been one of my favorite modes of transportation. Whether riding along side the Oregon Trail with one of my best friends Tom Kingen, cruising back to Shakespeare&Co after getting lost on the streets of Paris, taking part in the punishing hill climb Ronde PDX in Portland Oregon, or taking the long way through the Alps. Time on a bike empowers us with a unique kind of freedom, allowing the eyes to see, the mind to think, and the body to match motion with movement.

So when my good friend Paul came to me with a plan to build a bamboo bike I jumped at the idea but wondered where to begin such a project? It wasn't long after that boxes filled with different sized bamboo sticks began arriving at Paul's house. "That's a logical first step" I thought.

Setting to work with his friend Gary (Hairy Gary as he is known among the local biking community is a legend of sorts, having built custom frames for decades). Gary gives off a slight mad genius vibe, his home is out of order to a degree that would leave most believing he can't possibly be bothered with cleaning due to the demands of his passionate devotion to crafting the perfect frame. His hair is carefree and without guidance, much like his two dogs, one of which is as wide as it is long. With a demeanor that can best be described as a cross between Rain Man and John Candy, Gary is the friendliest introvert you'll ever meet.

Paul, left, and Gary tweaking the angles on the jig
After a handful of Tuesday evenings Paul and I had our routine down. Both dogs, Paul and I wait for Gary to come to the front door. After exchange pleasantries the three of us descend into Gary's basement, which turns out to be no regular rumpus room. If Batman were to ever get into building bikes, this would be his lair. Under this low ceiling with bad lighting lives (bear with me as I showcase how little i know about tools/machinery) industrial looking contraptions that pound, bend, cut, mold, punch, all things metal. Finding our spots around the bike jig, the six pack of beer is then unveiled from Paul's sack-o-parts, each of us clinking our glass bottles, just some guys toasting to the wooden bike frame revolution.
A candid shot of the bike frame after a long day at the office.
It's usually at this point, when we really start to get serious about building the bike, that I take my usual position either to the left or right of Paul, the optimal locations for a trusted sidekick. I assume the role of "Robin" in the bike lair. To avoid looking like the last workshop I was in was a writer's workshop, I always find something to hold (besides my beer), be it a piece of pipe, a cut of bamboo, anything that promotes my role of executive assistant. The dremel tool was my most favored item. Dont sweat it, i didn't know a dremel was a the perfect tool for sanding down bamboo either.
Wrapping the joints with carbon fiber
If this sounds really interesting and you would like to build your own bamboo bike, i would advise the following. Download a bike frame building program. Make friends with a guy like hairy Gary who has his very own bike frame jig. Be a supportive friend to your friend who actually knows angles and framing and how to make "things line up like they do on paper". (This last part is optional but worked well for me.) Sign up for a two week mountaineering course halfway through the project, come back and be ready to thank your friend for having diligently worked on the project while you were away.

The finished product. Move over hipsters there's a new ride in town.
Finally, having just watched the new doc on the life and times of Bob Marley I think Bob would approve of this bamboo bike. I imagine him checking out the sleek lines of the bamboo, taking it for a quick spin and then saying something like "Now dats' the way to get around dee' concrete jungle man."


Spokane Al said...

Very nice!

Jennie said...

LOVE IT! Very cool idea, Paul, and Brad, the bike looks great on you!

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