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Bicycle Projects

This page is an overview of my past and current bicycle projects.

Background

Origin of the species

My parents gave me a blue convertible boy/girl schwinn bantam 20" bike for either my fifth or sixth birthday, I forget which. It lasted for quite a few years, before I convinced my parents that I was the most uncool kid around (everybody else had a BMX bike) and they bought me my own BMX. Eventually the frame broke from all my jumping and crashing, but it is safe to say I got my parents' moneys worth out of it. A Puch Bergmeister 10 speed that my Aunt found in a ditch somewhere was the next bike. I would occasionally try riding it, but virtually every time I did, I would pop a tire or something would break. Around the end of 10th grade of high school, though, something happened. I bought a crappy (yes, huffy) mountain bike and rode it til it broke 3 weeks later. I got another nearly as crappy bike, this time a Savoy as a replacement. I started riding it to school. I started riding everywhere. I started riding in the dark. And rain. And once again, things started breaking. However, this time I started repairing it, using parts salvaged from thrift store bikes and garage sale junk piles. It was nearly always cheaper to buy a whole bike than to try to buy one part. Thus huge collections of bike parts formed. This surplus of materials would be very formative of my behaviors towards bikes as time went on. Think Dr. Frankenstein raiding the grave yard. Igor! I need derailleurs! Anyhow, that savoy mountain bike probably got about 15000 miles on it (a lot for a fred meyer bike) before finally its structural parts started failing and I scrapped it totally. However, it gets credit for hooking me on bicycling as a means of transportation. It also was my first "mutant" bike setup, at one time having no less than 5 generators on it, along with multiple lights, a big riveted rack, trailer hitch, a radio, ammeter, and various other goofy attachments.


side view of MKIII amphibike
side view of MKIII amphibike
side view of MKIII amphibike
side view of MKIII amphibike

The historical freak show

During my later high school years, and the first year of college, I experimented around with a few other odd bike contraptions, thrown together from the huge heaps of scrap bikes dragged home nearly every weekend for a while there. I built a homemade long wheelbase recumbent, complete with under seat steering, 30 forward speeds, disc brakes and front suspension that used doubled-over bike inner tubes for springs. I also fiddled around with converting a rowing machine to a trike, but never got very far on that one. I built a hand-pedalled bike by replacing the handlebars on an old women's schwinn collegiate 3-speed with a crankset off of a kiddie bike, with a chain running down to a rear wheel mounted in the front forks. It actually worked, too. There was a succession of road bikes and other machines thrown together from all my parts, most only lasting a few weeks until I either traded them away or tore them apart to build something else. There was also a heavy but indestructable bike trailer made from old wheelbarrow parts and lawn mower wheels which I used for many years.

Current bicycle projects

OK, fast forward to the last few years. I've gotten older, and I have a bit more money to spend, so I don't (usually) get bike parts at the thrift store anymore. Today I buy maintenance related items from regular bike shops, and most of my major purchasing for a given year happens at the annual Seattle Bike Expo and Seattle Bike Swap. Both happen in the February/March timeframe. But I haven't stopped experimenting with interesting bike designs. Today my bike expirementation follows two distinct paths: one is the ongoing refinement of a sturdy, self-contained urban commuter bike that traces its heritage back to my first mountain bike; and the other a dubiously practical machine designed to be equally out of its element, both on land and water; born of a combination of too much sugar and free time, and a proximity to a large wetland area only accessible by small watercraft.


side view of MKIII amphibike
side view of MKIII amphibike

The Amphibike

I built my first Amphibike (Human Powered Amphibious Recumbent Tricycle) a decade ago. It is now on its third major design revision, with more upgrades planned. The original goal was to be able to ride right from my door to any boat ramp, ride down the ramp and into the water and keep going, then ride up the ramp and away without ever needing to get off of the bike. It was (and still is) successful, though as with any engineering endeavour there have been bumps in the road. I continue to improve upon the design to this day. Follow the above link for more details.


side view of MKIII amphibike
side view of MKIII amphibike

The Redline Monocog

My Redline Monocog (bought as a bare single-speed mountain bike frame) is my current urban/commuter bike setup. It is built with a Vintage Sturmey Archer drivetrain setup (1965 Dynohub up front, 1978 AW 3-speed in back). For the kind of riding I do (mostly in city, in all kinds of crappy weather), three speeds are fine (I only use 2nd and 3rd except on extended hill climbs) and the enclosed gearing (no derailleurs) makes for a much more reliable drivetrain without sacrificing all my ratios. The bike also has a custom cargo rack made from some old modems and aluminum tubing, which carries my bike bags and contains the batteries and a custom charging system powered by the dynohub. Up front are a high and low beam and the usual LED flashers (upgraded with the brightest LEDs I could find). I can control all the lighting from up front while riding. (No reaching behind myself to fumble around for the LED flasher switch). This bike is the 4th major revision of this setup, which I have been refining since high school.