Friday, March 11, 2011

From the JunkYard into the Record Books!

The SkyCycle was featured on page 134 of the 2005 Guinness Record Book
The SkyCycle was featured on page 134 of the 2005 Guinness Record Book

The "TallBike" has been around as long as the regular bicycle, and in the 1800s these sky scraping contraptions were referred to as "Lamp Lighters" because those who rode them had the job of igniting oil burning streetlights. These brave tallbike pilots would climb up their 6 foot tall ladder framed two wheelers and then ride from one streetlight pole to another, igniting the wick of the lamp fastened to the pole. Today, tallbikes are only ridden by the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies, but the process of hugging a pole to mount and dismount the bike is pretty much the same as it was in the 1800s.

There is no real definition of what defines a tallbike, but most would agree that it normally is any two wheeled bicycle that has its crankset raised over the height of the wheels. Some tallbikes can actually be mounted from the ground as the pedals are just over 2 feet from the ground, while others require the pilot to climb up the frame and launch from a standstill while clinging to a telephone pole. In the case of my over-engineered 12 foot tallbike "SkyWalker", the pilot can climb up the built in frame ladder while steering the bike using a built in steering rail that doubles as a handrail. SkyWalker is kind of hard to explain really, so check it out on our main page if you are curious. The tallbike presented here (The SkyCycle) is reminiscent of the classic LampLighter design, and requires the pilot to climb the frame and use a telephone pole to launch or come in for landing.

This is the story of how I took a pile of scrap tubing found at the dump and merged it with a few old bicycles in order to get my mug into the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records, along with about TV interviews, radio interviews, and several magazines and newspapers. Normally, I am not much into seeking the spotlight, and I had no idea how massive the media storm would be when I broke the world record in 2003. The journey to stardom begins at the city dump.

The scrap metal heap at the dump is a bike builder
Figure 1 - The scrap metal heap at the dump is a bike builder's wonderland!

So, I rolled into the dump one lazy afternoon with a pile of junk from the yearly spring garage cleaning. The smell of burning tires, seagull crap and diesel fuel filled the air as I begin to launch my scrap into the ever growing piles that are forming huge islands in the muck. As I finished emptying the back of the truck, I noticed a lot of bicycles lying around along with various metal tubing from bed frames, exercise machines, and fence posts. The year was 2002, and I was not really much into bike building or welding as I had a full time gig programming and fixing computers. As I looked at the endless supply of bike parts and scrap tubing, I remembered back to my youth when I used to hunt for old bikes and metal to concoct all sorts of scary yet fun human powered contraptions, including some 6 foot tall bikes. At that instant I decided "What the hell" and ventured up to my knees in the muck to reach the twisted heap of metal and bike parts.

I filled the back of the truck with more than I came with, adding a mountain of twisted mountain bikes and old fence tubing to my collection. Each time the "dump police" would drive past, I would pretend to be unloading, but then put the junk back when they were not looking. The "no scavenging" rule was violated as much as possible that day! On my way out, they thought something was wrong at the scale because I actually weighed more than when I came in with the loads of scrap 486 computers and monitors! Oh well, I was now on my way home to begin a journey that eventually became this website.

Read more here.