Urban Velo

The Piano Pedaler

eric_rich_2014_hindsley-18
By Rachel Krause, photos by Grant Hindsley.

A Salt Lake City man’s piano bike blurs the line between bikes and music.

“You don’t see that everyday.”

“That’s one way to do it.”

“Is that a… piano? On a bike?”

Eric Rich is used to hearing these responses when he plays his piano at the Downtown Salt Lake City Farmers’ Market. Each week he transports his piano back home with him. On his bike.

In 2010, Eric Rich saw a friend’s band perform at the farmers’ market, and learned they racked in $800 in one day. “Maybe I can go and make money doing what I really love.” He talked to his brother who was a welder, and in three days they built a bike with a piano trailer.

The first piano bike was built out of an old Weser Brothers piano he found through the classifieds, some wheelbarrow wheels, a fork, and a headset. Rich, who picked up the keyboard and piano about eight years ago to fill in for some recordings for some hardcore punk bands, loves that he is able to transport the piano through his own power, without a middleman or boss. He doesn’t describe himself as an hardcore cyclist, but is a car-free bike commuter. “My favorite part about bikes is the idea of it—that you’re the fuel to it,” Rich says. “I also love the design aspect of it.”

The bike he currently rides is not the original piano bike. After a rough winter when the bike fell into disrepair, Rich decided it was time to make a new piano bike. “Design-wise, it was important for me to make it integrated. The old one had too many pieces, this one would be one connected piece. That was my number one goal. I lost so much power with just rolling resistance. Building this new bike was about making it more efficient and making the gear ratio lower so I can take it more places.”

Rich started a Kickstarter fund in 2013 to purchase a better quality Yamaha piano and raised more than $6000. After raising the money, he spent months scouring the internet for special parts. Much of it came from Amazon and Saturday Cycles in Salt Lake City, which specializes in randounneur and touring bikes. In the end he spent about $5000. And it was worth every penny. The original bike only had one back wheel, which made it fairly unstable. The new bike has two back wheels. The original bike had cantilever brakes in the front only. The new bike has a disc brake in the front and two disc brakes in the back.

The current piano weighs in at about 380 pounds and the entire bike is about 420 pounds. Rich plays all of his own compositions (although he added a Yann Tiersen song to his repertoire recently.) For the most part, he says people are widely positive about the bike, although he will encounter the aggravated motorist who thinks Rich is taking up too much room on the street.

He recently rode the piano bike up and down a canyon road, a feat he doesn’t consider easy by any imagination. “I took it up a little canyon for a wedding, and when I rode down it was very very difficult. With the center of gravity so high and the road tilted, it could easily lose traction.”

Rich plays weekly at the Downtown Farmers Market, as well as other festivals and conventions, including the Sundance Film Festival in Park City. The farthest he has taken it was to Columbia, Missouri, for the True/False Film Festival in the spring of 2013. He transported it in an enclosed trailer that was donated to him by his family’s neighbor. One day he hopes to be able to make trips like that by the power of his own bike.

Rich has been designing a Piano Bike 3.0 that would be capable of cross country travel.

“I love designing things,” he says. “For the bike, the biggest challenge is making it narrow enough but also wide enough so it doesn’t tip over. The design challenge is very interesting. The physical challenge is also very interesting to me. I just want to see if it’s possible.”

Rich has been researching options and designing a new model. Piano Bike 3.0 would use a carbon fiber piano, which albeit very expensive, would weigh less than half what a traditional piano weighs.

For now, Rich will keep playing at the farmers’ market until later this fall, and then has plans to start an ensemble and has purchased some new percussion equipment in hopes of playing with others soon. “The piano bike is really hard on my body, my back and wrists start to get very sore. I like to be able to switch it up.”

In the long term, Rich hopes to get a sponsorship (carbon fiber pianos cost about $100,000) in order to make his dream become reality. “I want to address all the physical and design challenges of riding a piano bike across the country, but in the end, I want to share design and music with people that will hopefully inspire others to be creative.”

Originally published in Urban Velo #44, October 2014. Written by Rachel Krause, photos by Grant Hindsley. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org with your feature story pitch.

Seattle Aftermass Discussion

It’s quite long at nearly an hour of panel discussion, but if this is your sort of thing, Joe Biel from Microcosm Publishing and the creator of the documentary, Aftermass, discusses the video and the changing dynamics related to cycling in a post-critical mass society.

Surly Wants Women Product Testers

Deadline Surly wants female product testers, and boatloads of email to sort through from people wanting to hop on the free product gravy train.

So here’s the deal, Surly is in need of female bodies to wear and tear the new goods. There is a criteria for this. If you meet this criteria then please reach out. If you do not meet this criteria please do not.

Check the qualifications and if you think you fit apply within at the Surly Blog.

Kickstarter – Orfos Lights


Orfos is running a Kickstarter to fund the production of their bike lights with 360 degree visibility, a unique feature for current lighting systems. They attach by, what look to be, incredibly strong magnets and rival car lights in brightness. The current funding tiers are essentially pre-orders for either a front or rear light with the option to buy both, however, at $119 each (rising to $140 after Kickstarter) I wonder what demographic will pay at this price point. Still, the 360 degree feature is an innovation most light manufacturers should consider.

Upright Cyclist New 12.5 oz Riding Denim

Photo by Jeremy J MatthewsThe Upright Cyclist 12.5 oz Riding Denim pants are sewn in Los Angeles from American-made Cone denim. The cuffs have an internal reflective panel for visibility when rolled.

Available in 32, 33, 34 and 36 waist sizes, all come pre-hemmed in a standard 34” inseam length. Retail is $119. Check out www.uprightcyclist.com

Photo by Jeremy J Matthews, jeremyjmatthews.virb.com

The Holy Week of Cyclocross

holy_week_cx_2014_rothmeyer31Cyclocross for many of us is a religion, a devotion to mud, dust, rain and rutted corners is the reason we get out of a bed in the morning. We travel far and wide to practice our faith with growing numbers of others that have fully converted to the ‘cross. Our church is anywhere that open space and plastic course tape meet to create a gauntlet of turf, stairs and wooden planks testing both skill and endurance to find the proper balance between suffering and speed. Our Mecca in North America is New England, and for a 10 day period known as Holy Week thousands travel from all around to participate in what has easily become the biggest series of races in the country.

The Holy Week of Cyclocross consists of seven races over the course of a week and a half. Beginning in Lancaster, MA with the Midnight Ride of Cyclocross and ending some 10 days later in Providence, RI. To fill the space in between the kickoff and finale is arguably the biggest race of the year in Gloucester, MA and possibly the most fun you can have at race while getting lapped by Barry Wicks in Shrewsbury, MA at the Night Weasel Cometh. Holy Week attracts the faithful from all over the globe to compete and congregate in what is a grand celebration of all things cyclocross. It’s easy to be overwhelmed on your first visit to the Motherland by the shear number of competitors, by the size of the beer garden and what the perfect ale is to compliment your sweet potato taco, by the guy with “Good Will Hunting” accent trying to smash you through the tape on lap one and by the fact that you are taking a warm up lap behind Katie Freakhin Compton! But it is also all of those things that draws us to these events, the sights and sounds of 150 people on course at once is something you can only experience at the biggest of races, and at races like Gloucester and Providence you get to experience it over and over throughout the day. Holy Week is kind of like a cyclocross stage race, with so many racing days in close proximity to one another your body starts crave more food and more rest but when the whistle blows to start the next race it easily accepts the punishment it’s about to endure.

Under the lights on muddy ski slopes or on the cool rocky shores of the Atlantic it’s easy to lose yourself in the moment of the race, the pain that your legs and lungs are experiencing lessens as you enter tunnels of sound encouraging you to go “haahda dyude!” It’s through these experiences that makes it easy for one to fully believe in cyclocross. So if you are one of the believers and you spend your summers smelling mastik one and praying to a shrine of Erik De Vlaemink you owe it to yourself and to the gods of cyclocross to make the pilgrimage to New England for Holy Week.

Words and images submitted by Brett Rothmeyer. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org to submit your image galleries, videos or local news reports.

Driver Hits Cyclist, Sues for Damages

modelAnd in the news of the extremely arrogant and entitled, Gothamist reports a driver hit cyclist, John Roemer, this past May and is now taking him to small claims court for damages to her car. As you can see in the photo, apparently her car was completely destroyed and it only makes sense to sue, no? Mind you, this is after Roemer ended up in the ICU for days, and even though the driver’s insurance admitted fault. But you know, SOMEONE has to pay for damages to her car and why would it ever be the negligent driver?

I Love Riding in the City – Marni Duffy and Dena Driscoll

momsNAME: Marni Duffy and Dena Driscoll
LOCATION: Philly
OCCUPATION: moms + Kidical Mass Organizers, Dena: non-profit, Marni: small business owner

Where do you live and what’s it like riding in your city?
We live in Philadelphia. We bike daily with (and without) our kids for transportation. We find many things about Philadelphia’s infrastructure very frustrating. There is one protected bike lane (or cycle track). It is 1/4 mile long and connects a casino to a busy intersection, with numerous driveways interrupting it where cars have the right-of-way. Our bike lanes are just dooring lanes, perfectly placed between parked cars and whizzing traffic. Our two main buffered bike lanes are just free parking spots for construction workers, property owners, church goers, and the Philadelphia Parking Authority (sometimes even the Philadelphia Police, though they prefer regular bike lanes).
Dena started ‘Give Mom a Bike Lane’ (@bikelaneMOM) so that we can let our snarkiness fly on why protected bike lanes are important if we want people ages 8-80 to ride their bikes for transportation and pleasure. Philadelphia is not prioritizing safe streets for pedestrians and cyclists and is continuing to prioritize parking and driving lanes.
We also organize monthly family bike rides, called Kidical Mass Philadelphia (kidicalmassphl.org). We want to help as many families get out on bikes as possible.

What was your favorite city to ride in, and why?
Dena: Philadelphia because I know it so well.

Marni: Midland, Michigan, where I lived from ages 1-6. My mom pulled my younger brother and I in a trailer all through town. It is how I got to school, the grocery store, the playground, and friends’ houses. I loved the fresh air. My brother would nap and my mom would be so happy to be outdoors getting some exercise.

Why do you love riding in the city?
We love riding in the city because we think it’s a great way to get around town. It’s just fun! To breath the air, interact with people, talk to our children about what they see, hear, smell, and feel, and to push ourselves past what we thought we could handle. Getting our blood pumping is a great way to stay happy and healthy. We love being able to bike to the grocery store, the post office, preschool, work, the laundromat, the bike shop, museums and parks, meetings, the waterfront, and the library.

Check out http://givemomabikelane.com

Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship

9899_Wmn-Scholarship-website-head_vF

Bike shops need more female mechanics and employees, and more women than ever are looking to make a career out of bikes. SRAM, Liv, QBP, United Bicycle Institute, Pedro’s and Park Tool have joined together to offer ten scholarships for women bike mechanics to attend UBI in an effort to grow the number of women in the bike industry, and the number of women riders in general.

The scholarship covers the 2-week Professional Shop Repair and Operations class and lodging (but not transportation to Ashland OR), with applications accepted through November 15th at qbp.com/womensscholarship. Recipients notified by December 19th, with classes in February, March or April.

Curves ‘N’ Turns

CURVES ‘N’ TURNS – Trailer from CURVES 'N' TURNS on Vimeo.

Everything´s getting faster and faster nowadays. This project was an experiment to slow down living, or rather try to find a way of going slowly and to experience travelling to the fullest. By bike from the southern part of Austria to the mediterranean sea like Liguria and Sardegna was the first part of this adventure. Another very important goal was to catch up with local people, to immerse deeper into the local culture and to find waves in a country which isn´t that famous for surfing.

I’m a sucker for bike touring and surfing (though I don’t even surf), so this movie looks rad. Coming Spring of 2015.

City Reports