Urban Velo

The Piano Pedaler

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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.

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.

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?

Women’s Bike Mechanic Scholarship

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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.

PDX Trophy Cup Cyclocross Photo Gallery

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From the genius of Clint Culpepper and Will Laubernds comes the PDX Trophy Cup, a weekly cyclocross race series that takes place at the world famous Portland International Raceway (PIR). Situated just minutes north of downtown Portland OR, PIR is an ideal venue for an early week training race and hangout.

PIR has hosted many cross races before, what sets the PDX Trophy Cup apart is that it takes place during that sweet spot between summer and fall, when the weather is unpredictable and you could get a beautiful sunset as the backdrop to your race or a torrential down pour and muddy, sloppy conditions to add to the already challenging course. Either way you’re going to have fun. Adding to the uncertainty of the weather is that the races begin around dusk with racing continuing well after dark, testing not only your fitness but your sense of adventure. And the courses, these are masterfully crafted and thoughtfully put together by Clint, Will and a handful of dedicated volunteers who give up their Sunday afternoons so everything is ready for Tuesday night. Every week the courses are a little different, taking advantage of the physical features found at PIR. Off cambers are carved, tree lines are taped, barriers laid, sand hills shaped, and sometimes a bit of the adjacent motocross course is incorporated into the fun.

Besides the racing, one of the best things about this series is how people have embraced it. “It gives me something to look forward to on Tuesdays.” said one sweaty participant. The people coming out to race are some of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen and heard in a long time. Most everyone that comes out to race stays until the end of the night to watch, have a beer, and do a little heckling. Did I mention beer? Not a bad way to spend a Tuesday evening. Summer is completely gone and this six race series has come to an end for this season. But a lot of Portland is already thinking about that next Tuesday night race in late Summer 2015.

Words and images submitted by Jose Sandoval. Contact us at brad@urbanvelo.org to submit your image gallery or local news reports.

Latvian Cycle Protest

bike carFrom Design Boom: During this year’s european week of sustainable mobility, a branch of latvian cyclists part of the “let’s bike it” community staged a creative protest, which effectively — and cleverly — showed that cars with single occupants take up way too much space.

This is by no means a new tactic of transportation protest, but it’s nice to see the spirit carried on, and hey, the frames might act as something of a crash proof carriage in case of collision. European Mobility Week is over, but you can get a recap of the proceedings here.

The Comedown Human Powered Rollercoaster in Glasgow

Photo by Stephen Murray

Photo by Stephen Murray

“Scary the first time,” reports builder Stephen Murray. The artist, sculptor and cyclist behind The Comedown figure-eight track in Glasgow, Scotland just took the first ride on the track this morning after months of planning, design and fabrication work.

The Comedown is reminiscent of the late ’90s Human Powered Rollercoaster that made an appearance at the 1995 Toronto Cycle Messenger World Championships (edited, org text had wrong date), though at a smaller scale. Where the earlier HPR was large enough for two-up racing (video, images) The Comedown is single-file affair.

The idea for The Comedown came from the building of the Sir Chris Hoy velodrome for the recent Commonwealth Games. “We started riding on the velodrome once it was built and chatting about how it was made etc. Then the Red Bull Mini Velodrome, came to Glasgow and my mate John Silvera who is a joiner and cyclist and all round good man raced on it (and folded his wheel and went flying off the side).” Murray said. It wouldn’t be available to the public for the length of the games, and funding was announced from Creative Scotland to fund 20, £14,000 commissions for art projects related to the Games, leading to a quick proposal to make a minidrome for the public during the games. Murray continued, “A week later I was in the pub with John and Brian from Rig Bike Shop which is where all the couriers work from in Glasgow. Anyway Brian told me it was a shit idea to build a minidrome as the Red Bull one already exists etc. But he had ridden the Dunhill one in Canada back in the day and what I should do is make an eight. Which I had never heard of.”

“We were all pretty pissed but I totally latched on to it.”

The funding ended up being approved, and the project kept under the radar until a suitable venue was found. It was originally slated for a warehouse during the Games in June but it fell through last minute, and then the current The Briggait / Wasps location was secured for a narrow window in October. It was scaled to fit the space and budget, and production began. “In my workshop I manufactured all the structural elements as a giant kit, then me and four good mates, John, Rob, Jason and Dom moved it all onsite last Monday. Tuesday we got a 165 sheets of plywood delivered. Since then we’ve assembled the frames and been bespoke fitting every sheet and building laminations up to take the curves,” Murray continued.

STEVE MURRAY POSTER 10“Basically we’re at a point now if someone wanted to step in and back us financily we could go rework the design and build a demountable, raceble, transportable, figure-eight velodrome. We’ve got the whole thing down. We would adjust a lot of things as this has been a massive learning curve and the difference between working in CAD and physically having the opportunity make a 30 m x 12 m x 3.6 m sculptural velodrome is massive. But we’ve fucking done it.”

“Materials is coming in at about £6-7000, rest of budget has gone on paying the right people at the right time to design and to do skilled onsite assembly and bespoking.”

The pictures and Facebook video have left me stunned. It’s a dream I’ve heard many bring up over the years, of seeing the HPR in service again. For a short period in Glasgow at least, The Comedown exists. There is an opening party on October 18th, with the installation in place through November 1st.

Parkour Ride

Click photo for image gallery at www.theguardian.com

Click photo for image gallery at www.theguardian.com

Just about everyone has ripped down a parking garage at some point or another on their bike and thought, “This would be rad to race.” Parkour Ride takes parking garage alleycats and late night shred sessions to the next level, pitting road, track, BMX and mountain bikes against one another on a course going throughout a garage. The first event kicked off in London on October 4th, with The Guardian posting a gallery of images. Awesome looking event, wish I could have been there. Liam Phillips, World BMX Champion, took home the title at Venue 1 after a series of head to head races. Look out for more info on Venue 2 soon at www.parkourride.com

Green Guru The Hauler Convertible Saddle/Shoulder Bag

Large saddle bags are all the rage for bikepacking, and they almost make as much sense for in-town commuting, if only they could be easily carried off-bike. The Hauler from Green Guru is an interesting take on the saddle bag — unlike many bikepacking focused bags, the bag holds it’s shape off the bike, and has a pair of eyelets and a removable shoulder strap for portage. Easy on, easy off, pretty good looking design that should fit most bikes out there with enough seatpost showing. Like everything else Green Guru, the Hauler is made from recycled and repurposed fabric and tubes. Check out their Kickstarter for more info and to pre-order at $100.

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