How can an example of the worlds most efficient form of human powered transport (the bicycle) be inspired by two cars, a classic motorcycle design, Easy Rider, The Black Keys, and an iconic bicycle sport category? Well, read on to find out……..
The man that made this Punk bike both thinks and ideates at the beach. He does his bike construction in a shed attached to an old windmill. It is shed engineering at its best, and lets face it, the best things are created in sheds. The maker is not a cyclist, but he loves the millions of possibilities of a human powered vehicle design which are achievable, whilst still maintaining the two wheels, and a frame of some sort which connects them both. He does not have any tattoos. He does not have a degree in engineering. He is a baker by trade, hence the windmill. He does mill his own flour, and in a windmill which is 200 years old, and which sits precariously on the edge of a cliff, looking out across the North see towards the Nordics. This is just his foundation for inspiration.
Inspiration for this bike started when he was cleaning out the shed, now his workshop, which is attached to the windmill. Entering and leaving the shed door can be dangerous if the windmill sails are turning, because they pass right in front of the door entrance. Walking into a moving windmill sail is a guaranteed 999 call. Fortunately, its never happened and hopefully, never will. Whilst cleaning out the shed, he came across a 1927 From Model Y car wheel. It had obviously been the spare wheel, as it was in great, original and unused condition. Incidentally, the Ford Model Y was the first car that was manufactured in the UK by the Ford Motor Company. The wheel was hung on a hook on the ceiling for 3 years. It wasn’t until he was in the workshop one day, and listening to The Black Keys, Gold on the Ceiling, that he suddenly thought about building a bike around the wheel. It would provide engineering challenges as a car wheel has an inside and an outside to it, unlike a bicycle, which usually is attached by a through axle, connecting to the frame and the forks. This wheel would require a single sided frame of some sort.
Whilst not much work was actually done on the bike for quite some time, much thinking was taking place. Firstly, the bike needed concept thinking, and the initial thought spark came from his wife’s 1971 VW Fastback car, and specifically, the vents on the rear engine lid. The vents look cool and indicate that something behind the vents needs to be kept cool. This meant that the frame of the bike would need to be enclosed, or faired in. An old ‘Easy Rider’ poster on the wall dictated that with a fat rear car wheel and tyre, this bike must be a chopper of some sort.
The front of the bike took some time to think through, and it came when he was looking for something in another shed, close by the windmill. In his youth, he spent many hours riding BMX. Unfortunately, his prize BMX bike had been reversed over by the postman in his van, and was bent badly in the middle of the frame, and therefore unusable. The front wheel, forks and headstock were all fine though. So now, he had two wheels and a chopper-style concept with a VW flavour.
A friend of our baker-bike-builder came round one day for a lesson in bread making, and he arrived on his classic motorcycle, a Ducati 916. Whilst looking over the amazing design of the Ducati with his friend, he had an idea to mount the Ford car wheel in the same way as the Ducati’s rear wheel, using a one sided triangle frame. The Ducati also had its disc brake fitted to the wheel assembly in a well thought through way as well, so that went on the ‘to-do’ list.
The windmill was well sound proofed, which was lucky, because music had to be turned up to number 11 on the volume control to hear it clearly above the noise of the flour mill stones, grinding away. It was a day when Chris Rea’s great song, Texas, came on the sound system, with the lyrics describing those long, straight Texas roads. This musical description of a landscape dictated that the bike should be a long cruiser. S’funny where inspiration comes from isn’t it.
Construction started after laying all of the parts on the floor. A stretched out chopper frame was made, and with the one sided rear wheel axle mount (very accurately) attached. The frame was faired in with thin gauge, steel sheet. The VW inspired vents were attached to the panels. But, the great engineering feat is ensuring complete alignment of the drive chain and steering, which he got right, first time.
Like all great creations, they are not completely thought through at concept stage. They evolve. This bike was no exception. The length of the chain required some kind of tensioner, which after a fruitless search of the shed, one was e-commed via the internet thing. The chainset, front wheel and pedals are all BMX, so the bike recognised a part of cycling which represented music, freestyle riding and urban concrete jungles, covered in Graffiti.
Two elements of the build required time, pain, thinking, discussion, trials and eventually, satisfaction. They were the handlebars and the colour. The first set of handlebars were BMX, in keeping with the front end theme, but it was too much of a stretch when riding the bike. Several types of bars were tried, and whilst some kept the fashion theme going, they made the bike unrideable. Eventually it got down to some wide cruiser bars or what actually ended up on the bike, some pull back chopper bars.
There is no story to the colour, apart from it was a mat, Farrow and Ball-type of green, which a sprayer friend had left over from painting some metal garden fencing. Boring but true.
Riding the bike is comfortable, mainly because of the British 1960s Terry saddle, which is just full of horizontal and vertical springs. There is only one gear on the bike, so flat riding is fine. Going up hills is not. The rear disc brake is very effective and is operated by a dagger-style lever, located on the body of the bike. This means removing your left hand from the bars to brake, so you need to keep the bike steady with your right hand at the same time.
The bike builder’s bread oven was always a bit hard to control its temperature, and one which was constant enough for good bread. It was a problem the bike-builder-baker had tried to resolve, unsuccessfully. However, one fine day (as all stories go), the bike had been parked in front of the bread oven and guess what? The answer to the problem was on the bike, and his wife’s car. It was the louvered cooling vents. It wasn’t long before the bread oven was sporting some cooling vents, which successfully transformed the oven. Two great jobs completed. Full stop.
All photos by the author