Tall bikin’ again

If the point of the Pleasant Revolution is to spread joy through music and bicycles, then surely no vehicle accomplishes the job quite like a tall bike with tunes on it. Tall bikes break down the cynical fences and defenses of dare I say 98.3% of passers by. They make people smile, not least of which the people operating them.

I have a tall long bike (or is it long tall?) at home, notable for its upstairs passenger-toting capacity. I’ve dreamed of taking her on the road, but it just doesn’t make sense. Too much wind resistance, too much getting up and down, not enough relaxation. Not that people don’t tour with tall bikes (Africa, Asia), but probably not with a 150 pound load, not me anyway.

Instead, I think, why not just build a take-a-part tall bike that I can re- and de-construct for every bicycle music festival along the way? I tried it in Mexico, stacking Eco’s touring Xtracycle on top of my Big Dummy with the help of a custom made axle that attached to her front dropouts and threaded through a precarious hole in my stem, a wheel tray bolted to my rear deck that her rear wheel was strapped into, and a seatpost coming out of my Surly that magically clamped to her chainstays. The goal was to make it so easy to put together that I’d do it in every big town. It was pretty easy, but it was so heavy and unwieldy that I only ever did it twice. I crashed nasty in La Paz, further injuring a rib that I cracked surfing in Todos Santos, and I got so skiddish around the bike that it wasn’t that fun to ride anymore.

But! A couple years of forgettery does wonders for courage. So I’ve been scheming this whole tour how to make another take-a-parter. I thought I’d do it with two Big Dummies this time, for more stability, but then I realized that all our Dummies are employed as generator bikes. That’d make for some inconvenient pedal powering. Mechanic Mike suggested using two Yubas. I was reluctant, since their solid rear frames make it harder to shave weight by removing components (like v-racks and freeloaders and snapdecks—apologies to the non-longbikers for the jargon; actually, I take that back—why not just join the club!) and I was really concerned about weight.

On the other hand, the solid frame of the Yuba presents nearly a zillion potential ways to attach top and bottom bike. When we arrived at the Vienna Bike Kitchen (probable my favorite single locale on the continent so far), it seemed to be run by tall bike hooligans (they’re the ones in the neon safety vests flying their colors), like go tall or go home. It was a long ride to get there and I wasn’t about to go home. Felt like the perfect opportunity to show the greasy gang that we have chain lube in our blood, too.

After hours of brainstorming the night before the BMF, talking with Thomas and Joachim and Joe (our guide from Linz, and the tall bike joust champion of Austria) about how to stack one Yuba on top of the other without welding and while maintaining good steering (the steer tubes—not the forks— of both bikes need to be pretty perfectly concentric for steering to work) and drinking a few several I’m not sure how many Club Matés and bottled beers (how the VBK seems to support itself, though they weren’t charging us, and instead handed their weekend profits to the tour), passing out on the workshop couch, waking up with new ideas, I gave up and went home for the night, pretty sure I was gonna throw in the towel. In the morning I woke up disheartened, told the crew I was abandoning the effort and got a ride on Jan’s (our Xtracycle-riding Czech musician brother) bike over to the Kitchen to put back together and pick up Louis’ and Joachim’s Yubas in time for the BMF.

I couldn’t handle the defeat. To not build a tall bike in the tall bike city when I was so close (Joe had welded the fork connector piece the night before) didn’t sit right, made me downright uncomfortable, seemed like a big defeat. By the time Jan dropped me off I had fire in the belly to finish the job. Next time I put it together I’ll try to document the process for a how-to.

All I can say is that the Yuba’s awesome rigidity makes for a damned good stack, even without welding, and I’m even tempted by a triple.

Joachim and Louis test ride their "bikes"

Joachim impressed me when he steered them through the Turkish walking market

Joachim’s so big that he makes the bike look small, but honest, I promise, it’s large!

Justin and Buck, aka Shine. Buck is plugged into Live! On Bike.

Justin riding on the back blowing trumpet in the critical mass that night.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention, the bike in question is held together with cam straps!!!

And it stands on it’s butt just as well as it “parts”.

In German, it's called a Lastenraddoppeldecker

bike kitchen crew, aka rad rowdy til you die

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