Friday, November 9, 2012


When i moved to eugene i landed at an urban ecovillage called the East Blair Housing Co-op. Pretty awesome place- community decision making, lots of colorful houses, beautiful permaculture landscape, a sweet tree house and a lot of rad people.

 When i first moved in i stayed briefly with a woman named Tamara and her three hilarious children, Eric, Lola and Lincoln. Tamara had a book on her coffee table that inspired my first weird bike. The book is called Gringa.

I thought the bike was totally badass, brilliantly simple. Since i had moved into Eugene and was hanging out with Phranque pretty regularly, he agreed to let me come be part of the shop, keys and all. There were plenty of old bikes to choose from, but i asked Phranque if there were any that he recommended in particular. He pointed me towards a gray mountain bike for the frame, and a funky bmx for the fork and front wheel. 


I started by pulling everything apart, which is always the easy boring part. The fun challenging part was building the super long steerer tube. I don't remember how i determined the length, i think it was along the lines of "uh, yeah, that looks right." I went over to Coyote Steel, a metal supplier a couple blocks away, and bought a several foot long piece of 1" o.d. (outer diameter) mild steel tubing. 

To extend the the steerer tube of the fork i cut the tube in half. Phranque then showed me how to jig it up so that i could weld it and have it be as straight as possible. This involved using a long straight piece of angle iron and several clamps. The angle iron served as the rigid backing to maintain straightness, and the clamps to hold it in place while the welds cooled (one of the tricks with welding is that once you heat up metal it will shrink towards the place it was heated, so if you don't have it in a jig it will bend and warp in ways you don't want it to).

I also had to weld on a sleeve in order to provide a flat surface for the crown race to sit on top of. This is normally occurs where the steerer tube intersects with the fork legs, however, i wasn't going to cut that far down and try to weld the legs back on. Making a sleeve was a much easier solution.

Once everything was all welded together i reassembled the bike with its new, ridiculously long, fork. For an added bonus i put on some sweet ape hangers (a style of handle bars).

It came out great. I was so excited to ride it, i didn't even wait til it had brakes. Maybe not the greatest idea, but oh well.

Riding this thing around town was awesome, everyone loved it, especially dudes. People stopped me all the time to talk about it. And eventually i saw some other homemade choppers popping up in a similar style. I hope for them, though, that they figured out the structural engineering a little better than i did. I saw it coming, had plenty of warnings from friends- the design wasn't built to last. With all of that leverage on the headset it eventually buckled and broke. Popping wheelies didn't help.

It was so much fun to ride, i definitely want to build another one, designed better, of course.

Here's a video it ended up in:

Oh, and it turns out that my friend Tamara is actually friends with the author. She took a picture of the bicycle, which i named after her book, and sent it to the author. Apparently, she said it was as much of a compliment as a five star review.

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing compliment. Much better than a five-star review. I love seeing the Gringa bike around town--thank you for this post!

    --Melissa Hart