Guinness Record SkyCycle TallBike
The “TallBike” has been around as long as the regular bicycle, and in the 1800s these sky scraping contraptions were referred to as “Lamp Lighters” because those who rode them had the job of igniting oil burning streetlights. These brave tallbike pilots would climb up their 6 foot tall ladder framed two wheelers and then ride from one streetlight pole to another, igniting the wick of the lamp fastened to the pole. Today, tallbikes are only ridden by the thrill seeking adrenaline junkies, but the process of hugging a pole to mount and dismount the bike is pretty much the same as it was in the 1800s.
There is no real definition of what defines a tallbike, but most would agree that it normally is any two wheeled bicycle that has its crankset raised over the height of the wheels. Some tallbikes can actually be mounted from the ground as the pedals are just over 2 feet from the ground, while others require the pilot to climb up the frame and launch from a standstill while clinging to a telephone pole. In the case of my over-engineered 12 foot tallbike “SkyWalker”, the pilot can climb up the built in frame ladder while steering the bike using a built in steering rail that doubles as a handrail. SkyWalker is kind of hard to explain really, so check it out on our main page if you are curious. The tallbike presented here (SkyCycle) is reminiscent of the classic Lamplighter design, and requires the pilot to climb the frame and use a telephone pole to launch or come in for landing.
This is the story of how I took a pile of scrap tubing found at the dump and merged it with a few old bicycles in order to get my mug into the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records, along with about TV interviews, radio interviews, and several magazines and newspapers. Normally, I am not much into seeking the spotlight, and I had no idea how massive the media storm would be when I broke the world record in 2003. The journey to stardom begins at the city dump.
So, I rolled into the dump one lazy afternoon with a pile of junk from the yearly spring garage cleaning. The smell of burning tires, seagull waste and diesel fuel filled the air as I begin to launch my scrap into the ever growing piles that are forming huge islands in the muck. As I finished emptying the back of the truck, I noticed a lot of bicycles lying around along with various metal tubing from bed frames, exercise machines, and fence posts. The year was 2002, and I was not really much into bike building or welding as I had a full time gig programming and fixing computers. As I looked at the endless supply of bike parts and scrap tubing, I remembered back to my youth when I used to hunt for old bikes and metal to concoct all sorts of scary yet fun human powered contraptions, including some 6 foot tall bikes. At that instant I decided, “Why not!” and ventured up to my knees in the muck to reach the twisted heap of metal and bike parts.
I filled the back of the truck with more than I came with, adding a mountain of twisted mountain bikes and old fence tubing to my collection. Each time the “dump police” would drive past, I would pretend to be unloading, but then put the junk back when they were not looking. The “no scavenging” rule was violated as much as possible that day! On my way out, they thought something was wrong at the scale because I actually weighed more than when I came in with the loads of scrap 486 computers and monitors! Oh well, I was now on my way home to begin a journey that eventually became this website.
Now I had a massive pile of scrap bikes and metal tubing sitting on the floor of my 1940s rotting wood garage and a cheap AC welder to zap things together with - the fun begins! Actually, I had no way to use my welder since the garage had no power so I hacked together a long extension cord and then retro fitted my welder plug to fit into the stove outlet. To use the welder, I dragged it over to the back door of the house and did all of my work kneeling in the wet grass at the base of the back stairs. This system actually worked for over four years. Bikes like the Marauder and DeltaWolf were all built this way!
Winter was setting in fast so the building season ended before I really got to make anything useful that year. I did manage to sketch out the design for my tallbike, and several bizarre recumbent contraptions that never really worked that well. It wasn’t until December of 2002 that I decided to start building the tallbike, but knew I would only be able to cut the tubing as my welder was now frozen under a 4 foot pile of snow in the back yard. I actually began building the SkyCycle right on the floor of my computer room, so you will have to excuse the shag rug backgrounds on some of the photos presented here. Hey - it was cool to have shag carpet back in those days! So, here I was with a pile of old fence tubing and electrical conduit on the floor next to my computer table. Now, I had something to do while the Windows 95 setup screen counted from zero to 100 percent…yah, I had LOTS of free time!
Since the bulk of the work involved cutting and forming the tubing joints, it was actually a good way to pass the winter boredom of working in a home based computer lab. While hard drives were formatting, I would lay down a drop sheet and start hacking up tubes with a hacksaw. I used only hand tools to cut and form all of the joints for the SkyCycle. The process was very relaxing. The basic frame shown makes up the "backbone" of the SkyCycle, and is made from some 1.5 inch diameter electrical conduit, muffler tubing, and some old fence tubing. The bottom bracket was cut from an old BMX bike that I pulled out of the mud pit at the dump. It's far from being a tallbike at this point, but not a bad start considering it was built indoors using only a hacksaw and round file.
Once the main tubing was cut and laid on the floor for visual inspection, the next step (and most tedious) was to hand file all of the joints so they could be put together with no gap. I would have used square tubing on this frame, but I was stuck with what I could scavenge form the local dump, and round 1.5 inch tubing was what I had to work with. This required some complicated fish-mouthing to be done at the ends of each tube in order to create a joint worthy of welding. Oh well, it was still the dead of winter and I had plenty of time to kill as I watched progress bars crawl by on barely working home computers.
The results of several attempts at creating a snug joint. I cut all of the tubing slightly longer than I really needed so that I could file out the joints a little bit at a time until they all fit together nicely. Today, I would get this job done in under 30 seconds on the first attempt with my hand held angle grinder, but since this frame was built indoors using hand tools, it took substantially longer to get things right. It would be three months before the ice would be melted away from my welder, so there was no rush.
It took a few weeks of hack sawing and hand filing in between computer repairs to get the main part of the frame ready for welding. In this time, I made the extended head tube, down tube and top tube - all of the basic frame members that make up a diamond frame bicycle. Of course, on my frame the tubes were all stretched out vertically to a massive extent. I think the head tube was around 12 feet long, which makes the standard 6 inch long head tube seem like nothing in comparison.
The most common way to create a tallbike is to stack two or more frames on top of each other and then join the top fork crown to the lower gooseneck using a tube of some kind. I have never really been a fan of this design as it does not look "finished" somehow, so on my tallbike, I planned to extend both the head tube and the fork stem so that they would be the same as before but much taller. This design would also be much stronger and safer do to being one single long tube, and at the height I planned to be sitting, I did not want to have a flexible or possibly weak frame design. To extend the fork stem to the require 12 foot length, I cut the stem in the center using the pipe cutter. Once cut, it would just be a matter of adding the appropriate length tube between the two parts.
To extend the fork stem up to the required 12 foot length, I needed a tube that would fit snugly over the original fork stem tubing and into the new extended head tube. As it turned out, the perfect diameter of tubing was this piece of 1 inch thin walled electrical conduit I found at the hardware store. I had now invested $12 into building this tallbike, as I did not have a long enough piece of tubing to make this part. My use of electrical conduit would continue for some time until I realized it was much less expensive to order 24 foot lengths of brand new 16 gage tubing form a steel supplier. Electrical conduit was essentially the same as bicycle tubing, but you had to be careful with the welding fumes as there was a slight galvanization on the surface. Since I welded in the back yard, this was no problem!
Since the fork stem had to carry the bearing races and top fork hardware, it needed to be about 2 inches longer than the head tube. I cut the new extension tube longer than necessary and would later trim it to fit once I could set up the completed frame and test the pieces together with the bearings and fork hardware. The two pieces of tubing fit very well together, so alignment was certainly easy. Having the fork stem aligned with the extension tube would ensure that the steering was smooth and did not have any sticking points or friction. At this height, you don't want to be fighting a badly designed steering system.
The rear chain stays are the two small tubes that make up the lower half of the rear triangle, holding the real wheel in place. On a normal bicycle frame, these tubes are only half an inch in diameter and only as long as necessary in order to clear the radius of the rear wheel. On this monster frame, I intended to have a wheelbase of at least half the total height, so the original rear triangle would no longer be usable.
Wheelbase is the distance between the axles on the front and rear wheels, and on this bike, that distance was about 4 feet. I decided to use the beefy pair of mountain bike front forks to create the lower half of the rear triangle. To make this work, I had to stand on one of the fork legs and pull up in the other to spread it apart enough to take the rear axle. On a bicycle, the front axle is of a smaller length than the rear, so the forks had to be bent outwards to match. This process worked out well, although I almost put out my back doing it!
Since the forks being used to make up the new chain stays are no longer than the original frame stays, they will also need to be extended in order to make the 4 foot wheelbase. A length of 1.5 inch electrical conduit will be welded to the fork crown as shown in Figure 11 in order to make up the missing distance. This was another one of those carefully hand filed fish-mouth joints that kept me busy during the winter days of fixing computer systems.
To complete the rear triangle, a set of seat stays need to be made. Once again, a regular bicycle frame has very short and thin tubing, so I used what was left of the 1 inch electrical conduit to make the two stays. These tubes form a triangle between the main frame tubing and the chain stays in order to make an extremely strong rear frame. Since I did not know the exact angles of the rear frame components at this time, the seat stays were made longer than necessary so they could be trimmed later when I was able to work outdoors and stand up the bike.
I think it was during this build that I realized how much nicer square tubing was to work with. With a square tube joint, it is only a matter of making straight cuts, but the round tubing required careful hand filing to create the bizarre looking fish-mouth shapes. I will admit that round tubing on a bicycle frame usually looks nicer, but the level of work to make the joints fit properly is so much more. Also, square tubing is more rigid that round tubing of the same diameter. But again, I used the materials that were available to me from the scrap pile at the dump, so round was the only option.
Although this step was not done until most of the frame was welded, I will show it here as I also hand filed the joint indoors when it was too cold to hang out in the garage. The bottom bracket will carry the cranks, so it needed to be placed at a distance below the seat so that I could comfortably reach the pedals. I found this distance by measuring my functional upright bicycle at the time. Yes indeed, there was once a time when I owned a functioning upright bicycle! Of course, today, I am strictly into recumbent bicycles as I have learned the joys of riding a comfortable cycle!
It would be important to reach the cranks in a way that was both comfortable and effective for maximum power transfer, so I decided to create an adjustable seat post just like a regular bicycle had. To make the seat post adjustable, I cut the seat post clamp from a scrap frame and would weld it to the washer so that the assembly could then be welded to the top of the long seat tube on the main frame. Later on, this feature was found to be extremely useful as I tried various seats.
One thing I learned in my early days of crash testing various crudely built tallbikes is that the chain is particularly fussy when it is long. The problem is that a bicycle chain will flex a bit under stress, and since a tallbike chain is so long, this effect is greatly amplified, especially when you are first starting off or pedaling against the wind. This chain stretching effect is so bad that even on a six foot tall bike a normally tight chain will end up sagging like a wet noodle when you first start to pedal. I decided that the chain would have several metal rings to help keep it from derailing as it sagged. This system did work quite well. Later on, I realized that a spring loaded idler was much better as it picked up the slack rather than trying to guide the slack, but not once did the SkyCycle ever suffer a chain derailment.
Another thing I did not like much about stacked tallbike designs is the fact that the chain runs at an angle from the top crankset to the rear wheel, crossing the open space behind the bike. To me, this just looks "wrong" somehow. I wanted my chain to run along with the frame tubing. To achieve this harmonious flowing of the chain, it would have to head form the top crankset down to the base of the frame at a vertical angle and then make a sharp 90 degree bend back to the rear wheel. There were two ways to achieve this feat: using a set of guide sprockets or by having a center jackshaft with two chains. I decided on the first method as it would make the bike look more interesting.
The two idler sprockets at the base of the bike were made by cutting the arms off of a pair of kid's bike cranksets so that they would function as chain idlers. The crankset is one of the lower idlers made by cutting off the crank arms and then grinding the stubs smooth. This idler system worked extremely well and had no friction at all. I liked this design so much that I used a similar system in my SkyWalker tallbike to guide the chain at the top of the frame.
The SkyCycle frame sat on the floor of my office during the winter, and with all of the joints hand filed to perfection, it was only a matter of welding them all together to create the final product. I started welding as soon as the snow melted from around the welder, and began on the main frame tubing. The "kingpin" of the entire frame would be the 90 degree joint between the top tube and seat tube as shown in Figure 18, as this tube would be standing 90 degrees to the ground. Having the seat tube as the reference point made it easy to install the other tubes and set the seat so that the weight of the pilot (me) would end up centered between the front and rear wheels.
Since it was still -10C on a good day outside and I had no electricity in my garage, I would do a few welds and then work on the joints using a flap disc to make them perfectly smooth. This process took a long time, and was really not necessary, but did produce a show quality final product. A flap disc (sanding disc) really does wonders on a rough welded joint, but you must be careful not to eat away too much of the weld metal as this weakens the joint.
In the spirit of the 1800s Lamplighter tallbikes, I decided to create a frame that would also double as the ladder to allow the brave pilot to climb up into the saddle. Since I had a lot of the same 1.5 inch electrical conduit tubing left over, I cut the frame rungs and installed them at a distance of 2 feet apart, which made the frame extremely strong and created a ladder at the same time. This completed the main part of the frame. Soon the tallbike would be rolling down the street.
The frame was based on a simple concept - keep the rider centered between the wheels and have the seat tube at 90 degrees to the ground. This would allow the front fork angle to be almost the same as a regular bicycle and make it easy to install the rear triangle. To make this happen, I propped up the front of the frame with the front forks and wheel installed so that the seat tube would be at the required 90 degrees from the ground. Now, I could simply tack weld the rear triangle in place and then do all of the welding with the bike standing up straight. This worked well because the bike was too large to fit in the small garage anyhow!
With the bike propped up on a block, I could now measure the wheelbase distance, which needed to be the same on each side of the main seat tube. By placing the wheels at an equal distance on each side of the seat tube, the rider's weight ends up centered, which become important on such a tall bike. Once these distances were known, the rear triangle welds could also be completed. The rear forks were welded to the extender tube, ready for installation onto the back of the frame.
The rear triangle will be installed onto the frame while the bike is standing up at the correct angle. For this to happen, both the front and rear wheels are installed with fully inflated tires. Figure 23 shows the lower half of the rear triangle installed so that the wheelbase is split in half between the seat tube in order to center the rider's weight between the wheels. The slope of the down tube was so close to the slope of the chain stay extender tube that I could have made them one piece of I knew ahead of time that it would work out this way. Oh well, it was too late to hack up the frame for that at this point.
The length of the two seat stays was not known until the chain stays were installed. Once the welds were secured around the chain stay extender tube, I was able to cut the seat stays to fill the gap and create the strong rear triangle. The snow was still on the ground, and I rushed to get as much done as I could before my hands froze each day! I had to weld outdoors as my welder was plugged into the stove outlet inside the house, and my garage had no heat or power at the time. I am not complaining, but it does show that a motivated garage hacker does not need a luxury mechanic's shop to get stuff done!
The SkyCycle frame was now coming along nicely, and I worked on it one piece at a time, fighting for every second of daylight in the -10C weather. The next thing added was the adjustable seat post assembly, as this would allow me to then figure out the optimal position for the main bottom bracket in order to place the pedals in a good position for my inseam (leg length).
When I finally had the rear triangle and seat installed, it was almost midnight, and I remember that cold March night when I first climbed up to the seat to see how tall the bike really was. Damn, it seemed so high up! The seat was just over 10 feet high, but it seemed like three stories when sitting up there! I originally decided on a 10 foot seat height as I remember jumping off a 6 foot ladder several times in the summer while doing house renovations. It seemed like nothing to jump of the 6 foot rung, and with a seat height of 10 feet, this would be no different...or so I thought. For some reason, it just felt a lot more dangerous when being up that high on only two wheels! Oh well, fear is all in the mind, so I forged ahead on the build.
I wasn't going to let my fear of heights (or gravity) stop this bike from becoming a reality, so I went ahead that night and marked out the optimal position to install the bottom bracket. I knew my inseam length based on my upright bike, and having an adjustable seat post would make it easy to find the optimal crank to seat distance. The bottom bracket will sit in the fishmouth cut made on the top ladder rung.
The SkyCycle was part bicycle, part art, and part insanity, and the two guide sprockets have no other purpose besides keeping the chain running along the frame tubing. Without the guide sprockets, the chain would cross the open air behind the frame and I just thought that would look ugly, taking away from the fact that besides being stupidly tall, the SkyCycle had the same basic shape as a regular bicycle. Later, I found out that the guide sprockets did wonders to help keep the chain from derailing as it flexed and rattled during long rides. Yah - I toured around town on this thing!
The six small rings I cut earlier were welded to the frame once the chain was installed and tight. Even though the chain was as tight as a guitar string when idle, pedaling with any real effort made it sag a great deal due to frame flexing and chain stretch. This sag was so bad that without the six guide rings, the chain would have just fallen right off every time there was any real intense pedaling effort. When I was starting off, the chain became slack enough that I could hear the rattling as the guides routed the chain back towards the idler sprockets. These chain guides worked perfectly, but in later designs I started using a spring loaded idler sprocket, which eliminated the slack completely.
The entire tallbike came together in a hurry once the snow melted, and before long the time came to face up to my fears and actually try to ride the beast! I installed the pedals, seat, and a pair of cruiser handlebars and then oiled all the moving parts. There was a fairly large parking lot next door, so I decided it was a good day to defy gravity and see if my tallbike would actually be ridable. Before this, the tallest bike I made was only about 6 feet, and this one was almost twice as tall. I kept telling myself - "Dude, you have jumped from higher places, so just go for it!"
I wheeled my monstrous tallbike out to the sidewalk and propped it up against a steel light post. Already, onlookers were starting to gather and cars were slowing down for a look. Yep, it did look like a bike that only a madman would attempt to ride, and I was about to make my journey up the ladder frame and into the pilot's seat. It sure seemed like a long way from the ground, and I kept imagining worse case scenarios like a front wheel taco or total chain lockup. Of course, this has never happened on a normal bike, so why would it happen now? Hmmm...
I was sitting atop the bike, looking at the amazing view in all directions, clinging to the pole like it was my best friend. Oddly, from the pilot's seat, you cannot see the wheels underneath you, just the wide open space ahead, and it really feels like sitting in some kind of aircraft cockpit. Since I wasn't sure that the bike would steer properly or if the chain management system would work, it was a scary few minutes of nerve gathering indeed! Since I now had a crowd watching, it was too late to climb down without looking like a coward. I launched...
I pushed away from the pole and began to pedal. At first the bike felt really heavy and sluggish, but that was to be expected from a 100 pound, 10 foot tall monstrosity on wheels! I heard the chain rattle through the guide rings as I picked up speed, but once moving, the tallbike felt completely smooth and steered as well as any standard bicycle. Actually, I think the tallbike was easier to balance than a regular bike because you have so much longer to begin to fall over.
I zipped around the parking lot, turning in circles of about 20 feet, which was not bad for such a large bike. The entire test ride was very smooth, and the rear coaster brake worked perfectly. I could lock up the rear wheel into a skid because there was no risk of falling forward with the brakes at the rear. The other interesting thing was that I could almost stop moving without falling over. On a regular bike, one can ride about as slow as a walk, but on this thing, you can ride so much slower, almost to the point of not moving at all. It was sure fun to ride and all fear disappeared in a hurry. I soon ventured out onto the road...
Yes, indeed. What was supposed to be a few laps around the empty parking lot became a three hour tour around the city streets! It was so much fun to right the SkyCycle, and it handled so well that I rode a few miles on it that day. Because I could see in all directions for miles at a time, it was easy to gauge red lights and time the ride so that I did not have to stop. Other traffic certainly could not miss me, and I got the right away wherever I rode. I don't know what was more fun, feeling the sensation of flying around or watching the strange looks on the faces of bystanders as I floated past them. Cars parked for a look, kids ran out of their front doors, and people jogged behind me to ask all kinds of questions. What a blast!
Once my legs began to tire, I rolled back to the nearest telephone pole and grabbed a hold as I slowly coasted in. It was a smooth and easy landing every time. I decided to take the bike completely apart that same day so I could paint it as it really was fun to ride and would look a lot better having a new coat of paint. I had some orange paint lying around and did the main frame with the small details in blue for some interesting contrast.
To plan a typical tallbike ride, I would find a pole to launch from and then make a loop, returning to the same pole. If I felt like a break or needed to stop to answer questions, then I would glide up to a nearby pole or fence and then use the rear coaster brake to gently come to a stop with my hand out to grab the pole. I would sometimes glide up to a roof top and grab the rain gutter, but only if it was a paved route up to the building.
I enjoyed taking the SkyCycle out to parks and small tours down the city streets. I put many miles on the tallbike in the city and never once felt unsafe or had any mishaps. There was always a pole around to make a landing of necessary, and unlike a regular bicycle, nobody in a vehicle could claim they did not see me! Do I dare say that riding a tall bike on the city streets may actually be safer than riding an upright bicycle? Sure, falling from an 8 foot tall seat would not be the best deal, but if a car slammed right into the bike, the bumper would only hit tubing, not flesh and bone! Ok, I will stop trying to justify my craziness and admit that it was both fun and exciting to ride this thing around!
You learn quickly that the dangers of riding a tallbike do not come in the form of gravity or traffic, but obstacles in the air! Tree branches, low hung wires, and even signs can interfere with your skull if you are not constantly looking ahead. Normally, this was not a problem, but there were times when I saw a low hung branch coming my way and at the same time realized a car was coming down the street to compete with the space on the road I would need to avoid the branch. Sure, I ate a few leaves here and there, but that is all part of being a test pilot, right?
So, I was causally rolling down the street enjoying the view when I heard this voice behind me yelling something about a World Record. I rolled up to a telephone pole and let him catch up with me. I usually stop for those asking questions as this is part of the fun. At this point, I never thought about any kind of World Record setting, but this guy told me that the current World Record for tallest bike was only 7 feet tall (as measured from the handlebars to the ground). That really surprised me, as I was already 3 feet taller than that with my current tallbike! Wow, I could actually beat the current World Record with this bike. That thought was interesting as I always enjoyed reading about those eccentric crazy inventors in the Guinness Book of Records, and now I could become one of them! I talked for awhile then rolled home to dig around on the Guinness Record website to check the current record.
I was now all pumped up about possible having the World’s Tallest Bicycle, so I sat down at my computer and began to do some research. I found several tall bikes from various clubs and other garage hackers that were tall, but not as tall as the SkyCycle, so that was good. I then found the official Guinness Record site and the guy I talked to was correct - the current record for “Tallest Rideable Bicycle” was only 7 feet tall as measure from the top of the handlebars to the ground. Currently, the SkyCycle was already 2 feet better than the record! That was really cool to know, and I filled out an online form to find out how I could submit my bike for the record.
A week later, I received the data, and it stated the actual “rules” to define the bike and how to submit a claim. It all seemed very easy, actually, but I realized that Guinness was all about the bling factor, so if I wanted something more than a text mention on the website, I would have to make a big production out of my record attempt. They like the eccentric and crazy stuff, so the bike itself was good, but I decided to make it into a public event with video and lots of great photos so they would be more apt to show a photo of my bike on their site. Little did I know how much publicity was heading my way!
I also decided to add another 2 foot extension to the current SkyCycle, as I was so comfortable riding it that I often went with no hands or stood on the seat with one hand in the air! I would have made it taller, but due to the angle of the head tube, 2 feet was as much as I could add and maintain some kind of reasonable seat to handle bar distance. I also planned to make my record attempt publicly on July 1st (Canada Day), so I had only two weeks to get the bike ready. Our friend at the local news station offered to cover the event, and the local newspaper also joined in on the coverage. Cool!
I chopped the top of the original SkyCycle and added another 2 foot section with another ladder rung, making the official record height now 14.5 feet from the ground! The seat was about 13 feet high, and the bike was so tall that even laying down it had no chance of fitting in the garage. I painted it a bright yellow for the bling factor and sky contrast and then did up all of the trimmings in black. The media were all over the event and I had just finished painting the bike on the day before the ride. This meant that my initial test run would be the actual record attempt on TV, so the outcome was either a World Record or absolute failure for the world to see. Astronauts are always under such pressure!
It was now July 1st, and I was up early to strap the new SkyCycle Maximus to the top of a truck and get it over to the large parking lot where I was going to meet the TV and newspaper crew for the World Record attempt. I was getting a bit nervous now because the day before my name was all over the radio and local news non-stop about this record attempt and that if successful, I would be the only Guinness Record holder in our city of 115,000 people!
Yikes - failure was definitely not an option now, and I was looking up the frame of a currently untested 15 foot tall two wheeled monstrosity! People soon began to pour into the parking lot, even though the location was kept secret. I guess the sight of the bike was enough to draw a crowd, and with all the media exposure, it was obvious what was about to happen - a record breaking, or my leg breaking!
It wasn't long before the TV crew had their cameras ready to go and the news paper reports were all in position. All that was left to do was climb up the 15 foot tall untested bike, and launch with one hand off the steel pole for a nice leisurely cruise around the parking lot! To make things more dangerous, I decided to wave a flag for Canada Day and snap photos as I rode around. Some people asked why I did not wear a helmet, but let's face it - if you are going down on this bike, it's going to be the road versus your ankles, so what would be the point? I don't wear a helmet when I am up on a ladder either.
As I climbed up the SkyCycle Maximus to a crowd of cheering onlookers, the song "Major Tom" played through my head, and I tuned out the ground below. I knew there was a high probability of success, but the fact that the new extended SkyCycle was completely untested made me a tad bit nervous. At the top, it was very apparent that "just 2 feet more" was a stupid phrase indeed as it seemed like I was a hundred feet in the air now! "It's gonna fly, it's gonna fly!" - I kept telling myself that as I looked into the ever growing crowd and tried to look relaxed while clutching the pole with one hand. I decided that it was time to meet my destiny and gave the pole one hard push.
The new SkyCycle felt a little heavier than before with the added weight, and it did not help that it was a very windy day. It must have looked like I was going to topple as I slowly began to move, but once rolling the cheering started and I knew I would soon have a World Record! I rolled up to a comfortable speed and then stood up on the pedals to hold the Canadian Flag up in the air for the "money shot", which would eventually be the one used in the Guinness Book of Records. The camera people followed the bike with their TV cameras and the news people ran behind me asking questions. I rolled around the lot for about half an hour to please the crowd and then casually rolled up to the original light post to make a soft landing. The new World Record now belonged to the SkyCycle Maximus, and the cameras were all over me the second my feet hit the earth again. It was kinda cool to be famous for the moment, and I now had all the video and photos needed to get the record and maybe even some exposure on the Guinness website. I took some detailed photos of the bike being measured and had the news people sign the forms as witnesses to the event.
The record attempt was now a record success and it aired on the local news (TV and print) the same night. I thought my instant of fame was now over, but to my surprise, the phone began to ring and emails began to pour in from all corners of the globe! I did live radio interviews from all over the World, Texas, Japan, Australia, and the list goes on! Magazines contacted us for photos, and the event aired on many other TV stations around the World.
I was really surprised that the record event was getting so much coverage. Even our hardly known website was brought down in a flurry of hits overt eh next few days, going from 1,000 visitors to over a million! The real kicker was when the TV news show "Canada AM" called up and said they wanted to do a live interview with me and the bike in our home town of Thunder Bay! It was cool to be on live National TV, but looking into that camera lens was more unnerving than the first test ride! Ah, the price of fame.
After the live interview with Canada AM on national TV, I took a break from paparazzi and compiled all of the data to send off to the Guinness Record people. I had all of the required signatures, measurements, photos, and video to make the record official, so the package was sent off priority post in hopes that they might mention me on their website as well as sending out some kind of certificate. Since there are so many World Records, only a very small number of them receive any mention at all, and I was hoping for a line of text under "World's Tallest Rideable Bicycle". Little did I know that I would be getting more World Record attention than I could have ever hoped for!
A few weeks later, I received the official record certificate from the Guinness Record keeper, and they actually printed my info on their website under "World's Tallest Rideable Bicycle". It was so cool to be official now, and once again the phone calls and emails poured in for more interviews and to get photos for print. Then I got a call from someone I know telling me that my photo was actually taking up half a page in the 2005 Gold Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records! Surely, they must be joking?
So there you have it! A pile of rusty scrap metal from the dump mixed with a crazy idea turns into Worldwide fame and everlasting glory! Well, ok, it wasn’t that incredible, but it was sure a fun journey, considering the entire thing was done on almost no budget in an unheated winter garage using inexpensive tools, I would say it was an absolute success.
Sadly, I no longer have the World Famous SkyCycle Maximus as it was too large to store in the garage, but I still enjoy building tall bikes and other crazy contraptions that serve no purpose other than entertainment.
My new tallbike design “SkyWalker” allows the rider to climb up or down while the bike is moving, so it requires no launching pole, and can be taken anywhere. In the future I may shoot for a new World Record tall bike with a design I call “Bad Altitude”. This new record tallbike uses the “SkyWalker” design and will be 25 feet tall from seat to road! Stay tuned…
Check Out Some Of Our Featured DIY Fun Bike Plans...