Contraptor, metalworker, global activist, steampunk... specializing in pedal-power.

Using steel, wheels, and sewing, I rend Victorian æsthetics into a Mad-Max setting with a rigorous use of found and recycled materials.

Pedal-powered Crane

This pedal-powered crane was built for Redmoon's Summer 2006 spectacle Twilight Orchard. A simple rule for a crane is that the weight on the end times the ratio of the boom to the counterweight's length equals the weight of the counterweight. The original design called for an 800 lb. counterweight which would support 50 lbs at the end of a 16 foot boom. Consequently this vehicle was extremely overbuilt, with ATV wheels, a differential, and a gear ratio that would allow a single person to move that kind of weight.

I had to fabricate my own axle stub brackets.

The vehicle was dressed by other designers and audio techs, and Laura Annis built the boom. The crane was equipped with a speaker on the end for a private party and then used to hang a disco ball for Twilight Orchard- in typical Redmoon style this allows the techs to be seen by the audience and perform their job with whimsical gadgetry. Here's a picture of it loading a mouse into a giant mouse wheel during Looptopia 2007:

This project represents a particular combination of form and function that I always strive for and am quite proud of in this creation.

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Burning Man 2008

This year the bike crew at Burning Man faced a new challenge: Assemble and paint 400 bikes, repair the existing fleet of 600, and distribute them all in addition to dealing with the abandonment of another 1100 bicycles in the Black Rock Desert. I worked in the metal shop before the event and managed the fleet repair and cleanup crews.

We think the continued presence of community bikes accounts for the 400-bike drop in abandonments this year. Approximately a container's worth of bikes were dontated to the Reno Kiwanis Club, with another container set aside for my Ghana project. Fundraising continues for that shipment- we've got what we need to drop a container but not the shipping fee.

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Corinbank 2008

The organizers of The Corinbank Festival wanted their first festival to impact the participants with its level of participatory, surreal, and unique attractions. They hired a circus school, marching band teachers, and the bizarre (but genius) clowns Wacko and Blotto to create an atmosphere where attendees were also welcomed to bring and set up "Creative Campsites" of their own.

The festival was located in a beautiful valley in the Brindabellas, swimming with cockatoos and kangaroos. I was billed in the promotional material as an "Artist In Residence". For the two months prior to the event I designed and built a pedal-powered attraction. Called the "Death Derby Arena", it was an area where people could try out a variety of wacky bikes I'd built, along with a pedal-powered bumper car rink. The bikes only appeared dangerous; in fact, there were no injuries all weekend.

This bike had a surfboard on the front, so one person could pedal and the other could surf on land!

I made sure to provide bikes- such as this pixie bike with bull bars- for the smaller children, although it didn't stop the grownups from giving them a try.

This smaller, safer version of my pennyfakething let the less-daring give it a try.

This chopper with a spring in the middle was not as hard to ride as it looks!

The pedal-powered bumper cars were a huge hit. You can see more about them here.

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Pedal-Powered Bumper Cars

My original plan for the Corinbank festival's pedal-powered entertainment was to whip up as many wacky bikes as I could and we'd have a sort of rodeo. However, once two of these bumper bikes were completed, they were just too much fun. It was clear I needed to drop my plans and create a pedal-powered bumper car arena.

The casters in the back cause the bike to spin out when it's hit. The arena size can be adjusted to prevent the sort of speeds that cause injury. These bikes use 100% recycled material, and don't need the electric floor like the carnival version!

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Burning Man 2007

A "yellow bike" program is something that townships do to provide bicycles to their citizens. The bikes are provided by the town and painted a distinctive color. People can use them to get around town and are supposed to leave them on public racks when they are done.

If the saturation of bicycles is high enough, theft goes down because the bike has essentially no value. Towns like Austin, Texas that have tried these programs have found a little attrition (usually kids throwing them in the river) but the real challenge is the long-term maintenance of the fleet.

At Burning Man 2006 the bicycle crew had managed to paint and assemble about 200 bikes for the citizens of Black Rock City to use. The organization's eventual goal is a saturation of 10 per cent. In theory, you only use a bike far less than ten percent of the day, so that many bikes should be plenty.

For the 2007 event, an attendee wanted to fund the program so that he himself could take advantage of it. He purchased 1000 Huffy bicycles for the festival, which we painted a distinct green and assembled. We deployed them on the event grounds and recovered them afterwards.

This is a Leave No Trace event, so we also recovered approximately 1500 bicycles that were left on-site. These went again to the Paiute tribe and the Kiwanis of Reno.

As our program grows, so has our maintenance requirement. At the 2008 event I will manage a crew for maintaining the existing, assembled fleet.

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Long Chainey

I had an odd urge to build an underslung chopper, one where the bike's frame hung from the fork. Consequently this bike was quite overbuilt. I ended up having to fabricate my own head tube, bottom bracket, and rear axle. Then I finished it in a "Mad Max" style for that post-apocalyptic feel. The large rear wheel acts as a flywheel, allowing me to reach high speeds and tow cargo with this bicycle.

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Winifred the Pennyfakething

Subsequent to my interest in steampunk I wished to get around on an Ordinary bicycle, but had no large wheel on hand. So I flipped up the frame of a cruiser bike and invented the "pennyfakething", a DIY punk twist on a Victorian classic.

After my article on the bike in Steampunk Magazine #2, other people started making them, and so I've set up

Here's a video of the mount:

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Bike Club

Since 2004 I've lived in the gang-ridden Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. It was only natural that neighborhood kids would come around to have their bikes fixed, and so before long I had a regular event on my hands. We called it "bike club" and we'd teach kids how to fix bikes, build up bikes with them to give out, and weld custom bikes that they had designed.

While my job has me traveling a lot more these days, I still fix up and give out as many bikes as I can, and can't stay in one place for long before every neighborhood kid knows my name. Eventually I'll grow my Ghana project enough that I can fund an arm of it in the U.S. inner city where it is equally, desperately needed.

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Burning Man 2006

In 2006, the Reno chapter of the Black Label Bike Club was given control of the Burning Man Festival's bicycle management. The festival faced a formidable problem: 1500 bicycles left in the desert each year by festival-goers at a no-trace event. The BLBC wanted to use some of them to seed a yellow bike program, but needed someone to deal with the overflow. They knew of my experience shipping bikes to Africa and brought me to the desert.

Before the event I worked shade crew, constructing shade for the event infrastructure. Afterwards we distributed the bikes between the local Kiwanis and the Paiute Indian tribe. Thus began my cherished position on the Black Rock City Department of Public Works, where I pick up and distribute bicycles each summer in August and September. Living and working in that harsh environment is the hardest, and most rewarding, thing I've ever done.

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Human Television Network

In 2004, Mark Messing obtained a grant to build a fleet of television-carrying bikes to take to the protests surrounding the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. The bikes were built by Cynthia Main and Erik Newman.

The Human Television Network provides in-the-park movie showings, mobile anti-war DVD showings, and downtown-news-studio-camera hijacking. In addition to performing with the group, I've maintained the fleet of bikes since the group's inception.

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In 2003 I met Dr. Osei Darkwa of Patriensa, Ghana; he and I discussed cargo bike designs. He invited me to spend 6 months there starting up a school for welding, bike mechanics, and cargo bike design. The center imports donated bikes from the first world (both taking them out of the wastestream and conserving the energy of their manufacture) and modifies them for bush cargo use. As a hobby I fundraise to send bicycles and volunteers to the center.

For more information:

NPR's Worldview Global Activism piece on the project

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Fire Bike With Me

Inspired by other mobile grills I'd seen, I decided to make a grillbike. However, it was important to me that this bike be modular, so it could be used to haul cargo as well as any attachment one could come up with.

A grillbike can make a summer. Each "trip to the park" turns into "grilling in the park". It's also good for moving open-ended loads:

Then Mayor Daley came up with his "music everywhere" program, which hired mobile musicians to perform all around downtown and the lakefront. I was hired by Mark Messing (Mucca Pazza) to build a drumkit attachment for the bike. This allowed a drummer to join more easily mobilized instruments in a mobile band.

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Count Chopula

I always modified my bikes when I was a kid. However, it was in Chicago in 2003 that I was introduced to the "rat" style of building, and I loved its deliberately raw and unpretentious look. I built "Count Chopula", a vampire bicycle chopper, with bat wings that flapped when I pedaled.

Eventually this chopper evolved into a more Mad-Max, bobbed chopper. But it's still a monster. The handlebars came from my grandpa's junkyard- I walked past them for 26 years until one day I said, "hey, those are sweet!"...

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