My dad’s been suggesting that I test ride El Arbol as soon as possible before sinking the hours into custom fiberglass work on the trunk, roots and branches. Not a bad idea. OK, so it didn’t have brakes or pedals, but at least now the frame has at lease now been heat treated.
The ride was great. Tall bike people know that a tall object can actually be easier to balance. The classic example: try balancing a ruler in your palm, then try a yard stick. As you can see in the photo below, El Arbol is about a foot taller than Jay’s tall bike, part of his BayView Space Agency fleet. This makes it easier to balance at slow speeds.
On my first coast, I mounted using the hood of a pickup truck and had Ydran and Adam give a running push in the slightly downhill direction on Channing. The ride is solid. No noticeable frame flex, and that’s before the added stiffness of the fiberglass trunk and branch. The balance was easy, even at slow speeds. I only one little adrenaline jolt on the whole test ride, when I took a roundabout and experienced rapid decellaration. By the end I was doing my own running starts and dismounts in both the uphill and downhill directions. It was Adam’s idea to jam some pipe in the captain’s bottom bracket. That was hope stepped up and down onto the frame, as you can see above.
I had been a bit concerned that the small wheels that originally came with the A2B would make the ride twitchy or sluggish, but it was neither. The traction was great, ans slow speed manuevers felt smooth.
I knew that Jay was leaving for his honeymoon yesterday, and that Tuesday would be our last work session. We welded in the cable management for the root-deployment system. I’ll post more photos soon.
On Wednesday I borrowed a truck to get the frame over to Garner Heat Treating in Oakand. The guys were totally pro and enthusiastic about the project.
Apparently there are two ways to restore strength to an aluminum frame after it’s been welded. The more involved one heats the frame to within 30 degrees of liquid, which leaves the frame soft and succeptible to bending under its own weight. Typically at this point bike builders put the frame back in a jig to check alignment. Because El Arbol is a giant frame and a one off, there’s no jig. So we chose the other method, which brings up the frame only to about 300-400 degrees. This method stress relieves the welds but not to the full ‘T6’ strength of the aluminum. With the average wall thickness of El Arbol’s frame being much greater than that of say a Cannondale, I’m not too worried about the strength being compromised.
After bringing the frame back to Rock The Bike, I waited till about 6 last night before ditching the computer and throwing parts back on it. We tied the roots against the frame, since the deployment system isn’t ready yet, and I through an Envy Green Down Low Glow on the bottom tube. Lots of props from the neighborhood, a good omen!
In this shot you get a clear view of the rear suspension of El Arbol. Note the extension of the rear swingarm. This both provided an anchor point for longer suspension coils, and a footrest for the rear facing passenger.
Here’s a cool video that shows how Jay sets up for a weld, then lays down a stack of dimes.
I’ve been thinking about building a Tandem Tall Bike. I like the up-down potential. This tandem shot at Critical Mass in Chicago, is an absolute stunner, and hints at the potential impact of a top-bottom tandem.
Kipchoge and Eco invited me to a hard-rocking Manu Chao show on Wednesday night and uncovered a new use for the Down Low Glow. Our group of eight people was dancing in an enormous crowd at Bill Graham Auditorium. The room was dark, save for the strobe lights coming from the stage.
A few minutes into the show, we were already dispersed through the crowd. I caught a red glow in the corner of my eye and saw Kipchoge holding this intensely bright red line in his hand. It took me a minute to figure out he had grabbed the Down Low Glow from my bike. Our group came together and danced for a few songs before splitting apart again. Later we put the Down Low Glow on the floor and had a great disco circle a few minutes before a really hard moshing number came up and I grabbed the lights so they wouldn’t get kicked.
Then after the show I still had the lights in my pocket, and our group was totally split up. So I went out to my bike and just there making a peace sign with the DLG tubes sticking out from my finger in a big V. Within a few minutes, people I didn’t know were standing next to me, calling their friends on their cell phones, saying “I’m next to the guy with the neon lights!”
Kipchoge got up on the Long Tall Sally, the first ever Xtracycle tall bike with a passenger deck up at the top level! I had seen pictures from Interbike last year of an Xtracycle Tall Bike made by Aaron from Ride Your Bike.com, but there was no upper deck on that one.
Kipchoge’s is pretty sweet. I wish I had a shot of him and Eco ‘crowd-surfing’ it after the Manu Chao show, but alas, here are a couple from the night after, coming home from the Citizen Cope show at the Grand. And don’t miss this video.