New World New Wheels

BY Kevin C. O Donovan

With the price of gas rocketing to previously unheard of levels many area residents find they are downsizing their vehicles. In a complete sea-change from just four years ago full-size SUVs are no longer the vehicle of choice. Gone are the days of super-sized Suburbans Escalades and Expeditions and arrived are the days of smarter smaller more efficient vehicles. Some Azalea Coast residents however have taken a completely different approach to save money and the environment using only the self-supplied fuel of the human body for exercise transportation running errands or enjoying a nice day outside. Its quiet eco-friendly and socially responsible but most of all its fun.

Recumbent Renewal

 Frank White loves the laid-back lifestyle of the Azalea Coast a little more than the average cyclist. White is something of a guru and certainly the head evangelist of the recumbent (lying back or lying down) bicycle community. “People look at recumbents as kind of strange but if you get one and just ride around the block I guarantee you will have a smile on your face ” he says.

For more than 17 years the 66-year-old White has been riding in a reclined position pedaling from Florida to Maine along the Natchez Trace the Allegheny Passage and all over the Eastern seaboard. He was introduced to the laid-back life by a friend during the Sea Gull Century an annual 100-mile ride through Marylands Eastern Shore.

White remembers laughing a bit at his friends recumbent as he was riding his brand-new Specialized road bike until the then-bachelor noticed that “any time we stopped to rest all the fine young ladies crowded around” his friend while no one noticed his fancy new bike.

The next weekend White borrowed his buddys recumbent.

“The thing I noticed then and this is still true today when we got done riding I didnt hurt.” All the usual aches pains and saddle sores were now a thing of the past.

These days White has three recumbents with varying wheelbases in his garage and is looking forward to what he calls a “short ride” coming up in October: from near Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. just over 300 miles. Hell be riding a new custom-built recumbent made for him by his friends at Bike Cycles in Mayfaire and he will very likely be laid-back and smiling.

Mucho Mundo

The Dutch have been at the forefront of all things two-wheeled for decades. Much like our area the Netherlands is largely flat allowing bicycles to be heavier sturdier and designed with virtually any purpose in mind.

Following this tradition European bike maker Yuba designed its Mundo model for more than just getting around. Co-founder and avid cyclist Benjamin Sarrazin traveled extensively in South America Europe and Africa. He noticed that in the most economically depressed areas people had few or no choices in transportation meaning that those who most needed a cheap affordable and sustainable way to move cargo went without. According to Yuba Sarrazin noticed that “One could see bikes everywhere but they were useless for carrying cargo which was crazy because thats exactly what they needed most.” Sarrazin imagined a bike that could carry 50-kilo sacks of grain and mosquito nets over mountain trails. Such a bike would open up entirely new possibilities for the people who really needed to use their bikes for transportation. Along with collaborator Klaus Schrder Sarrazin launched Yuba in the winter of 2006.

Schrder sums it up this way: “Most people in the developing or in the Western world dont need a bike for racing. They need a bike to carry their groceries packages and children.”

Though that need here at home isnt quite as urgent with the price of gas hovering around $4 per gallon the idea that a bike can be more than just a bike is becoming more and more attractive.

Area resident Michael Bessano was one of the early advocates of the cargo bike. While looking for something that was “just a little different ” Bessano came upon the Yuba Mundo at Bike Cycles in Mayfaire Towne Center.

Setting out on his Mundo from his Middle Sound Loop home Bessano has found the bike to be even more useful than Yuba promised. Bessano takes his cargo bike to the grocery store attempting to load it down but the Yuba just asks for more with its 440-pound carrying capacity. Bessano says that with his Mundo customized with an aluminum milk crate coolers custom running boards and an extra set of handlebars its easier to “hop on the bike instead of hopping in the car.”

Bessano says Yubas mission was part of what initially attracted him to the Mundo. “I really like what theyre doing and Im proud to be a part of it ” he says referring to Yubas promise of donating 10 percent of the proceeds from each Mundo sale to nonprofit organizations that provide utility bikes to people in developing countries.

Rip it!

Hey dude ever felt like practicing your skateboarding snowboarding rollerblading and surfing moves all at once? Now you can. Take a ride on a RipStik! The RipStik Caster Board and similar models called The Wave Board and Blade Board made by other companies has just two wheels and is made up of two narrow platforms joined together by a rubber or metal beam with a spring making it look more like a paddle than a skateboard. Once aboard balance and momentum are maintained by mimicking the carving motion of snowboarding and surfing: You move your hips back and forth while keeping your feet stationary. You can also glide along by placing pressure on your back foot then pivoting it forward past your front which is used primarily for steering. To maintain or increase your speed just “swizzle”: Slide your back foot or both front and back feet from side to side creating a motion similar to rollerblading. After a few pushes off your back foot your feet dont touch the ground again. And dont forget to mix in some grabs grinds and slides. “It teaches kids to carve and maintain their balance instead of riding on cheaply made boards ” says Mike Barden owner of Surf City Surf Shop in Wrightsville Beach. The final verdict? Rip it dude. Jim Pfeiffer

Tall Wheels

Brandon Lamm is riding high perched atop one of his custom creations known simply as a “tall bike.”

A few years ago Lamm and a former roommate got the idea to create their own tall bikes. They joined what was then an underground movement taking the rusting hulks of bikes of yesteryear and creating new Frankenstein creations that had people turning their heads and craning their necks upward at the same time.

Lamm remembers his uncle speaking of how “back in the day” he and his friends would take a bicycle flip the frame upside down and weld it into new shapes that the manufacturers never dreamed of.

Armed with his roommates prior knowledge of welding they set about making their own machines.

Lamm has built five or six of these custom cycles most of which he gave to friends and he occasionally catches a glimpse of his towering creations around town.

Harvesting parts from junk piles on the side of the road the backrooms of bike shops and yard sales Lamm recycles old broken bikes into creative works of cycling art. “These bikes might be rusty in places or have nonworking parts but theres usually at least something workable ” Lamm says. “I have a storage unit full of frames handlebars and other random parts just waiting to be welded together.”

Lamm brings parts together from castaways discards and the unwanted to share his love of cycling with the local community. He hopes that the looks of wonder and laughs his bikes elicit lead others to remember how much fun cycling can be while simultaneously convincing them to dust off the bikes in their garage and get out on the open road.

For Lamm building tall bikes is a labor of love. He takes pride in eliciting new life from junk heaps and sharing his love of cycling with new generations of cyclists.

In these changing times it is ironic that technology invented in the 19th century is likely the way forward in the 21st century. The future isnt powered by combustion its people-powered pedal-driven and free of pollution: perfect for enjoying and protecting our coastal environment.