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Riding a tall bike

I recently had the opportunity to try out a tall-bike for a week (thanks Brock!). This one is fairly tall, as tall-bikes go. Many tall bikes consist of one frame welded on top of another, with the bottom bracket at the level of the top of the tires. This one is about 14″higher than that. The top of my head is about 105″ high (almost 9 feet) when I’m riding it. The bottom bracket height is 40.5 inches, or about 30 inches higher than a normal bike.

This unique creation is by Tom LaBonty of Toms cargo bikes here in Portland, OR. The wheelbase is 60″ so the rear wheel isn’t directly underneath you like many tall bikes out there. That puts more weight on the front wheel for traction, and you won’t be doing any wheelies. There is a platform to put a foot on while you are mounting the bike, and stuff can be carried there too.

 

The frame is made out of old Schwinn continentals and Varsitys; MIG welded together. Solid American steel. I like the sprocket-gussets.

 

A long chain path. This is a 5 speed bike with 27″ wheels.

 

Learning to ride this thing was as exciting as it was stressful. It’s all about mounting and dismounting, because when you are in the saddle it rides like a regular bike. First I coasted on a slight downhill, with my right foot on the left side of the wood platform, and both hands on the handlebars. Fear made me wobble and I nearly crashed it into a parked car (and this 58 lb bike could do some real damage!). After I got used to that, I coasted with the right foot on the platform and left foot on the pedal. Eventually this was easy enough, so I went to a grassy park to practice getting up on the saddle. If I fell, the grass would be much more forgiving. I rolled down a slight grassy incline; right foot on platform, left foot on pedal, and heaved myself up into the saddle. I was riding and the view was magnificent! After practicing complete mounts and dismounts about 50 times, I felt comfortable enough to take it onto my neighborhood streets. All this practice took about an hour and a half. I did not practice right side dismounts, thinking I would just stick to the left side for now, which how I get on a normal bike.

 

30 inches higher up may not sound like a lot, but on a bike rolling down the road it is HUGE. All stops must be planned for in advance and done with some momentum. Dismounting needs to be as natural as breathing, because you don’t want to be trying to remember how to do it when it has to be done immediately. Getting on or off involves 2 steps, and takes 2 seconds. One can hold onto street posts or stop signs if needed, to avoid dismounting. Without momentum, you will fall… perhaps into the opposing traffic lane, or on the sunroof of a car.  From that height one can experience a significant orthopedic injury or worse. You have been warned! On the other hand, it’s like riding in a hot air balloon. You can see over parked cars which helps when riding in traffic. Aggressive dogs will seem less threatening. Fenders may not be necessary. Kids and adults stare in wonder.
A short video of riding the bike. The camera was held at eye level during the middle segments of this video to give you a better feel of what it’s like up there.
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