I reasoned I’d build a new cargo bike when I got settled in California. At the time I said this, my Stamford house was being sold and I was about to move in to my wife’s one-bedroom corporate housing complex…and most of my bikes and all of my welding equipment was going into storage. We faced down the dystopian sticker-shock horror that is the Silicon Valley housing market and somehow ended up getting a place with a garage I could turn into a new workshop
Unlike Bikeducken I had to spend money - about $150 total - on materials. The biggest expenses were a 20” wheel with disc brake mounts from Good Karma Bikes
, as well as a used kid’s Gary Fisher mountain bike with 20” wheels. At it happened, I needed to widen the back fork to ensure the new wheel would fit, so I held it open for days with a car jack I found on the side of the road on a bike ride.
The day before the North American Handmade Bicycle Show
began, I took an inventory of what I had and began making 3-D sketches (with the aid of Gear Ties
, which held everything in place) to figure out what I wanted to make. I was stumped for a while on what the front half of the bike should be but then I remembered I had a junked Sears & Roebuck folding bike that I picked up from Good Karma Bikes last summer - this is what it looked like at the time and it spent the last six months sitting in a storage shed.
The frame came under my reciprocating saw and the final ‘draft’ of what I wanted to make looked like this:
I unfortunately made a mistake early on: I inadvertently bent the part of the frame the bottom bracket screws into beyond repair, so I ended up using an old Univega frame instead of the colorful red, white and blue frame pictured.
The build wasn’t without other challenges as well - ornery angle grinders, for one.
But, as I Instagrammed about a couple weeks back
: In the time it would have taken me to get from San Jose to Sacramento and back I had a working model. It supported my weight but I still wasn’t entirely sure the folding mechanism from the Sears & Roebuck bike would be strong enough for what was going to be a big cargo bike.
The basic framework done, I was left with scrounging materials for the cargo deck of the bike. Longtime readers recall that this past autumn I built my very first fixed gear bike
from a massive Centurion frame.
Since that frame was made available since I moved the fixie bits to a smaller one, the Centurion was sliced up and transformed into the right rear deck of the cargo bike. A maroon Centurion frame that was from a junk pile - but exactly the same size as the one I used to make the fixie - was made into the the left rear deck.
As you know, I didn’t post much over the last couple of weeks because I was doing this. Building the bike became a mission and a symbol to show I was officially ‘settled’ in California. I can find my way to a lot of places without using a GPS, I found a place to get the good kind of peanut butter, I found a place to get my haircut regularly. So it was time to show California that I’m settled in by making a cargo bike as I promised myself.
The triple ring in the front came from the one I swapped out of the Bike Friday years ago when I met Stacey
and the components were “a piece from here and a piece from there” kind of thing. All of the brake and derailleur cables are new.
I thought I’d just weld the Sears & Roebuck folding bike frame shut if it looked like it was going to fail. And when I sat on the bike - All 165 pounds of me - I could feel the hinge move slightly if I put my finger underneath it.
It didn't give me a lot of confidence.
But then I hit on an idea since I really wanted the bike to be able to fold: I still had a couple of frames pieces left (from what little I did bring from Connecticut: Raleigh Sports
parts and bits from a crushed Trek I found
) that had the same size seat tube. I figured if I put a seat post inside and left enough room so I could move the post in and out I’d have a sturdy frame but could still fold the bike.
I did that this past Saturday morning: I carefully measured how long a cross piece I’d need and shaped it accordingly with an angle grinder - this time wearing real gloves.
I locked both quick-releases and, as carefully as I could, I welded the improvised downtube into place. The end result looked like this.
The following day I took the bike out for a 12 mile ride. Two days after that, I rode it all the way to Good Karma Bikes - expecting something to go terribly wrong but nothing did. The welds held. Nothing creaked. However, the headset was loose to the point it was making me nervous. So I headed to Mike’s Bikes in Willow Glen
and rolled my new creation inside, where one of the mechanics quickly found me a replacement.
Thanks, Mike’s Bikes. Nice mural, too.
Instead of riding all the way home that day I decided to board the VTA
. And it was there I finally - finally - felt like I had settled in California.
I know the bike has no hope of fitting in the bike racks on the light rail, but when it’s folded it is actually shorter than most bikes and I can stand with it in the vestibule. More importantly: I wasn’t annoying my fellow passengers. In fact, a woman standing with her own bike nearby asked permission if she could take a photo of the bike to show her boyfriend. Be my guest, I said. Just try to get the DIYBIKING.COM in the shot.
So there you have it. I got the new headset put in, and that leaves me with a cargo bike built from 8 frames (parts components from at least 15 bikes total) that is a little lighter than the Bikeducken, faster thanks to the high PSI rear tire and the front 26” wheel borrowed from my Dahon Matrix
, more comfortable thanks to the front fork and portable due to the folding mechanism. It also has an integrated trailer hitch in case I need to tow something.
I must say thank you California - and Californians - for helping me get settled in. Look for my yet-unamed cargo bike on the road and share said road with me and every other cyclist who may cross your line of vision. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding.