World's Tallest Bike

I turned some old junk into a Guinness Record!

Skycycle Tallbike - Part 1 of 13

Photo 1

The “TallBike” has been around as long as the regular bicycle, and in the 1800s these sky scraping contraptions were referred to as “Lamp Lighters” because those who rode them had the job of igniting oil burning streetlights. These brave tallbike pilots would climb up their 6 foot tall ladder framed two wheelers and then ride from one streetlight pole to another, igniting the wick of the lamp fastened to the pole. Today, tallbikes are only ridden by the thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies, but the process of hugging a pole to mount and dismount the bike is pretty much the same as it was in the 1800s.

There is no real definition of what defines a tallbike, but most would agree that it normally is any two wheeled bicycle that has its crankset raised over the height of the wheels. Some tallbikes can actually be mounted from the ground as the pedals are just over 2 feet from the ground, while others require the pilot to climb up the frame and launch from a standstill while clinging to a telephone pole. In the case of my over-engineered 12 foot tallbike “SkyWalker”, the pilot can climb up the built in frame ladder while steering the bike using a built in steering rail that doubles as a handrail. SkyWalker is kind of hard to explain really, so check it out on our main page if you are curious. The tallbike presented here (SkyCycle) is reminiscent of the classic Lamplighter design, and requires the pilot to climb the frame and use a telephone pole to launch or come in for landing.

This is the story of how I took a pile of scrap tubing found at the dump and merged it with a few old bicycles in order to get my mug into the pages of the Guinness Book of World Records, along with about TV interviews, radio interviews, and several magazines and newspapers. Normally, I am not much into seeking the spotlight, and I had no idea how massive the media storm would be when I broke the world record in 2003. The journey to stardom begins at the city dump.

Photo 2

So, I rolled into the dump one lazy afternoon with a pile of junk from the yearly spring garage cleaning. The smell of burning tires, seagull waste and diesel fuel filled the air as I begin to launch my scrap into the ever growing piles that are forming huge islands in the muck. As I finished emptying the back of the truck, I noticed a lot of bicycles lying around along with various metal tubing from bed frames, exercise machines, and fence posts. The year was 2002, and I was not really much into bike building or welding as I had a full time gig programming and fixing computers. As I looked at the endless supply of bike parts and scrap tubing, I remembered back to my youth when I used to hunt for old bikes and metal to concoct all sorts of scary yet fun human powered contraptions, including some 6 foot tall bikes. At that instant I decided, “Why not!” and ventured up to my knees in the muck to reach the twisted heap of metal and bike parts.

I filled the back of the truck with more than I came with, adding a mountain of twisted mountain bikes and old fence tubing to my collection. Each time the “dump police” would drive past, I would pretend to be unloading, but then put the junk back when they were not looking. The “no scavenging” rule was violated as much as possible that day! On my way out, they thought something was wrong at the scale because I actually weighed more than when I came in with the loads of scrap 486 computers and monitors! Oh well, I was now on my way home to begin a journey that eventually became this website.

Photo 3

Now I had a massive pile of scrap bikes and metal tubing sitting on the floor of my 1940s rotting wood garage and a cheap AC welder to zap things together with - the fun begins! Actually, I had no way to use my welder since the garage had no power so I hacked together a long extension cord and then retro fitted my welder plug to fit into the stove outlet. To use the welder, I dragged it over to the back door of the house and did all of my work kneeling in the wet grass at the base of the back stairs. This system actually worked for over four years. Bikes like the Marauder and DeltaWolf were all built this way!

Winter was setting in fast so the building season ended before I really got to make anything useful that year. I did manage to sketch out the design for my tallbike, and several bizarre recumbent contraptions that never really worked that well. It wasn’t until December of 2002 that I decided to start building the tallbike, but knew I would only be able to cut the tubing as my welder was now frozen under a 4 foot pile of snow in the back yard. I actually began building the SkyCycle right on the floor of my computer room, so you will have to excuse the shag rug backgrounds on some of the photos presented here. Hey - it was cool to have shag carpet back in those days! So, here I was with a pile of old fence tubing and electrical conduit on the floor next to my computer table. Now, I had something to do while the Windows 95 setup screen counted from zero to 100 percent…yah, I had LOTS of free time!

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