Sunday, December 14, 2008

Three wheels (maybe two) & an old crank (cont'd)


In March 2008, Mike Eliasohn was gracious enough to allow me to write an article for this blog about my adventures in bike building. (Mike: Actually, as editor of this blog, I asked Dave to write an article and he was gracious enough to write it.)
Recently, during some e-mail exchanges he asked if I would be interested in writing a follow-up of what I have been doing since. Because my ego is as large as I am, 6'5, 300 lbs, - here goes. For your edification and amusement, I am about to chronicle how I got here in just three years. If I were a younger man, you wouldn't be seeing these pictures because of my fear of losing macho points.
After 16 years with the Michigan Department of Corrections, I retired in December 2003, when I turned 62. We moved to Linden, south of Flint, and I built a 16-by-24-foot woodworking shop that had been a lifelong dream. I made walking sticks, chess sets, furniture, stools, pens, toy chests, sideboards, etc., etc. and was having a ball. My wife resumed quilting and I bought a longarm quilting machine and we make more than 20 quilts a year together.
Suddenly I realized that we had all the furniture we needed and I needed something else to make. Why not a wood bicycle? More on that later. I started to spend every night on the Internet. In the meantime, I had begun to ride my Fuji town bike which is now about 30 years old. I hadn't ridden in so long I was afraid to make a pedaled U-turn on my street.

Photos 1 and 2: Bike 1, June 2005. Ya gotta start somewhere. I found a standard size dirt bike and tried a wood extension for the pedals and then went to some pieces of EMT conduit and brazed with TWO Maap gas torches. That takes about 40 minutes per joint! I rode it up the street about a hundred yards and back and cut it up. A young man would have liked it, but this old fat man wasn't gonna ride this one. If you chuckled at this one, you're gonna fall down gasping for air when you see the next two.

Photo 3: Trike 1, August 2005. Took the rear end off a worn out granny trike (that is, an adult tricycle). Brazed a new sprocket to a collar and hooked this wobble wheel to the rear axle. This thing just oozes with engineering expertise, doesn't it! Still brazing. I didn't know why the chain kept falling off. Even the neighborhood cats were laughing at this one.

Photo 4 - Long wheelbase bike 1, Nov 2005. Actually, this one is not bad. I was getting there now. I laid it out acurately and took it to a 72-year-old professional welder and we lined it up right. My first remote steering, loose and wobbly, but it worked. Heavy and clumsy, but so was the rider. It worked. I took off the front parts and converted it into an exercise bike that is still being used in my basement.

That pretty well brings me up to the Flowroller mentioned in the previous MHPVA blog article. While still doing online research, I saw my first wood frame bike and was ready to build when I saw the Flowroller by Robert Horn. Bought my own welder, bought the steel. Game on!
In September 2007, I converted the yellow DeltaWolf into a front-wheel-drive trike, bringing my trike count to 3. I couldn't resolve chain issues on the Wolf while trying to incorporate a 7-speed hub "transmission." The concept is OK, including dual rear disc brakes. It's just about as low as they can be too, That was my all-winter project. but I just don't like it. Movin' on.

Photo 5: In May 2008, I finished the OrangeAppeal. Single speed at this stage, but I can add shifters if I want. It was inspired by my first ride with the Michigan Freak Bike Militia. Built for fun and as a parade vehicle.

In July 2008, I bought, yah dats right, a Sun EZ-3 USX trike. (Editor: It's a manufactured two-wheels-in-the-rear recumbent tricycle with under-seat steering and a form of suspension with a pivot and shock absorber mid-frame.) Don't care what the pundits say! I love it. It's the comfort trike that gets me around town on errands and gives that exercise I need. July, 38 miles; August and September, over 100 miles; October, 82 miles (wife was in then hospital). November, she was still recovering and the weather went bad, but I still got in 37 miles, including two 10-mile runs. The last run was with the Michigan Freakbike Militia, my second ride with them, but that's another story. What a great group.

Photo 6: I built the grocery cart for the trike in November out of red oak and ash.

In October, I did a 8.5-mile ride with my son-in-law and his dad. We rode Indian Trails Park, northwest of Detroit. Flat and woodsy, with a 30 mph downhill at the start, which translates to a 5 mph uphill at the end. Son-in-law was on a high end trail bike and his dad was on a LeMond. I tried to keep up and did OK, but ran out of gears on the EZ-3. I may be 67 years old and overweight, but the little boy in me still wants to compete. I know I can't beat them, but I want something that will make them grunt a little.

Photo 7: Remember that wood bike reference earlier? Somewhere between all the other builds I tried a couple of wood-framed ideas, but they just didn't work out and never got on the ground. Take a look at the last photo. This is the Dragonwood. Wood frame, long and low, 21 speeds, incorporating the 7-speed hub from the delta trike and the seat from a previous wood bike attempt. More later. Stay tuned, this is a serial.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Northbrook, Ill. HPV races - July 13, 2008

MICHIGAN HPV ASSOCIATION President Mike Mowett of St. Clair Shores raced his Optima Baron at Northbrook. In the stock class,he finished 8th in the 200 meter sprint at a speed of 34.494 mph; in the 50-lap race, he finished 10th at an average speed of 23.559 mph. The Northbrook velodrome is 383 meters around. (Mike Eliasohn photos)

SO WHO'S DRIVING? It's Chris Burkhardt on the left who's steering; Bill Cook is the stoker. Cook owns Barcroft Cycles, but this tandem isn't one of his production bikes. They only raced in the 200 sprint, at a speed of 29.766 mph. A mechanical problem kept them out of the 50-lap race.

THE PANTHER streamliner built by Steve Spencer and his father, LaVerne, of Illinois, was still experiencing teething problems at Northbrook, but is technically very interesting. In the streamliner class, Steve finished third in the 200 meter sprints at 36.050 mph and, minus the top half of the canopy, was fourth in the 100 lap race at an average speed of 17.813 mph.

LAVERNE (at right, wearing straw hat) and Steve chose to use 700c x 23 (27-inch) wheels front and rear for minimal rolling resistance. The frame is chromoly steel tubing, TIG welded. The seat height is only 4 inches from the ground, and there's only about 1.25 inch of space between the bottom of the seat and the fairing, through which the chain has to run to the rear drive wheel. Front-wheel-drive was considered, Steve said, but he and his father decided that would make the drive train even more complicated.

In order to get a lower "hood line," instead of using a conventional front fork, LaVerne designed and machined this center pivot hub, which uses two bearings.

THE LAUNCH TECHNIQUE call's for Steve's wife, Teresa, on in-line skates, to hold the Panther upright until Steve has enough speed to pedal away. Unfortunately for Teresa, when Steve went down, which happened more than once, she also went down. (What some wives will do for their husbands.) Notice that until it's time to launch, there's a blower blowing air inside to keep Steve cool. See more about the Spencers' streamliner at

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Rick Gritters' (and others') big trip

RICK GRITTERS on his low racer, shown here on Blue Star Highway, north of St. Joseph, on Aug. 14, was quite a contrast compared to riders on regular bikes. He was riding here with Doug and Joy Lutke of Dorr, Mich. (Photos by Mike Eliasohn)

By MIKE ELIASOHN, MHPVA vice president

Rick Gritters of Pella, Iowa, usually pedals about 4,000 miles a year – a lot more than most cyclists, it's safe to say.
But this year, he and a lot of other cyclists are pedaling 3,881 miles in only two months.
Rick is one of the fastest riders in Human Powered Race – America events in the Midwest, and races on bikes he built. He's also built several low racer recumbents for other racers.
But rather than racing, Rick is riding in the Sea to Sea: Ending the Cycle of Poverty tour conducted by the Christian Reformed Church in North America and the Reformed Church in America.
Riders started their long journey June 30 in Seattle and will finish Aug. 30 in Jersey City, N.J. The route is longer than most coast-to-coast trips because of the leg through Michigan, done because both churches have their headquarters in Grand Rapids. Overnight stops were in South Haven on Aug. 14, Grand Haven, Grand Rapids Laingsburg and Richmond (on Aug. 19), before crossing into Canada.
To aid in those two churches' programs to help end poverty worldwide, cyclists riding the entire 3,881 miles were asked to each raise at least $10,000, and those going part of the route, $4,000. Rick said the goal was to raise $1.5 million, but as of when I (Mike) met with him in South Haven Aug. 14, close to $2 million had been raised.
Rick's personal goal was $10,000, but he and another rider from Pella raised almost $28,000 combined. “It takes a lot of letter writing,” Rick said.
You can read about Rick's adventures along the way at, which has links to the Sea to Sea Web site and for making a contribution.
About 125 riders, including Rick, are making the entire trip. Others are riding part way. For instance, about 60 riders joined the group in Grand Rapids to ride the final leg to Jersey City.
Rick is riding one of his front-wheel-drive bikes he previously raced. For the tour, he made substantial changes. Both wheels are 20 inch/406 mm size. He replaced the original drive wheel with one using a Sturmey-Archer 8-speed hub gear. He added two sprockets for a total of three. That, plus two chainrings gives him a total of 48 speeds, and gearing good for a range of about 5 mph to 40 mph.
Despite some reservations about going up mountain passes, Rick said the bike did fine. The only time he's gotten off and walked was to cross some bridges with a rough surface. And downhill, of course, and on flat surfaces, if he wants to, “It just flies...”
Rick rebuilt his low racer from the down tube back, in order to raise the seat and to get a steeper head tube angle. To make the bike easier to transport, he made the bike a take-apart, the joint being where the down tube meets the main horizontal tube. Three bolts on each side hold the two parts together.
Although Rick rides a lot of miles each year, he said, “Basically, this is my first tour of any kind.”
Interestingly, to those of us who think recumbents are the ultimate in comfort, Rick said his low racer is one of only five recumbents being ridden the entire 3,881 miles – three two-wheelers, including the Rans Mike Mowett mentions below, and two tricycles.
Since riders only have to carry items they need during each day's ride, most of the bikes on the tour from what I observed are road bikes, not touring bikes.
The shortest daily distance on the Sea to Sea was 41 miles; the longest, 113 on two consecutive days, followed by 100 miles on the third day. The most climbing in one day was 5,723 feet, with the ride that day totaling 95 miles. Each Sunday is a rest day.
UPDATE: On Aug. 30, Rick and about 190 other cyclists completed the Sea to Sea Tour, though not everyone went the entire distance. Final statistics, from Rick' s blog: Total miles, about 4,100; tires changed, two; no falls or accidents; and the only mechanical problem some broken front wheel spokes.

RICK GRITTERS and his homebuilt low racer, at the Sea to Sea overnight stop at Baseline Middle School in South Haven on Aug. 14. As of then, and hopefully for the rest of his journey, he had few problems with the bike. "Just in case," spare tires and an extra front wheel are among the items he carried in the semi-truck trailer that transported riders' belongings.

(Editing and some comments added by Mike Eliasohn)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Tonight, I had the opportunity to see Rick Gritters and the Sea to Sea: Ending the Cycle of Poverty group.
Rick's been in Michigan since Thursday, Aug. 14, and several Michiganders got to see and support him. Mike Eliasohn, our vice president and blog editor got to have dinner with him in South Haven on Thursday. The route came within a few blocks of Mike's apartment in St. Joseph.
John Foltz on his Baron rode with him Monday as the group neared Lansing. Don Smith on his Velokraft NoCom rode with him today on most of the leg. Tomorrow, the group crosses into Canada via a ferry across the St. Clair River.
The travelers were camped out this evening at Richmond High School f and I got there about 7:30 pm, as they were doing their nightly discussion/riders' meeting. I didn't get a chance to ride with Rick due to my work schedule.
An interesting announcements at the meeting were that you can't cross into Canada carrying potatoes or berries on your bicycle. The organizers cautioned against that.
Rick said more than half of the riders are Canadians. This past weekend, 60 new people joined the group for the final leg from Grand Rapids to the Atlantic coast. More than 200 riders are doing some or all the portions of the trip. About 125, including Rick, are riding the entire 3,881 miles from coast to coast. Rick said it is the largest group of bicyclists to ever cross the U.S. in an organized trip, bigger than even the RAAM event. About 10 people have dropped out so far for various reasons.
Rick gave me a booklet showing the route. The preparations that went into this ride were enormous by some individuals, including Ed Witvoet, who drove the entire route in February, logging all the mile markers, distances, elevation gains from his GPS, and checking in and making reservations/arrangements at each school or park they are staying at.
This big of a trip requires a lot of planning and commitment from the riders and the volunteers who are making it happen. At the riders' meeting, several speakers shared about why they are here and what led them in their life to go on this trip, considering it is for such a long time (up to two months). There was spiritual guidance involved, and the guidance of others.
People are from all over the country on this trip. Rick only really knew one person, before the trip, a gal from Pella, Iowa, but she had to drop out after hooking her handlebars on a brush or tree one day and crashing badly. In sharing more stories of how riders came to meet and know each other, some other amazing stories unfolded. Rick said he was out riding one day on a trail in Iowa, and came across a group of cyclists. In that group was a gal from California. Rick mentioned his trip, and she asked, "Is that the Sea to Sea trip?" She already knew about it, because her brother-in-law was going on it, and he wound up being with Rick in the same small-group nightly discussion group.
Tonight's featured topic was about a man named Mark, a Rans recumbent rider. He was a church pastor who put a considerable amount of his time and energy into making this trip happen, not only for himself and others. Unfortunately, Mark died suddenly of a heart attack in February, before he could go on the trip.
Two speakers spoke about him, and how he influenced them to go on the trip. One said he was contacted by Mark's wife to see if someone would be willing to ride his Rans recumbent on the trip, as sort of tribute to Mark. That was only a month before the trip, and the speaker was worried that everyone had their bikes already, and to switch to a new bike at the last moment was a risk few would take. After e-mails to the group, someone volunteered to ride the Rans, feeling greatly fulfilled to do so.
One rider received money from Mark's church to do the ride on a Friday, just before Mark had his heart attack on a Monday. The last speaker was Mark's wife, who gave a moving testimony about his life.
Rick told me it must be remembered the important thing about the Sea to Sea tour is not the ride but its mission to end poverty. The money the riders raised all goes to that purpose. (He said the goal was to raise $1.5 million, but close to $2 million has been raised so far.) The money needed to support the riders and the truck caravan came from corporate sponsors.
One semi-truck trailer Rick showed me houses a commercial kitchen, where workers traveling with the tour prepare breakfast and dinner for the riders and a lunch they carry with them to eat on the road.
Another semi trailer is filled with row upon row of shelves, filled top to bottom with white laundry baskets holding all the riders personnel belongings. Each rider gets two baskets. Non-breakable items, such as tents and sleeping bags, go in duffle bags which go in the trailer's center aisle. Each rider is allowed only 60 pounds of goods, counting their tent. (Among Rick's items are spare 20-inch/406mm tires and an extra front wheel.)
Such things like a portable public address system and folding tables and chairs also are transported and set up for the meetings each night.
Rick said 20 support staff are on the trip, with the motorized fleet including the aforementioned two semis, another semi truck carrying food, two motor homes and two 12-passenger vans. One trailer carries a portable toilet, for use at rest stops, which are set up about every 20-25 miles.
Rick is currently doing a tour of duty on the "sweep crew,” which has to clean up the campground or school property in the morning after the other riders depart. Everyone else has to be on the road by 9 a.m.
Members of the sweep crew rides check at rest stops with volunteers, who check in each rider as they pass through. Riders have gotten lost when going to stores and it may take hours to find them and get them back on the route. Each night, a sheet of paper is given to each rider, showing them the route for the next day.
There isn't a professional bicycle mechanic on the Sea to Sea, so Rick and some others have become the unofficial mechanics. While we were chatting, one lady asked him to check her tires. It seems most of their air pumps are worn out by now, according to Rick. I can imagine they were put to good use! (He said the group is averaging about 20 flat tires a day.)
Rick said he only had to change his front Schwalbe Stelvio tire, due to it getting damaged by something and then flatting. The rear tire is still going strong – with more than 3,000 miles on it since before the start of the trip. (He also uses Stelvios for racing.)
The weather was getting cold when I left. Rick said they had a lot of very hot days in the first half of
their trip, before about Missouri. Now the days are getting shorter and he says riders have to spend more time waiting for the sun to come up in the morning.
Photos I took are at:

THE DRIVETRAIN of Rick's bike consists of a Sturmey-Archer 8-speed hub, which he fitted with three sprockets, and dual chainrings, for a a total of 48 speeds. Since Rick uses the big chainring most of the time, shifting to the smaller chainring and back is done by hand; there's no front deraileur. The big chainring is on the inside, the opposite of normal, for better chain alignment. Notice that the bottom run of the chain runs directly from the chainring to the hub sprockets. Despite lack of an idler, Rick said the arrangement works fine.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Mich. Human Powered Vehicle Rally - June 21-22, 2008

DENNIS GRELK, shown here during the one-hour time trial in his Barracuda streamliner (built by Warren Beauchamp) won the streamliner class. He also won the stock class on his homebuilt low racer. (Photos by Mike Eliasohn)

By Mike Eliasohn, MHPVA vice president, and Mike Mowett, MHPVA president

The 25th annual Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Rally June 21-22, 2008, attracted 34 competitors to the Waterford Hills sports car racing track in Clarkston, the site since 1986. Several competitors entered more than one vehicle (and Dennis Grelk had three), so a total of 44 vehicles competed.
Of those, 28 competitors and 36 vehicles competed both days. Human Powered Race – America has added a tricycles-only class this year, which included a trikes-only race on Sunday, which no doubt was an incentive for some to compete both days.
In addition to Michigan, entrants came from Iowa, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Ontario.
This being the 25th annual, the hope was there would be a record turnout, but that was not to be. (The record of 50 was in 2001) Nevertheless, there were several first-timers who hopefully will return and several “regulars” who weren't there, but hopefully will be in 2009. Obviously, the price of gasoline may have been a deterrent.
Points were first awarded in each individual event on a 60, 55, 50, 45, 42, 39, 36, 34, 32, 30, 29… etc basis. Then points were totaled to give one score per day. This was a new rule put into place this year by the HPRA race directors to hopefully balance the scoring a bit.
Here's the top two overall in each class according to the HPRA Points system, where each rider can get a maximum of 60 points per day. No tandems competed.
Streamliners (four entries): 1) Dennis Grelk, Donnellson, Iowa, Barracuda;, 120 points; 2) John Simon, Portland, Michigan, Moby, 115.
Superstreet (three entries): 1) Chris Burkhardt, Daisy, Md., Go-One velomobile owned by Garrie Hill, 120s; 2) Tedd Wheeler, Reed City, Easy Racers Javelin with homemade tailbox, 110.

CHRIS BURKHARDT, riding Garrie Hill's Go-One velomobile (made in Germany) won the SuperStreet class. It's shown here during the one-hour time trial, minus the canopy. The Go-One was very popular for test rides.

Superstock (one entry): Garrie Hill, Granville. Ohio, Barcroft Oregon, 60. (He didn't compete Sunday.)
Stock (20 entries) – 1) Dennis Grelk, homebuilt low racer, 120; 2) tie: Mike Mowett, St. Clair Shores, Optima Baron lowracer and Tim Hicks, Barrie, Ont., homebuilt lowracer, 100 each .
Junior (one entry) – Nick Myers, Holly, Trek upright bicycle, 120.

JULIE PITKO on her Challenge Fujin lowracer (top) tied with Dora Cortez for first place in the women's class. Dora is shown racing her Rick Gritters-built low racer at the July 13 HPV races on the velodrome in Northbrook, Ill.

Women (three entries) – 1) tie: Dora Cortez, Chicago, Rick Gritters-built lowracer; Julie Pitko, Sault Ste. Marie, Challenge Fujin lowracer, 115 each.
Tricycle (nine entries) – 1) Chris Burkhardt, Greenspeed SLR, 115; 2) Chris Cortez, Chicago, Greenspeed, 110.
A total of $405 in prize money was distributed, typically $25 for first place in class, $20 for second and $15 for third, provided there were participants in the class racing both days. Because the stock class had the most participants by far, the winner received $40 and prize money was paid down to sixth place ($10).
Here's the first place winners in the individual events, not including the two classes with one rider. Complete results are available at:

SATURDAY: One-hour time trial: Streamliner – With John Simon dropping out due to a blown tire and Dennis Grelk due to a suspension part breaking, Warren Beauchamp of Elgin, Ill., was first with an average speed of 32.035 mph. Superstreet -- Bob Krzewinski, Ypsilanti, Lightning F40, 21.863 mph. Stock – Dennis Grelk, 27.442 mph. Women – Julie Pitko, 19.178 mph. Tricycles – Chris Burkhardt, 20.527 mph.
Hill climb – Streamliner – Dennis Grelk, 22.61 seconds. Superstreet – Bob Krzewinski, 23.85 sec. Stock – Dennis Grelk, 22.23 sec. Women – Jane Hunn, North Winchester, Ind., Specialized Sequoia upright bicycle, 29.09 sec. Tricycles – Tim Hicks, 22.05 sec.
Coast down – John Simon in his Moby once again coasted the farthest from the top of the hill, but the top four – all streamliners –– came to a stop within about 31 feet of each other. Dennis Grelk was second, Rich Myers of Xenia, Ohio, in his Moby was third and Warren Beauchamp was fourth. Superstreet – Bob Krzewinski; stock, Dennis Grelk; women, Dora Cortez; and tricycles, Chris Burkhardt.

SUNDAY: 200-foot sprints: Streamliners, Dennis Grelk, 43,71 mph, just ahead of John Simon at 43.43 mph. SuperStreet – Chris Burkhardt, Go-One velomobile, 35.05 mph. Stock – Dennis Grelk, 38.30 mph. Junior – Nick Myers, 28.89 mph. Women – Dora Cortez, 32.78 mph. Tricycles – Chris Burkhardt, Greenspeed SLR, 32.94 mph.
For the first-ever tricycle race, a special course 0.33 miles per lap was laid out for the 15-lap road race, with the emphasis on cornering. Nine trikes competed. Tim Hicks on his modified CatTrike was first at an average speed of 17.504 mph, followed by Chris Cortez on a Greenspeed, borrowed from Garrie Hill, 16.910 mph.
The final event was the 25-lap road race for the two-wheelers. This was the same course used in the past, about 1 kilometer in length, with S-turns and for the racers' benefit after a long weekend of racing, did not include the hill! Streamliners – John Simon, 29.210 mph, followed by Richard Myers. Dennis Grelk and Warren Beauchamp had to choose between racing their streamliners or stock class bikes and chose the latter. John was the only competitor to race 25 laps; after he finished, the race ended for all others the next time they crossed the finish line. Superstreet – Tedd Wheeler was the lone competitor, 18.461 mph (17 laps). Stock – Dennis Grelk, 26.149 mph (24 laps). Junior– Nick Myers, 16.845 mph (16 laps). Women – Julie Pitko, 19.619 mph (18 laps).

WARREN BEAUCHAMP on his Velokraft NoCom leads MHPVA President Mike Mowett on his Optima Baron during the one-hour time trial on Saturday.

Special mention should be made of Dennis Grelk, who came with his parents, Dwayne and Mary. Their normal 10-hour trip from and to Iowa took 12 hours because they had to detour far from their normal route to get to a bridge that was open across the flooded Mississippi River. In addition to Dennis' streamliner and stock class bike, they also brought urban transportation contest entries for him (a mountain bike fitted with an XtraCycle extension and Mary's Hase KettWiesel tricycle). Brad Bosworth also came from Iowa (the town of Nevada).
Oakland Press reporter Randal Yakey and photographer Jose Juarez were at the rally on Saturday and their article on Sunday, in time for some people who read it to come watch the morning's events. To see the article, plus a short video, go to, click on “archives” at left and then on the date of the article, June 22.
Thanks to all those who helped conduct the event – Mike Mowett, Bill Frey, Warren Beauchamp, Garrie Hill, Luke Gilbert and Terry Gerweck. Apologies to anyone omitted. (Terry Gerweck and Mike Eliasohn started the Michigan HPV Rally, with the first two events held in Monroe.)
Thanks also to Reverse Gear (, a new maker of recumbent-specific clothing, based in Toronto. It donated a jersey worth $70-80. Sunday competitors participated in a drawing and the winner was Scott Forthoffer of St. Clair Shores. (Actually, Scott got a letter telling him how to contact the company. That way, the winner could get a jersey in his or her size.)

IN THE FIRST-EVER TRICYCLE RACE, Chris Burkhardt on his Greenspeed SLR leads Tim Hicks on a modified CatTrike. Tim finished first and Chris fourth in the 5-mile race. Chris Cortez on a Greenspeed was second. The trikes were leaving skid marks on this tight turn.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Mich. HPV Rally Urban Transportation Contest - June 22, 2008


By Paul Pancella

Five contestants accepted the challenge of the Urban Transportation Contest at Waterford this year. One highlight was the first entry of a real velomobile (#144). In the following table I list the contestants, their vehicles, and their final scores, in finishing order:

Table 1 UTC contestants and final scores, in finishing order

140 Bob Krzewinski LCD Lightning F40 faired bicycle, 2007 68.2
822 Richard Myers WizWheelz tricycle (tadpole) 2002 65.7
806 Dennis Grelk mountain bike with XtraCycle extension 62.6
807 Mary Grelk Hase KettWiesel tricycle (delta) 59.6
144 Chris Burkhardt Go-One 3-wheel velomobile, 2008 49.3


Another highlight was the entry of Dennis Grelk’s mother, Mary, who performed very respectably on a well-equipped delta trike (two wheels in rear). The delta configuration is known for its ability to make tight low-speed turns; Mary took advantage of this and got the best score on turning radius (no reversing required). She also had the shortest stopping distance by a good margin.

Editor: The second table can't be reproduced here due to technical difficulties. It shows the breakdown of each competitor's total score, with points being awarded on the coast down result; rider visibility day and night (that is, lights); turning radius; time of grocery run; braking resistance; weather protection; comfort; carrying of tools and lock; and pulling gear ratio.

Editor: The top score in each judged category was: Coast down, Krzewinski; day vision, Myers; night visibility, D. Grelk; turning radius, M. Grelk; grocery run, Myers; braking distance, M. Grelk; weather protection, Burkhardt; comfort, Burkhardt; spares, Krzewinski; gear ratio, Myers.

While the fully-enclosed and suspended Go-One scored well for comfort and weather protection, it took some penalties for being heavy, lacking functional lights, and no tools aboard. Chris’ braking was hampered by some lever interference on the handlebar, resulting in perhaps the longest braking distance this contest has ever seen at ~53 feet! (Something we missed in the tech inspection?) Adding lights, tools and spares and fixing the brakes probably would have put the Go-One in the top tier of scores.


This year’s winner was Bob “WolverBob” Krzewinski, a veteran and previous winner of the urban transportation contest. In 2004, Bob won the UTC with his Ryan Vanguard/Burley trailer combo. In a sense, the winning vehicle this year was also a repeat. In 2006, then MHPVA President Wally Kiehler won with very similar scores and a very similar F40 setup (same number, different vehicle).
With the number of contestants dwindling, perhaps the UTC has run its course at Waterford. Cash awards will be made for first and second place finishers. Congratulations to Bob K. and Richard Myers!
If you want to keep the UTC running next year, and especially if you want to enter, write to the newsletter/blog editor, come to our winter meeting, or let me know some other way, so we can determine if it is worth continuing this event.


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Some interesting cycles

TIM HICKS of Barrie, Ont., was a first-timer at the 2008 Michigan HPV Rally, bringing with him two cycles that he built. Top: He warms up on his low racer, using rollers, prior to the Sunday morning races, while talking to Ken Scott of Muskegon, seated on Tim's tricycle (bottom photo). Tim uses mild steel tubing for all of his frames because it's cheap. The low racer uses 1-1/2-inch square, .0625 wall. The rear wheel is 700c (27 in.); front, 451mm (20 in.); wheelbase is about 50 in. In addition to making the frame, Tim made the seat frame (from EMT tubing), built the wheels, shortened the cranks to 140mm and made the oval chainrings. A clever feature of his tricycle is the boom supporting the bottom bracket is hinged at the axle, so it can be folded for easy transporting. Ken rode Tim's trike in the 5-mile tricycles-only race, while Tim raced and won on his modified Catrike. All the details about the many HPVs Tim has built, plus a lot of other information, is available on his Web site,

VINCENT ROBINET of Toronto came to the 2008 Michigan HPV Rally to spectate, but brought the take-apart front-wheel-drive bike he built with him. In two pieces, it fits in the trunk of his Volkswagen Jetta sedan. The rear section of the square tube under the seat fits inside the front piece. A clamp and pin hold the two parts of the frame together. The cable to the rear brake comes apart. The front wheel is 20x1.5; the rear is 26 in. A 24 in. fork is used for the rear stays. The bike has 148mm cranks and 15 speeds. The seat is from an old Rans. Robinet first rode the bike in 2007, but as of when the photos were taken, was still doing some tweaking before painting the frame. If it's not obvious, the cranks move horizontally as the front wheel is steered. Robinet said starting to move is the hard part. "It's a bit of a leaning curve, but I've gotten used to it by now."

DAN WILSON of Bridgman cut up two chopper bikes in order to take advantage of their very wide rear wheels and tires, to build a beach bike for riding over sand. Unfortunately, it didn't work as well as he wanted, his thought being that the tires, though wide, have a rounded tread, so they "dig" into the sand, rather than riding over the top. But it's still an interesting looking bike. That's Dan riding it. The only part of the project he didn't do was the welding, which was done by Dave Anstey of Stevensville.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

St. Joseph Human Powered Boat Meet - June 14, 2008

St. Joseph Human Powered Boat Meet organizer Dan Grow carries his boat into the St. Joseph River. This was the third annual event organized by the St. Joseph resident. For more information about his boat, which weighs about 50 pounds, see article below about the 2007 gathering. "Idling" in the background in Jake Free of Elkhart, Ind.

Bill Goldthorpe of Palos Hills, Ill., prepares to unload his 12-foot long boat. It's his own design, made from 1/4-inch plywood bought at a Home Depot store and covered with fiberglass. In front of the fixed-position seat is the dry well, in which the drive unit drops. To accommodate different size riders, there's multiple positions for the drive unit.

Bill Goldthorpe holds his homemade drive unit, which uses a bicycle cottered crank and part of a bicycle fork, McMaster-Carr sprockets and chain (smaller than a bicycle chain) and a model airplane propeller. (If anyone knows how to get this photo upright, please e-mail

Bill Goldthorpe's and Dan Grow's boats in the water and almost in the water respectively. (Photos and text by Mike Eliasohn)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

25th annual Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Rally

Saturday-Sunday, June 21-22, 2008
Waterford Hills sports car racing track, Waterford, Mich. (near Pontiac)

Open to riders of of all human powered vehicles -- recumbents, regular bikes, tandems. Classes for streamlined, unstreamlined cycles, tandems, women, youth, tricycles. Conducted using Human Powered Race - America rules ( Note: HPRA rules require all vehicles to have mirror/mirrors enabling rear vision to both sides.

This is the 25th year of the Michigan rally, conducted by the Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Association. It is the longest-running HPV event in North America and one of the oldest in the world. Please join us to make the silver anniversary rally the best ever!

We are looking for many of the "old-timers" we haven't seen in recent year to get your HPV out of the garage, storage shed or basement and remember the fun you used to have. Also, if you are one of those "stud" racers in the West, East, overseas, etc. who has never come to Waterford, we'd love to have you come and race! You don't know what you've been missing! (Non-stud racers also welcome.)

Here's the schedule of events:


8-9 am - Registration, vehicle Inspection, practice.
9:30 am - ONE HOUR TIME TRIAL 1 (streamliner, superstreet clases. Multirider vehicles can race in either 1-hour).
11:30 am - ONE HOUR TIME TRIAL 2 (superstock, stock, women, junior, tricycle classes). Contestants pedal for 60 minutes around the track. While not really racing against each other, each contestant's final distance will be computed and compared to others. Drafting not allowed in this event.
Lunch - Bring your own food or eat at nearby restaurant.
2 pm - HILL CLIMB/COAST-DOWN. Contestants timed as they pedal to the top of the hill (28 feet climb); then they stop pedaling and coast as far as possible, with scoring based on how far they coasted compared to competitors in their class. The best streamliners have coasted over a mile!
2 pm – URBAN TRANSPORTATION CONTEST. Test your vehicle in a variety of activities, including carrying cargo, stop-and-go and tight turning. Note: You can run in this event and the hill climb/coast down and scores in that event will be included in the UTC score.
3:30 pm - STANDING START KILOMETER: Contestants are timed as they pedal 1 kilometer (0.621 mile) as fast as they can from a standing start on a flat part of the course. There are three turns.
6 to 9 pm - DINNER at the track: The Oakland County Sportsmen's Club will be serving a steak and pasta dinner for only $10 at its lodge, just outside and within walking distance of the track. Cash bar is available with $1 draft beer and $2 mixed drinks. This will be a public event, all are welcome, pay at the door. Music and entertainment after 8 pm. This replaces the previously scheduled Saturday evening barbecue at the track.


8-9 am - Registration, vehicle inspection, practice.
9 am - SPRINTS (top speed runs). Contestants start on top of the hill on the course, then pedal down and speed through a 200-foot section of the back straightway, where they are electronically timed.
10:30 am - TRIKE ROAD RACE - Short course race, 10 laps through the S-bends and with a hairpin turn thrown in just for fun! Race distance: about 4 miles.
11 am - 25-LAP ROAD RACES. 25 laps (15.6 miles) around the track (one for each year of the rally) on the flat section. First race for the fastest vehicles in the sprints and second race for everyone else. Note: Probably not a HPRA series point race.
1 pm - Awards ceremony for both days' races. Cash prizes! Can't stay? We'll mail certificates and prizes to you.

ENTRY FEES: One day only, $30; both days, $40 (includes MHPVA membership). Test ride pass, $5. Spectators free.

For more information: Contact Mike Eliasohn, 269-982-4058 or e-mail .

From I-75, get off at exit 91. Take M-15 south to Dixie Hwy. (US-24). Turn left, continuing south about 1 mile and turn
left onto Waterford Road, then proceed to track.
If coming from the west, take U.S. 23 north (or south) to M-59 (Highland Road). Go east on M-59 to Airport Road, then left
(north) to US-24. Turn left, then immediately right onto Waterford Road. Go about a half-mile to track.

PLACES TO STAY ON YOUR WAY TO MICHIGAN HPV RALLY. Calling in advance to make a reservation is suggested.

MOTELS (with approximate distances/direction from Waterford Hills track)

Clarkston -- Clarkston Motor Inn, 6853 Dixie Hwy. (US-10), 248-625-1522, 12 rooms, 2 miles northeast.

Hartland -- Best Western of Hartland, 10087 M-59 at US-23, 810-632-7177, 61 rooms. About 18 miles west.

Waterford -- ConCorde Inn of Waterford, 7076 Highland Road (M-59), 248-666-8555, 111 rooms. About 3 miles southwest.

Waterford -- Highlander Motel, 2201 Dixie Hwy. at Telegraph Road, 248-338-4061, 50 rooms. About 6 miles southeast.

Waterford – Holiday Inn Express, 4350 Pontiac Lake Road, 248-674-3434, 83 rooms. About 7 miles southwest..

Whitmore Lake -- Best Western of Whitmore Lake, 9897 Main St. (off US-23, exit 53), 734-449-2058, 61 rooms. About 33 miles southwest.


Free camping available overnight Friday and Saturday at the Waterford Hills Sportsman Club, site of the HPV rally, starting at 6 p.m. Friday. Restrooms, showers available and possibly electrical hookups.


Highland Recreation Area, 5200 E. Highland Road (M-59), White Lake, 248-889-3750. Two miles east of Highland,

Holly Recreation Area, 8100 Grange Hall Road, Holly, 248-634-8811. Five miles east of Holly.

Ortonville Recreation Area, 5779 Hadley Road, Ortonville, 810-797-4439. Four miles northeast of Ortonville.

Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, 7800 Gale Road, 248-666-1020. Closest to Waterford Hills track, about 4 miles west.


Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park of Holly, 7072 E. Grange Hall Road, 248-634-8621, or 800-442-9644. About 12 miles northwest of Waterford (I-75, exit 101).

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mich. HPV Association annual meeting - March 1, 2008

By Paul Pancella, MHPVA secretary
Photos by Mike Eliasohn

The annual winter meeting of the MHPVA and Wolver-Bents was held March 1 at Washtenaw County Community College near Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. About 20 members and guests were in attendance.
At 12:40, Bob Krzewinski of the Wolver-Bents gave his “Buying your first recumbent” talk to some interested neophytes.
“Show and tell” began at 1 p.m. Bob K. opened by showing his (partially) new Lightning F-40. Insurance paid for the new frameset and body sock after Bob was struck by a motorist a couple of years ago, while riding his old F-40.
Dave Moeller showed a front-wheel drive tricycle he built. (See separate article below.)
Perennial speedster Chris Evans showed two vehicles, his new VeloKraft NoCom carbon fiber low-racer, then his Catrike Speed tricycle with homemade fairing. The fairing was made with pink foam insulating panels, and is not extremely aerodynamic. The purpose of the fairing is mainly weather protection, allowing Chris to ride more outdoor training miles.

CHRIS EVANS OF FLINT ON HIS VeloKraft NoCom. (Photos were taken in the foyer of the Washtenaw County Community College building following the meeting.)


John Foltz showed his Optima Baron and Mike Mowett his Norus Streamliner, which he bought from Rob Wood of Ohio, who acquired it from the designer and builder, Gilles Poirier of Canada. (Ask Mike about the “butt bubbles.”)


Bob K. made some Wolver-Bents announcements before the MHPVA business meeting started at 1:55.
Treasurer Bill Frey presented his report covering 2007. It showed expenses of $1,226 and income of $1,412, for a net gain of $186. We maintain about $1,700 cash in reserve, so even with the added $50 expense to rent the WCCC meeting room, we are in sound financial shape. The treasurer's report was accepted unanimously.
Rick Wianecki, our Human Powered Racing - America representative, attended the recent HPR-A race directors meeting, but could not attend today’s meeting. He forwarded the minutes to the MHPVA officers. Not much startling news to report. A separate tricycle class is now available for scoring if enough vehicles show at a given event. The lap timing system is aging, and it may be necessary to purchase some new transponders this year. There was some discussion (and a little confusion) about who will pay, and when it might become more economical to replace the whole system.


Paul Bruneau gave a brief report on our new blog, Although items are open to comments, primary postings should still go through our newsletter editor, Mike Eliasohn. This arrangement will allow us to post news in a more timely fashion, so be sure to check it out, if you haven’t already.
This year’s Michigan HPV Rally will be our 25th, and will take place June 21-22 at the Waterford Hills raceway. Much of the weekend will be the same as we are used to, with the usual lineup of events, free camping available on site, and cash awards on about the same prize budget. The entry fee will be $30 per vehicle to compete one day or $40 for both days, which will include an MHPVA membership.
We will sell commemorative T-shirts and have a special cookout on Saturday evening. The MHPVA will provide ice and charcoal, and maybe some other stuff. Anyone who wants to join in can bring whatever they want to cook and/or share with others.
A motion to add a “UCI-legal” class for regular upright bicycles to the Waterford competition was raised but failed on the vote. A motion to donate $100 for HPRa timing system upgrades passed.
The final item of business was elections. The following members were nominated and elected to serve as officers:
President: Mike Mowett, St. Clair Shores
Vice-President: Mike Eliasohn, St. Joseph
Secretary: Paul Pancella, Kalamazoo
Treasurer: Bill Frey, Grosse Pointe Farms
The members expressed their great appreciation for Wally Kiehler’s many years of outstanding service as our president. Four nominations were made for two directors-at-large: Paul Bruneau, Terry Gerweck, Wally Kiehler, and Don Smith. Gerweck and Kiehler declined the nominations, so Bruneau of Portage and Smith of Sterling Heights were elected.
The meeting adjourned at about 3:30 pm.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Three wheels and an old crank

Linden, Mich.


I'm psycho about trikes.
How did this mania begin? I need to make things. I have been a lifelong woodworker/wood turner, along with many other interests. My wife made 17 quilts last year and I machine quilted them for her.
I retired in December 2003, and we moved to Linden and a new purpose-built woodshop. About two years later I realized we had all the furniture we needed and was looking for a new challenge (along with the new quilting hobby). And then I saw Howard Hung's Wooden Chopper. (Go to or try and find his entry. (Editor: Or go to, scroll down to "articles," then click on "more wooden bikes.") There was no going back now.
While I began plans for my own bike, I continued to surf the Net and found Robert Horn's F'Lowroller. (There are two versions shown in the bikerodnkustom gallery). I was helpless. I bought a welder.
I made a short series of bikes and scooters to learn to weld. These have all been dismantled to hide the evidence. I then built the F'Lowroller, according to Horn's plans.
It was more of a challenge learning to ride it than building it. I soon discovered it took a lot of uumph to get it going. I should explain that by then I was about 64 years old and I'm 6-foot-5 and weigh around 280 pounds. I hadn't ridden any bike in years and now I was trying to ride my butt down the street on this thing. I learned to ride it but the physical strain soon took the fun out of riding it.
It was trike time. I bought two 20-inch and two 26-inch front forks and two 20-inch BMX wheels with 14mm axles from the local bike shop and converted the bike to a trike. It is front-wheel-drive with a seven-speed hub. Yes, there is some pedal steer but I'm a recreational rider, so it is not a problem. I did discover that during hard cornering there was a tendency to lift a rear wheel, which of course was a little disconcerting.


This led to what is the latest version, the MOEroller. I used the same forks but reconfigured them into a more flowing design, which also lowered the center of gravity by about 4 inches. Success! I also switched from foam seating to a web seat using trampoline material.



This configuration reduced pedal steer by changing the alignment of my legs in relation to the pedals. Yes, the wheel kicks your foot off the pedal in a tight turn. At high speeds you don't turn the wheel that far anyway (more than once). To make a U-turn on the street, I get up enough steam to zoom through the turn without pedaling. I feel as if I were in my Triumph TR4 roadster again!
During all this, I discovered Between alterations on the F'Lowroller, I built the Delta Wolf Speed Trike. (Plans are available from atomiczombie.) After the photo was taken, I added a seven-speed hub "transmission" just behind the seat, making it a 21 speed.


My only criticism of the Delta Wolf is that it is heavy. It currently is on the workbench and torn down. Note: Measure doorways before making the rear end. I'm narrowing it so I don't have to tip it up and rassle it through the doorway.
The transmission works well, but under heavy pedal pressure the assembly twists and throws the chain. A heavier, better designed mount should correct this. The foam and vinyl seat will be replaced by a web seat and won't be quite as laid back.All the trikes can be found on the Zombie site' gallery.
I live in Linden, about 10 miles south of Flint. You can contact me at if I can be of any assistance.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Pedal powered boats

CROSSING UNDER the Blossomland Bridge during Daniel Grow’s second
annual gathering for human powered boats are (from left) Daniel Grow of St. Joseph; Warren Beauchamp, Big Rock, Ill.; and Jake Free, Elkhart, Ind.

DANIEL GROW idles in the St. Joseph River on the pedal-powered,
propeller-driven boat he built. It’s 20-feet long and with the outriggers, 8 feet wide. Almost everything is made of foam and covered with fiberglass or carbon fiber.

Article and photos by MICHAEL ELIASOHN

ST. JOSEPH – Amidst the pleasure boats on the St. Joseph River near Lake Michigan on a Saturday morning in June 2007 were three boats that didn’t look like any other boats.
They didn’t have motors or sails or paddles or oars. What each of the three boats had was a person pedaling in a recumbent position, with a bicycle chain driving a propeller. Each of the boaters was also the builder, at least in part.

The second annual gathering of human powered boats was organized by St. Joseph resident Daniel Grow.

The other two participants were Jake Free of Elkhart, Ind., who built his first pedal-powered propeller-driven boat in 1977 and manufactures parts for other human-powered boat builders, and HPV builder/racer/Webmaster Warren Beauchamp of Big Rock, Ill., who was pedaling the third boat he has built.

Grow said he decided to build his own boat after attending Beauchamp’s annual Hydrobowl Human Powered Boat Rally in 2004 in Rockford, Ill. Grow competed then on a surf ski, which is paddled like a kayak, but has a foot- controlled rudder.

He discovered the pedal-powered boats were faster, so decided to design and build his own.
The boat is Grow’s own design. “I wanted to test an idea for the hull shape,” he said.
The hull is 20 feet long, 12 inches wide and at the most, 8 inches deep. It sinks into the water about 4 inches.

He made the hull by tracing the cross sections onto 2-inch thick pieces of foam. He then cut out each section using a hot wire, glued each section to the next with epoxy – that’s a total of 120 sections – then sanded the foam hull to the final shape. Grow then covered the foam hull with from one to four layers of fiberglass and/or carbon fiber.

The outrigger floats are 5 feet long and 8 feet apart. Construction of the outrigger assembly, which easily detaches for transporting the boat, was similar to that for the hull.
Grow also made the seat and propeller. His first driveline incorporated a propeller shaft, but had too much friction, so he replaced it with part of a bicycle frame upside down, so the pedals would be high enough. The chain twists as it runs to a sprocket driving the propeller.

THE DRIVETRAIN OF DANIEL GROW'S BOAT. The propeller is on the front of the strut and "pulls" the boat forward, that is, Grow moves through the water going forward, not backwards.

The boat weighs 50 pounds maximum, much less than similar boats, he said.
Grow sits on top of the hull, not in it. At speed on a calm surface, only the trailing edges of the floats are in the water.
Grow first lauched his boat in 2005 and usually only gets it in the water three times a year, for his event and the races organized by Free in Elkhart and by Beauchamp.
At those other events, Grow has won sprint and drag races, which don’t require turning . “It’s basically like a 20-foot long rudder in the water and it doesn’t want to turn,” he said about his boat, which for that reason works best in a straight line.
During Grow’s gathering on June 16, he, Beauchamp and Free pedaled their boats about 1.5 miles up the St. Joseph River from the launch site near where it enters into Lake Michigan.
Free’s “Liza” is a monohull, 24 feet long and 10 inches wide. The patented pedal drive is laminated into the hull and has been pedaled hundreds of miles so far, he said in an e-mail.
The boat is stabilized by two outrigger floats that are out of the water when the boat is steady and skim the surface when needed to stabilize it.
In contrast to Grow’s and Free’s homebuilts, Beauchamp started by buying a manufactured Necky sea kayak, 19 feet long and made of Kevlar.
He then made an opening in the hull, called a dry well, to accomodate a drop-in drive unit made by Seawind Boat Corp., which has the propeller at one end and the pedals at the other end. The drive unit can be removed easily to transport the boat or to unclog the propeller.
Pedal powered, propeller-driven boats have several advantages over using oars or paddles, according to Grow:
+ Power is continuous, rather than the in-and-out of the water propulsion provided by oars or paddles. In rough water, it may be difficult to keep oars or paddles in the water, but a propeller under the boat is always providing power.
+ The most efficient rowboats use sliding seats so that the rower is using his leg muscles as well as his arm, shoulder and back muscles. But with the rower moving back and forth as he rows and the seat slides, the bow and stern rise and fall.
In contrast, pedal powered boats go through the water smoothly since the rider isn’t moving back and forth.
+ Rowing at maximum efficiency requires learned skills. Riding a pedal-powered boat is no more difficult than riding a bicycle.

On the Web:, which has a link to Free’s Web site.
Beauchamp is Webmaster of the site. To read about his boat projects there, click here.
Grow can be contacted at grow.daniel@gmailcom

This article originally appeared in The Herald-Palladium newspaper, St. Joseph, Mich., on July 27, 2007. Some minor changes have been made.