Monday, July 6, 2020

A rolling tribute to 'Chainsaw'

Editor’s note: Jim “Chainsaw” Johnson of Holly, who played a big role in creation of Terry Gerweck’s latest project, died April 22 at age 60. Among survivors were his wife, Dora “Giggles” Johnson, who also is mentioned in this article.
From his obituary: “Jim was a co-founder of Freakbike Nation; he grew a huge family of followers of like-minded people having fun with a hobby."

By Terry Gerweck, Monroe, Mich.

My latest project bike is my answer to a fat tire cruiser, with the usual urge to have something you can’t go buy! 
Like all my builds, it floated around in my head long enough for me to “acquire” most of the raw materials to start construction. 
The rear portion of the frame and bottom bracket are from a really rough Schwinn / Orange County Chopper Stingray purchased at the Ann Arbor-Saline Classic Bicycle Show and Swap Meet (while there with Jim and Dora).

The front triangle of the frame is from a kinda unique 20-inch wheel Parker bicycle picked up from someone’s trash. A couple chunks of curved tubes from my “raw materials” stock formed the top tube.
The fork and the front wheel (which is really another rear wheel) came from Jim’s stash of parts when Dora was attempting to clean out their storage unit. 
The wheels and tires are both 20 x 4 -1/4 inch units from Schwinn / OCC Stingrays. 
It has wheelbase of 48.5 in., is currently running as a single speed and is geared to go “nowhere fast.” It might eventually be upgraded to have gears and a derailleur. I haven’t weighed the thing, but it’s not too bad, probably 35 pounds or so.
This was to be a conspiracy build with Jim Johnson. We were going to do the actual build – welding, assembly and all – on Saturday morning at Bike Fest in Owosso last summer. We had talked and schemed about it, sharing the plans and parts list. Jim was gonna bring the welder and I was gonna bring the grinder.
But we didn’t get around to it last year and then Jim got sick and, well, procrastination won.

As I still had most of the pieces and parts, the bike still wanted to be built and a tribute to Jim seemed the perfect motivation. 
To top it off Dora, in an effort to spread the love, invited their freak bike friends to Jim’s “work shop” to cherry pick his years’ long collection of EVERYTHING that could be imagined in a freak bike that Jim would have built. 
More than one of us “cherry picking’ Freaks” have or will dedicate the build the acquired parts turn up in to Jim’s spirit. In my case, the front wheel and fork and a couple things yet to be determined went into this project. 
The motivation part came when Dora chose to have a memorial Freak Bike Ride in Holly on June 5 to take Jim to his final resting place. So you see, Jim and Dora, “Chainsaw” and “Giggles,” still had a hand in this build. Just not the way originally planned.

Terry and his yet-to-be-named creation at the memorial ride for Jim "Chainsaw" Johnson June 5 in Holly.  About 20 Freakbikers participated.

At the moment, it is finished in typical freakbike fashion, that is welded, assembled, and ridden, no paint required! It will likely get a coat of paint, some special stickers and there are a couple additional modifications planned.
The still un-named project rides as well as I intended (and better than I deserve) and I think Jim would approve. 
Of course it runs a tag that says,“Why run with scissors when you can ride with CHAINSAW”.

Monday, April 20, 2020

No Michigan HPV Rally - or get-together

The article below mentions the possibility of an informal get-together for HPVers in August, in lieu of the cancelled Michigan HPV Rally.
Unfortunately, there are no signs the COVID-19 pandemic is "slowing down," plus I haven't detected much enthusiasm for my idea, so there WON'T be a get-together/gathering.
As of when I write this (July 6), the only HPV event still scheduled is Dennis Grelk's event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, mentioned below.  (Update as of Aug. 4:  Dennis has now cancelled his event for this year.)
Another event that would have been of interest to HPVers, the Recumbent Cycle-Con trade show scheduled Oct. 9-11 in Dayton, Ohio, was recently rescheduled to Oct. 8-10, 2021.
May "normal" return in 2021 and may we all still be around then to enjoy our fun activities.

                                                                                        – Mike

By Mike Eliasohn

What would have been the 36th annual Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Rally May 16-17 at the Waterford Hills sports car racing track in Clarkston has been canceled. It will not be rescheduled (until 2021), although there is the possibility of a “gathering” later (please keep reading).
According to an email from Garrie Hill, who coordinates insurance for the Human Powered Race America events, “Our carrier says that until a full ‘all clear“ is issued from each state government involved, no insurance binders will be issued.  As far as I can say, no insurance for liability means no race.”
Conceivably co-organizer Mike Mowett and I could have rescheduled the rally for later, likely in August, but there would still be the possibility of having to cancel that date.
Hopefully things will be back to semi-normal by August, but it’s hard to conceive there will be an “all clear” by then.
Please consider attending Dennis Grelk’s races at Hawkeye Downs Raceway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Sept. 19-20, which may be the only HPRA event this year. For most of us, it’s a long drive to Cedar Rapids, but keep in mind that Dennis and his family have been making the long drive from Iowa to our events for many years. For details, go to
Also, in lieu of the Michigan HPV Rally, would people be interested in attending an informal gathering, an opportunity to view, test ride and talk recumbents and other interesting cycles.
What I (Mike E.) have in mind is meeting some place on a Saturday in August from say 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., possibly Aug. 8, since that’s the day prior to Owosso Bike Fest – if that event is held.
I’m thinking a large parking lot – on a college campus, at a factory, semi-abandoned shopping center or a big church – near I-94 somewhere between Ann Arbor and Detroit. Access to a restroom(s) will be a must.
No registration, no entry fees (though we might have to take up a collection to pay someone to clean the restrooms) and no racing, since we won’t have insurance. And, if, for instance, social distancing and/or wearing masks is still highly recommended, easy to cancel (that is, no advance preparation being required, hence no wasted effort).
I’m thinking we can invite freak bikers and other builders/riders of interesting cycles.

So if you think a gathering is a good idea, OR NOT, please email me at or call 269-281-0797.  And, for us to meet, we need a place, so please send me your suggestions and be willing to make contacts.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Some HPV updates & new bikes (homemade)

By Mike Eliasohn

Nothing has changed yet since I posted, "Will there be a Michigan HPV Rally in 2020?," on March 22.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's current stay-at-home order expires April 13. It seems very likely it will be extended. Once she updates her order, Mike Mowett and I will decide on the fate of the rally, though the decision may be made for us.
Should her extended order end May 15, we have to decide do we want to meet the day after that.
If we do not or cannot conduct the rally May 16-17, there are some choices:  1) Cancellation, that is, no rally this year; 2) reschedule the rally, if there's an open date in July or August at Waterford Hills; 3) if not, conduct the rally elsewhere, for instance, could we rent a paved oval race track somewhere; or, 4) my admitted favorite, conduct an informal gathering   on a Saturday in August. The gathering could be at a large parking lot and/or on roads that have little traffic on Saturdays – for instance, at a college, factory or church.(Access to a restroom at the site would be necessary. No, "McDonald's is 2 miles down the road.")
The gathering would be free, unless the area is big enough to conduct a time trial, for which we might have to charge a small amount to pay for insurance. 
And if worse-comes-to-worse, it would be easy to cancel. (In other words, no track rental fee to get refunded, no advance registration, etc.)
So if you have a preference for one of the four alternatives, or other suggestions, PLEASE post something under "comments" or send an email to me at And if you know of an alternative site to Waterford Hills, presumably an oval race track or large parking lot, please let me know (especially if you have connections).

New vehicles: At the 2019 Michigan HPV Rally, Rob Lloyd of Whitmore Lake said the next recumbent he was going to build would be for his son, Cameron, who was then 12.
(See blog article dated Aug. 20, 2019)
Cameron's new ride is now done. Here it is:

Rob documented the entire build process on  Go to "specialty discussions," then "homebuilders," then "Mid-racer --- for a shorter rider."
Meanwhile, Charles Brown is still building his newest wood recumbent at home in Southfield. (Now that he's a homeowner, hurry Charles and get it done before lawn mowing season starts.)
Here's two photos, which he sent me March 30.

And here's the latest project of Terry Gerweck of Monroe, pieced/welded together from three or so frames, and obviously not for racing. Wheelbase is about 46 inches. Next, Terry has to work out the seat.

Updates: As originally posted on March 27, "Unique Recumbent tricycle needs new home," Bruce Gordon said because of the odd-size front wheels, he suggested the new owner should build new front wheels using a more common size tire.  But after that, I (Mike E.) did some research.  J&B, a wholesale supplier to most bicycle shops, stocks the tires needed for the current front wheels, 24x1/520c, so the article has now been updated to report that.
So if you read the article and was interested in Bruce's trike, but was repelled by the thought and expense of building new wheels, that no longer is a deterrent.
And the article, "Wally's next adventure," originally posted Feb. 24, has now been updated to include some comments from Wally Kiehler after he got home, after his planned coast-to-coast ride was cut short because of the COVID-19 epidemic.

And lastly, hopefully a bit of humor during these grim times.  The idea was mine; the drawing is by Charles.

Introducing the Covid Distancer

Wherever you go, keep everyone 
at least 6 feet away

Friday, March 27, 2020

Unique recumbent tricycle has new home

BRUCE'S TRICYCLE HAS A NEW OWNER, BUT SINCE IT'S A RATHER INTERESTING DESIGN, I'LL LEAVE THIS ENTRY HERE (minus the contact information). It's one example of how a recumbent cycle (two or three wheels) can be constructed from aluminum tubing, bolted, glued and/or riveted together, with little or no welding needed.  Mike E.
Bruce and Linda Gordon, long a part of the Midwest HPV community, will be moving around June 1 from Buchanan, Mich., to Newark, N.Y. , Their daughter, a pediatrician, now in Niles, Mich., has accepted a job in that part of New York state, between Rochester and Syracuse, so Bruce and Linda are moving to stay close with her and her family.
Newark sits along the historic Erie Canal and a lengthy bicycle trail runs alongside the canal. So Bruce is taking most of his fleet of recumbent tricycles (plus one 4-wheeler).
But he’s looking for a good home for this recumbent tricycle, which he’s willing to give away for free.

The back side of the seat that comes with the trike is shown in this view. The seat will have to be adapted to fit on the frame. Because of the rear suspension, support stays can't run from the seatback to the rear wheel stays.

It was built by Mike Sova of Toronto, who gave it to Jim Iwaskow of Richmond Hill, Ont. Jim raced the trike at the Berrien Tricycle Rally organized by Bruce in June 2014 at a kart racing track near Buchanan. Jim said at that time that Mike had built the tricycle “some time ago,” possibly a couple of decades earlier or more.
Bruce became the next owner.
The tricycle is built of rectangular aluminum tubing, welded and bolted together.
It has rear suspension – the pivot is the small circle behind the handlebars – which in turn means the seatback must be self-supporting. That is, it isn’t possible to run support stays from the seatback to the frame stays.
Bruce has a seat (not the one used in 2014) that can be adapted to the trike.
Tires update: The front wheels use 24x1/520c tires; rear is 700x28c.  The only tire for the front that I (Mike Eliasohn) could find is the Panaracer Pasela. J&B (, probably the country's largest wholesale supplier to bicycle shops, as of April 2 had the Pasela in stock at all of its warehouses nationwide, so any bicycle shop that gets  parts from J&B can order 520c size Paselas. J&B does not sell direct to consumers. 700x28c is a common size, so easily available.

Notice the suspension pivot behind the handlebars and how the axle is attached to the  rectangular aluminum frame. Possibly the axle could be removed and the tricycle could be converted into a two-wheeler.

Remember, the seat needs mounting, And I (Mike Eliasohn) think lowering the bottom bracket would be worthwhile, which would require drilling out the rivets and then doing some fabrication.
In other words, Bruce’s trike is a project, not ready to go..

These two photos were taken at the Berrien Tricycle Rally organized by Bruce Gordon in June 2014.  Racing the tricycle was Jim Iwaskow, who was then the owner.

Friday, March 13, 2020

ASME student HPV competition cancelled

The American Society of Mechanical Engineers student human powered vehicle competition scheduled April 3-5 at Michigan State University has been cancelled.
It was to be part of the larger ASME E-Fest North for mechanical engineering students, also cancelled.
E-Fest South and its HPV competition scheduled April 24-26 in Perry, Ga., also has been cancelled.
The ASME didn’t give a reason for the cancellations, but obviously it's the coronavirus outbreak, which has resulted in cancellation of classes at MSU and elsewhere. From the MSU website:

Effective at noon March 11, MSU is suspending face-to-face instruction in classroom settings and moving to virtual instruction … This suspension of in-person classes will last until April 20.  

This would have been the second year in a row that MSU hosted the HPV competition and E-Fest North. To read about last year’s competition, scroll down to April 15, 2019.
Even though the competition is/was limited to college teams, it was a great opportunity for HPV enthusiasts to view student creativity and ingenuity.

This year, 36 teams were entered. Unfortunately, like in 2019, only one team from Michigan entered – host MSU.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Wally's next adventure

In 2014, long-time Michigan HPVer Wally Kiehler of Grosse Pointe Woods pedaled 4,244 miles from Everett, Wash., to Gloucester, Mass.
He's about to do it again, only he and "a couple buddies," will be riding from San Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla. It will be an "unsupported" tour, with the trio eating in restaurants and sleeping in motels.
They're planning to start March 5 and be on the road about seven weeks. Once underway, Wally hopes to write daily updates, which can be read on  Some preliminary information is already posted there.
In 2014, Wally was one of 30 riders in a supported tour conducted by Cycle America. His account of that ride can be read on this blog.  Scroll down to 2014, then look for "Wally Kiehler's coast to coast adventure." (It's the third article from the top.)
On that ride, Wally started on his Lightning P-38. Then when the ride crossed through Michigan, he switched to his lighter, faster carbon fiber M5.
This time, he will be on the P-38, which is more comfortable than the M5 – the seat on the P-38 is wider and "very comfortable" – and "is set up perfectly for carrying cargo," he wrote  in an email.
AN EARLY END:  The journey of Wally and his two companions came to a premature end in Las Cruces, N.M., on March 16 after 614 miles, as the coronavirus crisis made it increasingly hard for them to stay in motels and eat in restaurants.  You can read about what happened in Wally's  crazyguy report.

After Wally returned home, he wrote this summary (slightly edited) for the blog:
This adventure was a disappointment for me, as I wrote in my daily ride journal, except getting to visit with my two children and riding with two coast-to-coast buddies (from the 2014 tour).  It only lasted around 10 riding days. 
So there isn’t much to add to what I wrote every day.  I have already mentioned about my lack of preparedness, the unexpected incredible hills, the unusual large amount of rain and, of course, the coronavirus.  
Some might ask if I plan to return to complete this adventure.  At the end of our last riding day, plus three days of driving home, I was tired and very disappointed in attempting this adventure.  At least for this year.  So I don’t know the answer right now.
But one thing that I did learn is that I will never attempt another “hilly and loaded tour” again.  Especially on a 60-pound loaded recumbent.  It was way more work than fun for me.


It's June 15, 2014, and Wally Kiehler dips the rear wheel of his Lightning P-38 in the Pacific Ocean at Everett, Wash., at the start of his cross-country trip.  He will be riding the same P-38 on his new cross country trip from San Diego to St. Augustine, scheduled to start March 5.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Michigan HPV Rally - May 16--17, 2020 CANCELED


The 36th annual Michigan Human Powered Vehicle Rally will be May 16-17, 
2020, at the Waterford Hills sports car racing track in Clarkston, the location 
since 1986.
The oldest such event in North America is open to riders of all human
powered vehicles – recumbents, streamliners, regular bicycles, tandems 
and handcycles.
There are classes for streamlined, unstreamlined cycles, tandems, women, 
youth and tricycles. The rally is conducted using Human Powered Race 
America rules (go to, then under “recumbent racing,”
click on “Human Powered Race America,” then on “racing rules.” Note: 
HPRA rules require all vehicles to have a mirroror mirrors enabling rear 
vision to both sides.
The track, on the grounds of the Oakland County Sportsmen’s Club, is 
1.4 miles around, with nine turns and one hill. Sunday races use a shorter 
course without the hill.
Entry fees: $20 for one day, $35 for two days. College and high school teams 
registering in advance, $35 for first vehicle and rider; $10 for each additional 
vehicle or rider. Spectators free.  We anticipate starting online advance 
registration in mid-April – if it looks like we will still conduct the rally on the
original dates.
Prize money will be awarded to top finishers in each class.
Free camping available at track Friday and Saturday nights, with indoor 

Even if you don’t want to compete, come and see some unusual 
and very fast cycles.

Tentative schedule:
8 a.m. – Registration and technical inspection starts.
9:30 – One-hour time trial (streamliner, streetliner, tricycle classes).
11 – One-hour time trial (stock, junior, women, tandem classes).
Noon – lunch, concession stand at track will be open.
12:15 p.m. – Hot laps on short loop, all classes, ride as many laps as 
you want; your fastest lap counts, electronic timing.
1:30-2:30 – Hill climb/coast down. Race up the hill from a standing start,
then when you get to the top, start coasting. Coast as far as you can go, 
then mark your stopping point with chalk (provided). Separate scores/points 
for time up the hill and distance coasted.
After 2:30 – Tricycle race (no hill) and urban transportation contest.
Dinner at local restaurants. Track will be open in evening for riding.

8:30-9:30 a.m. – Flying start 200-foot sprints (all classes).
10 – Short course (no hill) road race (faired classes), about 12 miles.
11 – Short course (no hill) road race (unfaired classes), about 9 miles.
Awards ceremony after last race, expected by 12:30 p.m. Concession
stand expected to be open.

Questions: Contact Mike Eliasohn (
269-281-0797) or Mike Mowett (, 586-863-3902)

TO GET TO THE RALLY:  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.


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.

STATE CAMPGROUNDS (, then click on "things to do,”
then “camping,” then “find a campground,” then “make a reservation.”
Highland Recreation Area, 5200 E. Highland Road (M-59), White Lake, 
248-889-3750. Two miles east of Highland.
Holly Recreation Area, 8100 Grand Road, Holly, 248-634-8811. Five miles 
east of Holly.
Pontiac Lake Recreation Area, 7800 Gale Road, Waterford, 248-666-1020. 
Closest to Waterford Hills track, about 4 miles west.
OAKLAND COUNTY:  Groveland Oaks County Park, 14555 Dixie Hwy., Holly, 
northeast of Holly, 248-634-9811.
men’s Congress Horseshoe Lake Campground, 1050 E. Oakwood Road,
Oxford, 248-628-3859, e-mail

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.
Clarkston - Olde Mill Inn of Clarkston, 5835 Dixie Hwy., 248-623-0300. 
     Across Dixie Highway from Waterford Road leading to track. This is the
     closest motel to the track.
Hartland - Best Western of Hartland, 10087 M-59 at US-23, 810-632-7177,
     61 rooms. About 18 miles west.
Waterford – Quality Inn and Suites, 7076 Highland Road (M-59),
     248-666-8555, 111 rooms. About 3 miles southwest.
Waterford – Waterford 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 – Days Inn by Wyndham Whitemore Lake, 9897 Main St.
     (off US-23, exit 53), 734-550-0105, 61 rooms. About 33 miles southwest.