Pedal Power Through America’s Most Diverse County en Route to World Maker Faire


Join fellow pedal-power enthusiasts and participate in the first annual social bike ride to World Maker Faire on Saturday Sept. 21. Group bicycle rides have been a staple of the Bay Area Maker Faire for a few years now, so as an avid cyclist of the city of five boroughs I’m really glad to announce this social bike ride event.


Of course we’re starting small. While over 200 miles of bicycle lanes exist throughout NYC, this ride will be a humble 6 miles. That said the tour will traverse through the heart of America’s and indeed the world’s most diverse urban area, Queens, passing through the towns of Long Island City, Sunnyside, Woodside, Jackson Heights, North Corona, and finally Corona before arriving at the New York Hall of Science, our gracious host and partner.

mfny2012_ny hall of science

mfba_i-rode-my-bikeUpon arrival free bike valet will be provided by Transportation Alternatives. All bicyclists will receive a special commemorative patch (right), while supplies last, reaffirming their commitment to the bike side!

Additionally, all cyclists will be entered into a raffle to win some special goodies including:

  • Maker Faire rickshaw messenger bag
  • subscriptions to MAKE Magazine
  • Maker Faire schwag
  • subscriptions to Momentum magazine
  • and yes, daily and annual memberships to NYC’s bike share, Citibike!
  • and more.

Once at World Maker Faire be sure to check out some pedal-powered projects including Frankenbikes by Jeff Del Papa, Farm Hack‘s unique resilient agricultural machines, and even a collaborative competition of arm wrestling by ITP graduates that’s also, you guessed it, pedal-powered!

PastedGraphic-2The bike tour will be lead by Eric Petersen, a current Urban Affairs graduate at Hunter College who previously worked for seven years in the bicycle industry. Eric’s upcoming projects include a series of guided bike tours of the life and works of Robert Moses, New York City’s master builder. A resident of Astoria, he’s the perfect candidate for this inaugural ride through at least one of the five boroughs that constitute NYC!

The ride will only take place on Saturday September 21st. The ride will leave promptly at 10:15am from Dutch Kills Green (the park in front of the LIC clocktower) at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge. Getting to Dutch Kills Green by bicycle is direct from Manhattan (via the Queensboro Bridge) and easy from Brooklyn (via the Pulaski Bridge, then about 6 minutes ride to Queens Plaza).

Due to the nature of group rides, this tour will occur at a leisurely 10mph. Please stay with the tour gide, and stay within bike lanes at all times. Please register to participate on Facebook so we can estimate how many people will be riding.

Youth riders and art bikes are welcome to join!

Sonoma County Bike Expo Celebrates Freewheeling DIY Spirit


Attention Northern California gearheads: This Sunday, Aug. 18, the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition will host its annual Bicycle Expo featuring lots of cool bike designs, contests, and a raffle to win one of two custom-made cargo bikes. Admission is free.

Fabrication fans will love the “velogenesis” event: nine local frame builders will cooperate “Iron Chef” style to built up two cargo bikes from a pile of bamboo poles, steel tubing, cables, and spokes. The public is free to watch the bikes built before their eyes and a welding helmet camera will capture the action from the builder’s POV. The two bikes will be raffled off at the end of the day.

VeloGenesis 3

Building a bamboo bike.

The bikes will compete in the cargo bike race in the afternoon. The course features a teeter totter, jumps, and carrying things like a toilet and a big bag of dog food. There will also be a track stand contest, and a tractor pull (with bikes) featuring a 200-pound cannon ball.

The event run from 10am-4pm in Santa Rosa, Calif. Pedal on over.

Makers Steer Project Aura Toward the Marketplace

Design blog Core77 has a fascinating writeup of Project Aura, a smart bike safety lighting system that creates POV light stripes on the wheels that change color depending on the bike’s speed.

In the three-part article, project founders Ethan Frier and Jonathan Ota describe how they came up with the idea as Carnegie Mellon sophomores.

By the end of the academic year, we had finished the prototype and made a video, which we posted online. At that point, we thought the project was done—that it would be a nice portfolio piece, to showcase alongside our other work. We both packed up and went back to our homes to Southern California and Baltimore. A week later, Core77 wrote an article about the project, and before we knew it, the video had 100,000 views. E-mails started coming in, asking when, where, and how it could be purchased. We were shocked, overwhelmed, ecstatic and scared.

One fascinating part of the story involves the guys attempting to turn their idea into a product and running into the limits of their knowledge; at the beginning of the project guys didn’t even know how to solder.

The new prototype required additional research into digital computation and battery power, as our first prototype detected speed with purely analog means, based on the voltage output of the hub dynamo. The new prototype was built on Arduino, a powerful hardware/software platform that grants non-technical people (such as ourselves) access to all of the possibilities of digital control in an easy programming environment. Switching to this digital model opened up a whole world of possibilities for the functions of the product, and it took a number of iterations to figure out all the electronics required. (Remember, we are just two design kids with no technical background.) For the longest time, we sat crosseyed, trying to decipher LED driver data sheets, debug grumpy poorly written code and hone our soldering skills. We have since hired people who are far smarter than us because we knew we were in over our heads.

Then there were business concerns like worrying about money and researching how to take out a patent. They received a number of grants that covered their early expenses, but now it sounds like they’re looking to partner with another company to bring the idea to market. If you’ve got an maker idea that you’re looking to turn into a product, you should definitely read this piece.

Pedal Power: The Quest for the 100 MPH Bicycle


England’s Tom Donhou makes some beautiful hand-built road and mountain bike frames. He got the idea to put his handiwork into action build (and pilot) a bike that could reach 100 miles per hour on the flats. Working in his shop and with England’s Royce bicycle component company he build a rocket of a bike with a monster front chain ring nearly as big as his wheels.

He was inspired by the homebuilt cars that roared across the salt flats of Utah once upon a time. There are no salt flats in the U.K. so he choose a two-mile, WWII-era runway. But his quest didn’t stop there.

The short documentary below documents his efforts and those of his collaborators. It’s a great story of ingenuity, daring, and the maker spirit.

Experiments in Speed from SpindleProductions on Vimeo.

Love Art Bikes? Submit Yours for the Bike Fun Fest

1012017_198084827023604_2100788265_n Davis, Calif. is a bike town (I should know; I went to school there, and even wrote about bikes for the college paper). Being almost completely flat, and with pretty good weather most of the year, on any given day there are tens of thousands of students from the University of California, Davis, as well as plenty of the locals, riding around. Which is why it makes sense that the local art scene would love bikes as a theme as well.

Paint Bike Fun is an art project seeking to build the youth bike culture, and on Aug. 17 they’re holding a Bike Fun Fest in Davis. They’re currently inviting people to submit their own art bikes to be displayed at this street party. If you have a neat art bike, and want to join the fun, consider submitting!


Maker Camp: Day 3

makercamp_400 Maker Camp rolls out its third day of projects and makers devoted to two-wheeled fun and bike hacks at 11am PST. The highlight of the live broadcast on Google+ will be an interview with Ismael Plasencia from The Crucible, the world’s coolest metal shop and teaching space in Oakland, Calif. Ismael will be showing off some cool projects and sparks may fly so wear your safety glasses.

Screen Shot 2013-07-09 at 4.38.13 PM

A student at one of The Crucible’s classes grinds away on a bike frame.

The project of the day is a bike tail pipe that will make a quiet bike roar like it’s motor powered. The project is based on the old baseball-card-in-the-spokes trick, but we’re going to use an old credit card because it’s louder. But not loud enough! That’s why we’ll use an aluminum bottle to fashion the tail pipe — it acts as a kind of megaphone for the credit card.


Bring the noise!

If you want to build your own, be sure to take photos of your finished project, and share them on the Maker Camp +Community with the #makercamp hashtag.

New to Maker Camp and want to know how to join in? Click right here. Tune in here at 11am PST. See you at camp.

The Tallest Bike in Los Angeles


Los Angeles-based cinematographer Richie Trimble knows how sweet the view is from a bicycle seat 14.5 feet up. Luckily, he shared it with the rest of us in his POV video of riding his insanely tall homemade bike, dubbed Stoopidtall, through L.A.’s bike-centric CicLAvia event. The beast was built in 12 hours using one Huffy beach cruiser, 2″ square tubing, 3/4″ round tubing, 1″ round tubing, a 26″ single-speed coaster brake wheelset, and 6.5 single-speed chains (32.5 feet of chain). To boot, Trimble used “an upside down shopping cart and a split log” to bend the tubing.

Trimble cruises to the coast with eye level roughly at 17 feet off the ground:







Sneak Preview: The Wheeled Wonders of Maker Faire

Today I took a walk around and spotted a slew of creatively kludged together bicycles that will soon become mobile this weekend at Maker Faire Bay Area. The designs range from artful and refined to cobbled and hacked. Take a look at just a handful of the fantastic vehicular powerhouses that will be roaming around San Mateo this weekend.


Cyclist Chic: Turn a Wooden Crate into a Cool Cargo Box


Our friends at Dark Rye, an online magazine from Whole Foods, have come up with a project for turning a wooden crate into a retro bike cargo box. It’s a simple, but useful bike mod. The project comes from Dark Rye’s latest “Future” issue. It’s a great read featuring forward-looking innovators in architecture, urban agriculture, energy production, and transportation.


Kinetic Creatures Plans to Go Big for Maker Faire Bay Area

Despite having just submitted their application for Maker Faire Bay Area, Lucas Ainsworth and Alyssa Hamel of Kinetic Creatures are already hard at work on the project they have planned for their second appearance at the fair: an enormous, bike-powered, cardboard “Rory the Rhino.” At last year’s Bay Area fair, the couple had just launched a Kickstarter campaign to jumpstart the production of their Kinetic Creatures, a set of three cardboard animal kits that cleverly fold and slot together to yield Rory the Rhino, Gino the Giraffe, and Elly the Elephant.

Rory, Elly and Gino

Rory, Elly and Gino

The introduction of a handcrank or simple gear box mechanism allows the animals to move. Lucas, an industrial designer and researcher at Intel, and Alyssa, an art teacher and artist, had been toying around with the designs for a few years, and they finally decided it was time to make them a reality. The Kickstarter campaign was successful, netting double their initial goal of $22,000, and soon Kinetic Creatures were making their way around the world. For this year’s fair, though, they wanted to go bigger by literally enlarging the design of Rory. They plan to build a roughly human-sized version of the rhino, still out of cardboard, and attach a bike in front of the rhino as the gear mechanism, allowing fair visitors to pedal the bike to make the rhino move.

Left: The original Rory with tape blocking out the bigger version. Right: The bike & frame that big Rory will sit on.

Left: The original Rory with tape blocking out the bigger version. Right: The bike and frame that big Rory will sit on.

One of the reasons I wanted to spotlight this project (aside from the fact that Lucas and Alyssa are friends who do amazing work) is because of the serious amount of learning and experimenting they will be doing to make this project come together. Already they have taught themselves how to weld in order to make the platform that the bike and Rory will be attached to, using web videos to learn the proper technique. The entire design of the creature has to be scaled up by an order of magnitude and cut out of enormous sheets of cardboard by hand. They aren’t sure yet just how sturdy the cardboard will be once they get the bigger version constructed: they might have to reinforce it, or do something unexpected to join the pieces of cardboard together or…who knows?

Left and Middle: Learning to weld. Right: Sourcing supplies & making sketches

Left and Middle: Learning to weld. Right: Sourcing supplies and making sketches

They want to make it as robust as possible to withstand energetic and inquisitive kids and the often-strong winds at the fair site. The list of uncertainties and new skills to master is long, but they are excited about it. To me, that’s one of the best things about Maker Faire; it challenges you to push yourself: to learn new things, be creative and inventive, and really take your work to the next level. I can’t wait to see how the bike-driven Rory turns out!

And, if all goes well at this new scale, they hope to go to the Cartasia festival in Lucca, Italy in Summer 2014, an art festival focused on the use of paper. If they are accepted, they will get to do a one-month residency in Italy with unlimited cardboard resources, and plan to construct an even bigger Kinetic Creature-maybe one that can be ridden!

By the way, it’s not too late for you to plan your own fun and challenging project for the Bay Area Maker Faire. The Call for Makers has been extended to March 22.