The encroaching world of freak bikes

As long as we were talking about automobiles as dangerous weapons, here’s a humbling juxtaposition:

A bicycle resting on the wheel of a monster truck

That’s my bike. Not my monster truck, though.

What compels a person?

Then I wondered what a “monster bike” would look like? And then I thought: maybe it would be like a “freak bike.” You know freak bikes? It’s when several old bikes are welded and reconfigured into a Frankenstein-like bicycle monstrosity.

Here’s one spotted in the leafy neighborhood west of downtown.

Riding a freak bike in Eugene Oregon

She was waving, not covering her face from the paparazzi.

I used to posit that you needed four things to make a freak bike:

  1. You need a big pile of old bicycle parts and frames, maybe some random lengths of steel tubing and other bits of scrap metal.
  2. You need the ability to weld — or you need to know someone who can weld and will barter that skill for beer and a big bowl of quinoa.
  3. You need the desire to be different.
  4. You need to live in Portland.

Portland has an enormous contingent of freak bikes. But this summer I started noticing more in Eugene. Maybe I hadn’t been hanging out in the right circles before. Maybe we are just a little slower on the uptake here in the backwaters.

Either way, here’s one at Eugene’s downtown bus station:

See that guy in the background, sitting on the wall. As I shot this photo, he said: “Hey! Who the fuck you taking a picture of?!” The bus station can be freaky, for sure.

In fact, who among you would leave your bike at the downtown bus station unlocked? You’ll notice this freak bike is not locked up, even though there is a lock and chain right there on the seatpost. But I suppose it’s like that bumper sticker I once saw: “Fat people are harder to kidnap.” Freak bikes are harder to steal.

If you wonder how they get up on those tall bikes, here is a guy I saw cruising 17th Avenue. He had to stop by Cornucopia to wait for traffic. To those people who complain that “no cyclist in history has ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign,” we can point to this gentleman and say, “Not true.”

When you stop a freak bike — at least the “tall bike” subset of freak bike — you not only have to stop, you have to dismount completely.

Freak bike at a stop sign

Then he gracefully put one foot high up on a pedal …

… and off he went:

I think this is the same guy, on a different day, heading in for a tune-up:

While these “tall bikes”are one kind of freak bike, they are not the only kind. There is the “chopper” style of freak bike. This guy was happy to pose for the camera. He even stopped when he saw me taking a picture and got off so I could get a better shot.

Although, I didn’t get a very good shot.

Here’s another in the same vein. You know how Gary Fisher and Greg Lemond have had their own brands of bicycles? Did you know that Dr. Seuss had his own bicycle line?

Riding a long forked freak bike in Eugene Oregon

This guy was heading into an alley in pursuit of Thing 1 and Thing 2.

So where are they coming from, these freak bikes? I don’t know, but I did spot what seems to be a hive of freak bike activity over in the Whiteaker neighborhood, at a place called the East Blair Housing Coop:

Lest you think these are only for show, one day I noticed that Grill-Bike was parked a number of blocks away outside Cornbread Cafe:

But I have my doubts about Lawnmower-Bike being ridable, missing seat not withstanding:

By the way, I was perusing the application to become a member of the East Blair Housing Coop, and when I came to question #9, I knew right away there was only one correct answer for any serious applicant:


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12 thoughts on “The encroaching world of freak bikes

  1. Also, I see there’s a brake hood on the fixed gear… is/was there a matching hood on the other side? The leaves on the trees are green, so I wonder if this isn’t an older photo…

  2. I saw the Grill bike in transit once, I was hoping it wasn’t lit at that point, but it had spotters as it was turning out of a parking lot…

  3. That’s soooo last century? Maybe Portland is behind Eugene? Andy at Country Fair had a whole fleet of them a decade ago or so, all kinds of wacky things. They were in the Celebration Parade a couple times. There also used to be a number of them around town about that time. This could be considered a resurgence…..

  4. Re: the guy on the tall freak bicycle at 17th and Lincoln…
    My wife and I were walking in front of your house that day as you went sprinting down the street to take photos of Mr. I-Always-Stop-at-Stop-Signs. As you sped down the street, we said hello to your wife and she explained what you were doing. We thought it was nice that you really didn’t think we were so scary as to have to flee your yard just because of us. Anyway, she directed us to your blog, and I’ve been reading it ever since. Thanks for the writing, the issues, and the humor!
    Mark

  5. Getting into the history of bike building in Eugene would probably make for an interesting set of stories… I have a co-worker who used to build bikes in down 10+ years ago – I vaguely remember his hand & foot pedal bike, and he told me about a tandem he built where both people could steer – which seems pretty freaky to me.

    I always get this vague impression that a lot of our hand built bike scene in eugene stems from some kind of common origin or a small group of people that eventually ended up founding burley, bike friday and co-motion….but I don’t know if that’s actually true.

  6. You might be right, Dexter. I do sort of remember the odd Country Fair contraptions. Yeah, this does seem to be a resurgence, as most of the freak bike riders I see seem to be on the younger side — people for whom the Country Fair is more their parents’ thing. (I hope nobody takes offense at that). But I’m just speculating wildly. I can’t say I know a lot about this. Yes, Kevin, maybe some research needs to be done into the roots of the freak bike. Maybe a trip to the housing coop is in order. Actually, this could be fun — a freak bike family tree?? Hmmm. I like that idea. ….

  7. There are “freak bikes” in Somerville, MA and Cambridge, MA, too. (I’ve seen them but, alas, cannot post a photo.) Many of these cyclists belong to a group whose name, again, sadly, I do not recall.

    But come to Davis Square, Somerville, and you will see them riding by from time to time!

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