DIY always gets attention

I’ve always had a passion for radical bike designs.

If you have been hacking things together for any length of time, then you probably know that your unique creations draw attention wherever you are. When I was in my early teens, I would string four or five scrap bikes together and my buddies and I would wobble down the street on my contraptions that often resembled bikes from Doctor Seuss books. Making it back home in one piece was a 50/50 chance because I usually only brazed my early bike hacks, but the one thing that was guaranteed was a lot of attention.  My intent was never to make something to draw a crowd, but I often found myself talking to a group of interested onlookers or even speaking into the camera on the evening news.

I took a long break from bike hacking after getting my first motorcycle (and job), but found myself back out in the garage in the year 2000 to rekindle my DIY roots and get my mind off the daily grind of living in the real world. I started collecting junk bikes and old power chair parts and concocted some cool bikes and robots out in the small garage just to have fun on the weekend. Oddly enough, I never took any photos or intended to publish these works. One day Kat suggested that I put some of the bikes up on my website AtomicZombie.com, which at the time was a home for electronics hacking stuff I was doing.

Getting youth interested in technology.

 

Well, within months I started connecting with some amazing people and realized I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed making art from metal, sometimes for fun, sometimes to be practical. It didn’t take long before the word spread locally, and we were dragging my creations to all kinds of events. The large video guided robots were always popular. I enjoyed inspiring young hackers to consider this great hobby. The robots were a natural crowd magnet since I controlled them from miles away via video link and could communicate to people by typing words into a speech synthesis station at the base, making the robot seem intelligent. Soon my remote robots’ main purpose was to draw in a crowd and baffle them with technology.

Photo op with some visiting teens from the USA after my World Record ride.

At one point, I decided to aim for a Guinness World Record, making the tallest rideable bicycle, and figure it would be fun and possible draw a bit of attention to the website which was now mostly dedicated to bike building. Well, I was certainly not ready for the storm that this thing generated once the word got out! I must have done a dozen live radio interviews, news casts and even a live spot on a a national broadcast of Canada AM . Tall bikes sure draw the crowds!

When the tallbike called “SkyCycle” made it to a full color page in the Guinness Book (along with my mug), I was shocked. I knew these crazy contraptions could draw interest, but I had no idea how far it could go. Even a simple recumbent bike like the Marauder would spend half the time parked as I explained the bike to interested people along a ride. No doubt, all you DIY enthusiast out there know what I am talking about.

When I think back to me pre-DIY days, I guess my inspiration did come from seeing others’ creations, although it was mostly in the form of photos from old Popular Mechanics books or the odd newspaper article. Now, with the internet jacked into our heads like The Matrix, it’s so easy to connect with other DIY folks and share advice, so the community is stronger than it’s even been. Back in the early 1980s I would have never thought that one day I would be saying, “Hey!” to a cargo bike builder in Africa and then a trike builder in Australia within a 15 minute span.

So, if you are a new builder just getting ready to roll open that garage door and head out on your new DIY creation, get prepared for the attention your work will draw.  You will now become the source of inspiration for a young generation of future DIYers, so make sure you pass along that attitude that drives us all, “Yeah, you can do this, too”!

~ Brad

SpinCycle stunt trike – AtomicZombie archives

February 12, 2006

Science exhibit comes calling

AtomicZombie.com SpinCycle with Radical Brad, inventor

It’s a balmy -8° C, sunny and bright. Feels more like early spring than February. For this time of year, in this neck of the woods, that’s unseasonably  warm.

It never ceases to amaze us how people find out about Atomic Zombie Extreme Machines. A few days ago, someone (Terry) from the Telus World of Science in Calgary posted on the forum that they are having a bike exhibit  from the National Museum of Science and Technology, May through September 2006. He was looking to have a Spincycle or tandem for a hands-on display where the public can ride bike(s) in the indoor arena.

Of course, I replied right away on the forum that we would send a Spincycle for the exhibit. What an honour to be included in this event! Once the site is done, Brad will be out in the garage making some mods to a Spincycle to send to Calgary in March. Maybe we’ll plan a little vacation and go there, if we can squeeze in a road trip. I think it’s a two-day drive to Calgary. Haven’t been there since I was a kid.

A couple of years ago, the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa expressed an interest in acquiring the World Record SkyCycle for a bike exhibit, but the shipping cost for the 14′ 3″ beast was too much. So, it spent another winter towering over our backyard until the summer of 2005 when it was hacked up for parts.

It was quite an attraction for a couple of years, even folks from across Canada and the U.S. visiting or passing through our city stopped by for a look. In hindsight, we should have kept a guestbook, but never thought it would become a tourist attraction. SkyWalker is still in one piece. Brad still takes it out for a spin now and then.

The web site is coming along very quickly. Brad spent most of the weekend re-doing the photo gallery. It’s a ton of work! ChopZone.com will be fully integrated into AtomicZombie.com. It was too time consuming to have two separate galleries and sites to maintain. Using Flash will simplify things and there will be lots of interesting stuff to appeal to everyone. Can hardly wait ’til it’s completely done and on-line. Brad is itching to get in the garage and start hacking again.

 atomiczombie.com co-founders

AZ newsletter Nov. 22 – New AZTV vid, The Lost Files

 

New AZTV video
The Lost Files
Zombie Feedback
Builders Gallery

Atomic Zombie newsletter Nov. 18

In this issue:
steam punk chopper
tandems
zombie feedback
tall bikes
trikes
vintage Huffy meets ghoul
This and other AZ newsletters can be found here.
AZTV – where bike freaks unite

From the JunkYard into the Record Books!

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

 

world record skycycle

 

Read the story:  From the JunkYard into the Record Books!