The Revival of Tall Bikes – ‘Stoopid’ or Savvy?

If you are a cycling enthusiast interested in tall bikes, you simply must check out Richie Trimble’s ‘Stoopidtall’, a fourteen-and-a-half foot bicycle that allows him to tower seventeen feet above the ground. To get an idea of how that feels, have a look at this video of Stoopidtall’s maiden voyage around Los Angeles during the 2013 ‘CicLAvia’ event:

Should you be wondering why anyone would endeavour to ride such a tall bike, the aforementioned video may help reveal the answers. Excitement is clearly a major factor – in the video for example, as Richie passes under the freeway on Stoopidtall, the height of the bridge becomes lower and lower, and just like the crowds present that day you too will wonder whether or not he will make it through!

However, it is not just the potential dangers of riding that make tall bikes so exhilarating, as Richie Trimble explains to Streetsblog LA in this CicLAvia article: “The whole build-up before riding Stoopidtall is probably my favourite part; the anticipation of what it’s going to be like.” And although he is a self-confessed adrenaline junkie, Stoopidtall is not just a personal venture – in fact Richie’s philosophy is truly heart-warming: “The whole concept of why we are here, to have fun…it was founded on making smiles, making wildly looking bikes to make people’s day [sic].”

Due to obvious safety issues, not to mention their impracticality, it is not possible to legally ride tall bikes on public roads apart from at special events, such as LA’s CicLAvia. Therefore these days tall bike riding is done purely for the love of it and for the enjoyment of spectators, but despite being a skilled bicycle-builder Richie Trimble is no pioneer, and tall bikes were actually predecessors of today’s shorter bicycles. The Hi-wheels or Penny-farthings of the nineteenth century were among the original tall bikes and these were followed by designs similar to Stoopidtall in that they had equally sized wheels, which were used for lighting the gas streetlights each evening.

Screenshot Vimeo
Screenshot Vimeo

 

Construction techniques have not changed a great deal over the years, with frames of tall bikes being built using metal tubes and spoked wheels with rubber tyres being attached via rigid forks connecting them to the main frame. Richie Trimble’s Stoopidtall was constructed in twelve hours, and as mentioned in a Neatorama article, uses a mammoth thirty-two and a half foot chain to drive the wheels. Longevity, unfortunately, is not a strong point of modern tall bikes, and Stoopidtall managed twenty miles before a master link in the chain fell out, rendering pedalling impossible. Perhaps surprisingly though, tall bikes are very easy to balance, as Tall Bike Bobby reveals in his blog: “Being able to put most of the weight under you and between the wheels makes the bike very stable.” He goes on to explain: “Basically, the advantage of the tall bike is that when you start to fall, you are pivoting around a wider arc, so you have more time to respond and make adjustments.”

So, just as tall bikes were the norm over a hundred years ago, maybe enthusiasts like Richie Trimble can utilise their modern engineering skills whilst harnessing some of the older construction techniques in order to create more hardwearing models that can increase the popularity of tall bikes once again. Richie is working on his next design, ‘Stoopidtaller’, right now, and it will no doubt receive an enthusiastic reception on completion. To keep up to date with Richie’s progress and that of other tall bike enthusiasts, keep an eye on social networking sites like Twitter, where information on #Stoopidtall and other #tallbikes is frequently posted. Or to be proactive, why not reach out to others and encourage new #tallbike projects, or even begin one yourself?

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