Upon first seeing this bike in its finished state, it’s hard to imagine that at one time it was just a discarded Huffy Santa Fe cruiser that found its way into the local recycling center in Warren, Michigan. RRB forum member Tom Wilson of Royal Oak, Michigan happened to be dropping off some extra material that he had leftover from a kitchen remodel when he stumbled upon the abandoned bike. He had just enough room in the back of his truck to fit the bike and that is where the story begins.
Tom is a Graphic Designer by trade and does everything from website development, advertising, photography to concept illustration. In the world of custom bike building, he has had a history of building large, multi-person pedal powered vehicles inspired by the wild creations seen often at the Burning Man Festival and in Kinetic Sculpture Racers (multi-person pedal vehicles that are raced over road, sand, mud and water at annual races in northern California, Philadelphia and Baltimore).
Check out these rad machines built by Tom…
We asked Tom about the motivation behind this build (called “Warren”) and he said that, as an RRB member, he’s long admired many of the bikes he has seen over the years and tied in several aspects of those into “Warren.” Another source of inspiration was the Slow Roll Detroit cruiser ride that he participates in. “After years of leaving the ten speed hanging from the garage rafters I started joining this weekly ride last summer. As the name implies, it’s a very slow ten to twelve mile bike ride through the city of Detroit…with a couple thousand of your closest friends. It’s all about form over function, aesthetics over performance, heavy and slow, Warren probably is as purpose built for this type of riding as the larger multi-person pedal vehicles I’ve built are a fit for Burning Man.”
One thing that we were most impressed about Tom’s build was his excellent documentation of the process. He kept a running journal of the project in our “Builds” section and had everyone glued to the screen waiting for his latest update. A combination of great photography and his process description made for a great read in the forum. You can see the full post here.
In regards to the details of the build of this cool cruiser… “The quick release 27 1/4″ front wheel, tire and tube are recycled from a Schwinn Continental. The same bike donated the handlebars and seat post. A kids bike at the bottom of the parts pile provided the shorter cranks. Another Schwinn contributed the rat trap pedals. The forks came from a Centurion mixte. The handlebars were pitted pretty bad so that led to the decision to use bar wrap tape rather than grips. The Huffy rear white wall was swapped out for a Schwinn blackwall cruiser tire and the wheel hub received a fresh re-greasing.”
“The profile of the bike would probably look best with the seat slammed all the way down. Unfortunately that would make it pretty much unrideable. I was able to find a reasonably priced seat that was pretty thin to help reduce the seat’s visual weight. A good way to trick your eyes into seeing the profile as if the seat were actually lower. Surprisingly, the seat is more comfortable than it looks.”
“The rear brace bars are steering tie rods sourced from a go-kart parts supplier. They were cut to size for about $30 plus shipping. The rear drop out extensions were carved from 3/16″ mild steel that I had left over from previous projects. I did go through a few drill bits creating the holes though.”
“The chain guard is probably the individual piece that received the most attention. It was thinned along its length from the original and trimmed to fit around the added chainring guard. The outside was polished, inside painted red, then the outside front struts were painted to match the frame. Time consuming but I think the unexpected little flash of red that you can see at the right angle was worth it.”
As with all custom builds there are challenges that usually pop up during the process. For Tom and this build it turned out to be paint. “I’d guess well over half the cost of the build is tied up in trying to get a really nice finish from rattle can paint. I love the color and the gloss finish after wet sanding, but, there are still some small places where the metallic flecks of the main coat sagged and wrinkled a little under the clear coat. The surface is really fragile too and there were a few chip repairs I had to make after assembly. I was too hard headed to heed the warnings I’d read in the forum and just had to re-learn the lessons on my own. I’ll do something different next time.”
We’d say Tom’s efforts and attention to detail rewarded him nicely. We recently shared an image of the finished bike in our social media channels and it got a HUGE response. Most folks had no idea what the bike started off as or what had been put into the build.
We asked Tom about his plans for future builds. “Everyone probably has a bike from their childhood that somehow got away and they wish they still had. Mine was a Stingray Fastback three speed. I’ve been thinking about creating a tribute to how I remember the way that bike felt to ride.” We’re definitely looking forward to just about anything that comes out of Tom’s laboratory. Who knows what else will be saved from the the local scrap yard and turned into a rolling work of art!