Build Your Own Tall Bike Without Welding




Introduction: Build Your Own Tall Bike Without Welding

Tim Anderson is the author of the "Heirloom Technology" column in Make Magazine. He is co-founder …

This is the easiest way to make a tallbike.
You don't need a welder, you just need whatever tools you have.

It was 1997 or so, and I was noticing that all the cars looked the same, and all the houses looked the same. Then I realized how expensive that was for the people to do it, to go out and buy whatever new car the superbowl halftime ads told them to.
It must take a powerful fear to motivate such extravagance.
The fear of not blending in.

I resolved that at least my bicycle wouldn't be just like every other.
In a blur of frantic grief for the conformists, I started working on my bike.
I recalled something we used to make as kids, "upside down tallbikes".

Note - This instructable is "descriptive documentation" and doesn't show any hands building things, just the things themselves.

Warning - you can fall off one of these and get hurt.
At least one person broke an arm falling off one of my bikes. I felt really bad and didn't let anyone ride my tallbikes for a year or so.

Step 1: Get the Right Kind of Back Wheel, Invert the Fork

The most important thing in this whole project is to get a back wheel with the right kind of hub.
The kind you want is called "coaster brake" or "bendix hub" or "back brakes" or "standard".
In the U.S. it's the default type of hub on a bike that has no other name.
It's our nation's greatest contribution to the bicycles of planet earth.

By using this type of hub you'll avoid having to mess with shifter cables, derailleurs, etc.
It'll make your tallbike building experience much quicker and more pleasant.

I bought this cruiser bike for $20 from a yard sale on Cape Cod.
I could tell something good was going to happen, so I took these pictures.

As seen here,
I took the fork and handlebars off and put them back on upside down.

Step 2: Upside Down and Backwards

Then I flipped the whole thing over so it looked like this.
I tried to ride it like this, but the pedals and wheel turned the wrong way.

I turned myself around and tried to ride it that way with rearwheel steering and front wheel drive.
A series of spectacular wipeouts ensued. I wasn't able to ride it more than ten feet or so.

Step 3: Turn the Pedals and Chain Ring Around

I gave up on frontwheel drive and rearwheel steering for the time being.
I took off the front chainwheel and pedals, turned them around, and put them back on backwards.

The chainwheel rubbed on the frame, so I took it off again and beat on the frame with a hammer til there was a divot and the frame didn't rub anymore.

Step 4: Turn the Rear Wheel Around

Then I took the rear wheel off, turned it around, and put it back on so the sprocket is on the same side as the front chainwheel.
There's a lever extending from the side of a bendix hub.
The lever needs to be restrained for the brakes to work properly.
If it just uses a sheetmetal band to attach it to a frame tube, shift that over to the new side.
Sometimes it's attached to a tab on the frame.
If so you can hoseclamp it to the frame in the new position or scavenge the sheetmetal band from a different bike.

Next I had to use a chain breaker tool to take the chain off and put it back on on the new side.
Park Tool and Sheldon Brown are good sources of info on such bicycle tech and craft

Step 5: Wood - the Miracle Material

Here's the bike as it appears now in 2007, ten years later.
It's been ridden by hundreds if not thousands of people and was my primary transportation for years. I usually ride it with the front wheel turned around as shown here.

Eventually the hoseclamps holding the frame together broke a few times.
Then the two seat support tubes wore grooves in each other and the big one broke. So I got a nice piece of hardwood, I think it's ash or beech and lashed it in place.
Unlike metal, wood doesn't fatigue.

Step 6: Frame Lashings

Here are the frame lashings I replaced the hose clamps with.
They look fancy but there's no real advantage to doing it this way rather than some other uglier lashing.
Just wrap some string around the parts you want to stay together.

I used nylon string soaked with water. Then when the string dried they got tight.
Nylon elongates more than 10% when wet.
Then I soaked them with epoxy to make them permanent.

Step 7: Tall Seat Tubes - Alternate Lashing Method

Rebekah Rosenfeld works on her tallbike, advised by Damon Vander Lind at MITERS.

She's lashed her seat supports with synthetic rope and then soaked it with epoxy to make it permanent.

She started with a mountainbike frame, removed the derailleur, and shortened the chain to make it a one-speed. This is a more difficult method than using a bendix hub. She'll have to make some very long brake cables to get them up to her handlebars.

Step 8: Seat Attachment

I got this Huffy seat out of a trash pile. It had nice long brackets.
I bent them close together to line up with my wooden stick.
Then through-bolted it as seen here.
The other method uses a stick across the base of the seat which is bolted to the support stick.
Unfortunately my bikes like that were borrowed and lost so I can't take that picture.

Step 9: Seat Support - Axle End

I poked a bolt through a hole in the rear dropout and drilled a hole in the base of the seat support tube to match. I was planning to pound a wooden plug into the tube to make it stronger but never got around to it. It seems to be okay.

Step 10: Steering Column

There are lots of ways of doing the front handlebars, this is what I like.
It's not very stiff, some people find that unnerving.

I'd like to take pictures of what's inside the steering column,
Unfortunately the metal bits have all corroded together so I can't easily take them apart anymore.
Instead of the headset there's a stub of steel pipe bolted into my fork tube.
It's cut off at an angle at the bottom so the original angle nut can bind it in place with the original headset bolt.
The aluminum tube seen here is slid over that steel stub and clamped in place with the gooseneck from the original headset.

This particular aluminum tube is thick and springy. It doesn't get bent like stiffer tubes tend to, it just springs back.

Step 11: Wooden Handlebars

This is my favorite type of tallbike handlebars. It's a rung from a wooden chair clamped in a mountainbike headset.
Because my steering column is so flexible, wide handlebars don't feel good.
They put too much leverage on the steering column.

Step 12: Testing

The first time I rode the bike down the street and it was a blast.

Like riding in an airplane with my problems far away.
Bystanders honked and gave me thumbs-up signs.

I rode the bike to work and my co-workers loved it. Even the wipeouts were fun.

Here Dave Russel finds out that the front wheel doesn't have much weight on it and likes to do wheelies.

(A year later someone broke an arm falling off it, so be careful)

Step 13: Front Cargo Carrier Boards

A month went by and it was time to do my laundry. 30 shirts and a proportion of other garments made a large bag of laundry. I tied these boards on the front of the bike and draped my laundry bag over the top like saddlebags. It worked really well. Being up in the air left a lot of area low down for cargo.

Step 14: Bike Wagon Made From Elevator Door

My mom's family says "lazy man's load" for a huge load trying to move everything in one trip.
The inherited joke is that laziness often creates more work than it saves.

Anyway, I need to move more stuff than would fit on my bike.
So I scavenged this door from a freight elevator, cut a couple of aluminum signs in half diagonally, bolted some kids bike wheels between them, and made a quick bike trailer.
It was pretty wobbly til I added enough cross sticks and guy wires between the wheels to triangulate it.

As I recall, the trailer hitch is just an eyeoblt with a loop of rope through it.
Or maybe it just goes through a hole in the end of the tailer tongue.
I looped that rope around the frame tube by the rear dropout and pull it tight with a bungy cord or other lashing. It worked pretty well, but later I changed to a higher longer tongue that I innertubed to my seatpost. That let me do tighter turns.

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    I built one just like this back in the summer of 1976. I even have the pics to prove it. Great to see someone else came up with the same idea! - Thank you.


    Reply 14 years ago on Introduction

    Post the pictures! Any idea when the first one was made?


    Reply 14 years ago on Introduction

    I have to look for the pics but I know I have them. When it was made? I only know of myself and you who came up with this idea. I put together mine wirh my dad's help in 1976. I had my dad spot weld it together and I used a car steering wheel in place of handlebars. Later I had painted it red and silver. I no longer have the original bike. Some jealous neighborhood kids destroyed it. I'll never forget how cruel they were to me and the bike.


    Reply 2 years ago

    It was about 1973 when I drove by and saw a kid riding a tall bike. Then I went home and figured it out. He was in Marrero,La and was a parishioner at Fr Framk's old parish!!


    2 years ago on Step 14

    When I was a kid I saw another kid riding one of these as I drove by. So without any clue I figured it out. I too didn't have any way to weld so I found another pair of forks and put them on the rear tire with my seat coat and used a chain and pad lock to hod it in place. I road that bike everywhere for 5 years!!


    6 years ago

    This was some very useful information, i iwill be making my own bike really soon thanks <a href="">Plantar Fasciitis</a>


    11 years ago on Step 10

    I got bored so I drew up a diagram of what he did to attach the handlebar stem. I had thought this same idea up a while ago but never went about doing it.

    Tall Bike Fork.bmp

    11 years ago on Step 9

    If you build another one of these I have a recommendation for you. You can take an aluminum crutch apart so you just have the wishbone shaped outer part and use it as the seat support. Just invert it and bolt the "Y" shaped opening on both sides of the hub. This way the support is much stronger. Also if your a bit OCD like myself it makes the bike symmetrical.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Just wanted to let you know I love this build! The only thing that worries me is using the coaster brake rear hub. I feel like if your up that high they it may be dangerous because these hubs have a tendency to skid, causing the rider to have to suddenly jump off. But if it works then more power to you!


    12 years ago on Step 3

     i am doing this project . and i am stuck on this spot have any tips for a young builder 


    12 years ago on Introduction

    But welding is half the fun! lol, very interesting concept... i want to rake out my tall bike.


    14 years ago on Introduction

    Let's take a video tomorrow of how to mount and dismount a tall bike!


    13 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, that is great. But it is too much risky. I will not apply it.


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    13 years ago on Step 10

    sorry, but this step has me bewildered; what do you do here? jam the big pipe into the steerer tube and then what? I don't understand how it tightens. and once I understand that, I'm making two of these; my friend and I bent our old frames, so flipped upside-down, they should work fine as great tallbike cruisers! props on this, but I'd love to know how to fasten it.