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Thursday, August 17, 2006

HOMEBUILT STREET LEGAL STREET LUGE WITH BRAKES


I know what you're saying:"What is this doing in a bicycle blog?". Well, what you are looking at, according to the province of Quebec Highway Safety Code, is a bicycle. Ok, let's start from the beginning.

Back in the late seventies, I was a skateboarder. I would find the biggest hill I could and bomb down that thing as fast as I could. I didn't do tricks or flips. I was a gravity junky. 10 years and some common sense later, I wasn't skateboarding anymore but I saw this street luge on TV andthought it was awsome. The main drawback is that it was missing something that I cherished after a few scary accidents, mainly brakes. I put the idea aside for a possible future maybe project...

...until 3 years ago. I don't remember if it came to me while on the can or in the shower but I was thinking to myself that if I built a street luge, not only should it have brakes, but it should be street legal to avoid any hassles from the law. Street luges are considered as skateboards here and a skateboard is illegal on public roads. But not bikes,hmmmmmmmm.

So I did what any good lawyer would do(No, I am not a lawyer)and I read the definition of a bicycle in the Highway Safety Code. It said something like this: A bicycle should have at least one brake, if there is only one brake it should be on the rear wheel. A bicycle must have a red reflector in the rear, a white in the front and yellow in the wheels. That's it, no mention if it should be 2, 3 or 4 wheels, gravity or pedal powered and no definition of the steering mechanism. My plan came to be.

I took a rear triangle from an old mountain bike equipped with brake pivots on the frame. I connected the triangle on a wood frame that I built myself from plywood and 2X4's. I slapped on a longboard truck in the front with a pair of rollerblade wheels. I bolted some handlebars to the sides to hold the brake handle and slapped on a high pressure slick on the rim of the rear wheel and tried my luck.

My friend Bob helped me put the whole thing together(He had the decent power tools and garage)and we tested the thing on a small hill to begin, his driveway. After all, even though I was pretty sure that it was going to work, I had no existing material to refer to, so small steps. IT WORKED! You would lean and it would steer, wow! So being all happy with our success, we parked the thing, bought some paint, slapped some reflectors as per the regulations, figured out where we would do our first run and I had to take care of one last detail.

I had to seal the deal on my legal twist. I went to my city hall and bought a bicycle license for the luge. I used the serial number on the donor bike's bottom bracket and registered it has a "Lauzon Cycle" Model"008". This being my eight build. I installed the plate on the luge and inserted the registration papers in my wallet. This would cover all the legal angles. Even if I was issued a ticket after informing the officer that it was in fact a bicycle with documents to prove it, a judge would toss the case out with a registration that was recorded prior to the infraction. This actually came in handy on one test run when the local constabulary questionned what "that" was and I produced the paperwork while pointing to the plate. "Have fun" was all he said while scratching is head before he left.

Our first run involved myself, my friend Bob and my son. We chose a nice easy hill with a bike path and we clocked 40 km/h. The luge was steady with no shakes. Actually, the faster it went, the more stable it was. We then took it to a freshly paved back road in the mountains and clocked 45km/h. At 3.5 inches from the ground that's starting to be pretty fast. I went nuts and decided to try it on the main road.

"Are you nuts!" was the phrase I heard from Bob. I said"No man, look there is a good 30 second delay between cars. You follow me with the van and everything will be cool." In retrospect, it was pretty stupid. But I guess my guardian angel was working overtime and the road conditons were pretty crappy anyway. No decent speed could be reached and I pulled off the road pretty quick to the relief of my best buddy.

During those first experiments, we found that the brakes were working good. Actually, too good! They would lock up the wheel fast and we would end up with no stopping power. My son left a 40 foot brake mark on the pavement and a huge flat spot on the tire trying to avoid ditching in a river, jamming the brakes immediately after a loss of control. We learned there that braking with your feet was not out of the question and the rear brakes could help us slow down at best. My son found the whole thing quite funny, I was happy he came out of it in one piece and waited at least 3 weeks before sharing the story with my wife. Kids need danger in their life or they'll always be afraid of everything.

With all this new knowledge, practice, gained courage, some old clothes, old shoes and a definite need for more speed, we headed for the killer hill. A 1/4 mile, 45 degree monster with a bike path right next to it that we could run on. I had my old airforce helmet rigged to work with a couple of talkabout radios, since the rider needed info from a spotter halfway for incoming traffic report. We managed to break the 60km/h barrier. That was my goal in the beginning of this project and we made it, all three of us. My son did 60.5km/h, I did 63km/h and Bob holds the record at 65km/h. We managed at least 5 runs each that day. I'm sure your not impressed with speeds that represent about 38 mph. But remember, this was done with gravity power alone, with a thing that was slapped together with a trash bike, some 2X4's and plywood in about an afternoon. At the end of that day we realized that we managed to push the enveloppe and survive with all of our parts intact. I was starting to get scared and so were my partners in crime.

We decided then and there to quit while we were ahead and avoid a possible guided tour of our local trauma center. The luge was retired and put away until it was time for me to move. Having no space in my new home to store it, I had stripped it of it's parts and put it on the curb. Funny thing, 1 hour later a kid passed by and saw it. I happened to be in the front yard at the time. He told me that he heard about this thing and since I was getting ride of it, could he have it. I told him how it worked, what parts to get, light a candle at his favorite church and point it down a hill. The kid was happy and left with the luge. I saw him 6 months later and he was still in one piece and having a blast with it.

BUILDING THE LUGE(Take note that this luge is NOT race legal)

WARNING! This thing is dangerous. If you build one and hurt or kill yourself, that's not my problem. I'll give you here the basic steps on how to build one. If you can't figured it out from these instructions, then you shouldn't be riding one, period. The luge was never taken on winding roads with curves, so I have no idea how it handles. It was always taken down straight hills. The brakes don't work that great. They slow you done or lock up, maybe disc brakes would work better, but I don't know that for a fact. Be prepared to brake with your feet. Wear leather gloves, old clothes and for God's sake wear a crash helmet. Never ride down hills with vehicle traffic, there's just no time to stop, trust me on that one.

You need some good thick plywood, some 2X3's or 2X4's, wood screws, a rear bike triangle, rear bike wheel with a slick tire, a longboard truck, soft longboard wheels(don't use rollerblade wheels like I did, bad, bad, bad), 9000lbs test wood glue, bike handlebars, two left aluminium crank arms, 2 rear wheel axles, nuts and bolts and 2 steel plates.

Cut up the bike to keep the rear triangle intact. You'll need a bike with a three piece bottom bracket. Leave the pedal axle in, you'll need that later. Construct the frame of the luge by using the 2X4's as your basic vertical frame. Sandwich your vertical frame with plywood by gluing then screwing it in with the wood screws. Drill two extra holes in the crank arms at the same spot. Bolt both of them on the pedal axle with both of them in the same position. Align them at the base of your wood frame at the back, drill holes through so you can bolt the crank arms to the wood frame with the axle rod and bolts. You will have to add sections of 2X4's between the cranks and the wood frame to fill the gap. Tightened everything as hard as you can. With some steel plates, nuts and bolts, sandwich the bike and wood frame together at the top.

Now you can put in the floor and backrest using the plywood. Put in the truck and wheels. One thing that you don't see on the photograph, that was added later for strenght, is another piece of 2X4 that was installed on top over the truck to make like a bridge. There is a gap in the frame underneath to install the longboard truck. Glue and screw that piece in. Install the brakes and handlebars.

If you're insane enough to build this and try it out, make sure you start small and where there is no traffic. Check every screw and bolt after each run. The vibrations will take this thing apart fast, I know this from personnal experience. Walk whatever hill you decide to go down of before hand so you can register obstacles and clean up debris. Don't do this alone or more than 20 minutes away from mediacl help. This Wyle E. Coyote contraption is just asking to hurt you. For those of you out there who are responsible enough to create and ride something like this, have fun and Godspeed.

Remember: When in doubt, OVERBUILD.

Gerry

Notice: In spite of my Red Green outfit in the picture above, no duct tape was used or harmed in the making of this project.

31 comments:

Rick said...

"They would lock up the wheel fast and we would end up with no stopping power. My son left a 40 foot brake mark on the pavement"

Enough braking power but not enough traction. A wider tire or one with a different tread should cure this problem.

cyen said...

Great post and congrats for being picked up on the MAKE magazine photo pool - thats how I found this site.

Erik said...

That sounds sweet! I would think a bigger tire would do the trick, that or a side-by-side setup, athough that would be more trouble than it could potentially be worth.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thank you all for your comments.I truly appreciate them.

Anonymous said...

You say not to use rollerblade wheels, like you did, but you don't say why.

So, why not use rollerblade wheels?

Gerry Lauzon said...

I had no clue that we would reach speeds as high as we did. If I would do this again(I highly doubt that), I would use longboard wheels because they offer more traction and are more solid in relation to side load stress.

Anonymous said...

Here via Make Blog, and must say, I love this idea.

D-Bly said...

where I come from(America) we build real luges w/ 4 or 6 wheels. And we get them going 50+mp/h(easily).So wen u guys wanna man up n come race with the big dogs build a real luge. i.e. 1 u lay down on.

Gerry Lauzon said...

For d-bly, I made this luge for myself and I didn't give a damn what people were going to think about it. The main idea was to have fun. I have a lot of respect for those who actually bomb down roads with real street luges and even more for those who do it standing up on longboards. In my country(Canada), we encourage people to join in our sport of choice, or hobbies, by any means they can. This way more people practice it, the activity evolves, it won't die off after all the hype and tv cameras are gone. I won't have to man up, cause I'm already doing that staying in one piece to support my family.

Nuff said!

Anonymous said...

Gerry:
Hi, Steve from Boston.
Is it possible to remove axle and sprockets from one rear wheel to another? Any help would be appreciated.
Steve

Gerry Lauzon said...

Yes Steve it is possible. Just make sure that both hubs are made to receive the same type of gear cluster, free wheel or cassette. One screws directly to the hub and the other screws itself inside the hub. As for the axle, just make sure that the length is the same.

Gerry

Anonymous said...

Wow! Great job! My only comment (and it would have been an offer, had I not givin it away) is that it might be fun to add a drag chute. I had a small one that I had picked up at a army surplus store that had been used for air-drops, unfortunately it's gone now. I'm sure you could find one somewhere cheap, if not have someone sew one up for you out of nylon. Might be good to have additional "emergency stopping power".

Pob said...

Hi, I arrived via Makezine too. This looks excellent! It looks like D-Bly has no concept of doing something just for the fun of it.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I can just see someone pulling the ripcord on their drag chute and flying forward off the luge as it comes to a stop within 5 feet...

Anonymous said...

You need to motorize it, so you can get back up the hill.... A chainsaw engine would work. That is what those cheap minibikes use.

Anonymous said...

We want a video!

Anonymous said...

Great fun!! I did something similar when I was young. I read about downhill gravity racing in a bmx magazine and had to build one. I took a 20" bicycle frame, flipped it over. Put old 10 speed curved handle bars on it. Drilled a hole through the bottom bracket for the seat. Used foot pegs near the rear axle. You basically laid down on top. It had front & rear brakes, so it stopped pretty good.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Wow! That's a lot of comments in one shot. Ok, first off, I don't have the luge anymore, sorry. I'm kicking myself now that I didn't take a video of it in action. A chute would have been definitely cool. As for a motor, I was thinking about putting some model rocket motors on it...big ones. But then I got my common sense back! We might build another one, but there is no garanties of that. I'd like to try the idea of the gravity bike too. Until then we have a plan of making a video of one of my homebuilt recumbents flying downhill. So many projects, so little time. What we be cool would be for one of the thousands of you who saw this post to actually build one and send me the result by email. Now that would be awsome. I'll be posting something soon about my air cannons on my other blog at sweetdestruction.blogspot.com, keep posted and thanks for the comments.

Gerry

mike from MD, USA said...

What a neat idea! Here from Makezine and thinking that (regardless of what D-Bly said) it took some serious balls to get on that thing ;-).

Very neat project, especially for just being slapped together one afternoon, you should be proud!

Simon said...

Reminds me of something we used to have as kids. My friends father made my friend one and we used to bomb about on that. Basically a flat, rectangular board you could kneel on with a cross board pivoted at the front. Imagine building a trolley (or soapbox racer I think you call them in the states?) with the front wheels mounted to this pivoted board. Instead of wheels mounted to the ends of the board and a string to turn it to steer we had a skateboard truck under it as the wheels and handles on the ends of the board you used to steer it with. Insteading of sitting down on it you knelt on it, gripped the handles on the end of the cross board and used that to steer the skateboard wheels. At the back though was the clever bit. Instead of wheels we used big ball races. So the rear wheels were effectively just steel! On smooth tarsealed roads you could ride this thing with the back sliding about all over the damn place. It would make an absolutely horrendous noise and make huge marks all over the street. And of course you're kneeling on it and facing downhill so it was terribly dangerous but so much fun!

dragstarking said...

d-bly said...

" where I come from(America) we build real luges w/ 4 or 6 wheels. And we get them going 50+mp/h(easily).So wen u guys wanna man up n come race with the big dogs build a real luge. i.e. 1 u lay down on. "

dragstarking says...

where I come from(Australia) we build real men. And we get them going aggro(easily).So wen u guys wanna man up n come fight with the big dogs build a real man. i.e. I will make you lay down on the ground.


Cool luge BTW,I had to say that above as that attitude is why I dislike America so much.I suppose it's easy to be in the top 100 of a sport if there's only 100 participants.

Gerry Lauzon said...

Thanks for the comment on the luge d-ly. As for disliking America, one cannot generalize. I dislike morons, wherever they come from. G'day and bottoms up mate(Raising my Molson to your Fosters).

Anonymous said...

Hey I’m 17 years old and I made a luge out of metal. I first made a square frame then I welded two bars on it to make a point at one end. I welded a bolt to the end of the point so that the bolt pointed down. I then put roller-blade wheels on each end of a pole with a hole in the middle. Then I bolted it to the frame at the point. I could then turn. I welded a school chair to the frame and I put roller-blade wheels on the back. It is a lot of fun and the fastest I went on it was about 40mph!! I had my friend drive by me in his car it was a stupid idea but we didn’t get hurt.

Brad said...

Dude, cool! The street luge is my kinda fun.

Brad

Gerry Lauzon said...

Again, thanks for your comments. I should dig up the pictures of my homebuilt jet engine made from a couple of cans and a hairdryer. Not much thrust, but a whole lot of flames!

Gerry

GERRY D. said...

This is pretty cool...But in 1997 a company with a product "Landslide Luge" came on the market and tried to get a new luge catagory going with this new product! They would hit speeds quicker & faster than your regular "classic" luge & were safer because of the brakes. They tried to get these into the X-GAMES and were denied because it had a bicycle wheel on it ! They said that it was not a "real" luge for the fact it only had 2 skateboard wheels & no skateboard trucks! These things are fast & in my opinion would have taken the sport of STREET LUGING to a higher more competitive level !
GERRY D. FLAT BLACK KUSTOMS.

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Anonymous said...

I tried to add photos of the luge on the previous comment but it would not let me, Sorry! Here is a link to the Landslide Luge.

http://www.sunnymayent.com/sports/landslide/index.asp

GERRY D. said...

I tried to add photos of the luge on the previous comment but it would not let me, Sorry! Here is a link to the Landslide Luge.

http://www.sunnymayent.com/sports/

Andy said...

Nutter. you look like a total twat, but hey, keep building stuff, its cool.. just not that thing!.

josie said...

Dear Gerry: Due to an accident some time ago, my right lower leg and ankle/foot are unstable to use. I loved to go bicycling long distances and want to again. My old bike needs a few common parts so I'm wondering How can I redo my bike so I can pedal with my good left leg/foot only and susspend my lame leg/foot on the other side? Thank You Josie

Gerry Lauzon said...

Hello Josie, if the right leg and foot can still move, even if they don't produce power, you could strap your right foot in the pedal.

If not, you could remove the right pedal and install a peg somehow on the frame where you could rest your right foot.

It is possible to ride with just one good leg, I have seen it for myself. The lady had strapped her bad foot in the pedal.

Good Luck

Gerry :)