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.