While the cycling community grows every year from a
combination of national and personal reasons, the appeal of expanding on the
average has always been a part of the sport. If not to see what fun you can have
messing with the traditional, then just for the hell of it.
Tall Bike Jousting has been finding a local audience recently. Putting competitors on specially crafted bikes and helmet all for the joy and spectacle of peddling toward another with a large foam stick to knock them down. If you'd care to watch or participate there's an event kicking off tonight, but before we promote that we chat with one of the men behind the making of these bikes, Mark Polichette, about the bikes and the joust as well as some other topics.
Gavin: Hey Mark, first off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Mark: I’m a local bike enthusiast.
Gavin: What first drew your interest towards bikes and cycling?
Mark: I tried simplifying my life, taking out big unnecessary expenses. Gas prices were going up, and I figured if I rode a bike to work once or twice a week, I’d save a couple bucks. Riding became my passion after I met other cyclists, and became part of the community here in Salt Lake. Bike people are good people.
Gavin: How did you first get involved with building them?
Mark: After seeing a tall bike in person, I had to have one. I dumpster dived some frames, and called up my buddy with a mig welder.
Gavin: What's the process like behind building a tall bike from start to finish?
Mark: The best way to describe it, is like putting together Frankenstein’s monster. We sort of start with a concept of what we want, but near the end, we start putting parts in to make everything work, bending pieces out of the way to make room for the chain line or using a piece of conduit to support head tubes. It seems with every build we try to do something new and unique, just to keep it fun.
Gavin: Are there any experimental designs that you do, or is everything kept pretty simple so it works?
Mark: I would say that most tall bike designs are pretty simple. The simpler the better, however Beau Smith and I are always looking to build something new and unique. We built up a Zebra bike and are currently building a fiberglass recumbent bike. We have other classified plans that people will just have to wait to see.
Gavin: For people who don't ride tall bikes, is it easy and what's the best way to learn?
Mark: Definitely easy, once you’re moving on it, there is no difference from riding a regular bike. The tough part is getting on. A novice may use a step, something to lean the bike on or ask friends to hold on to the bike for them as they attempt to climb up. Skilled riders get the bike rolling and climb up as the tall bike coasts into the street. I always recommend drinking beer before making any attempt.
Gavin: If someone wanted one, how would they go about getting one through you?
Mark: Each and every tall bike is a custom build and it takes good frames. I think that building a tall bike is something one does for him self.
Gavin: Tell us a little about Tall Bike Jousting.
Mark: It’s fucking bad ass! Two men face off traveling at high speeds with big weapons on big bikes! We constructed lances out of 10 foot PVC pipe and fitted them with boxing gloves, foam, or stuffed animals. We let each competitor choose a lance, choose a bike, and try to smack each other off. Its something you have got to see to truly enjoy.
Gavin: For those who want to compete, what do they need to know and have?
Mark: They need to know that despite what I may say to the police, tall bike jousting is a dangerous sport. We have helmets, lances and tall bikes at the events so anyone with enough balls to get in and compete has a chance.
Gavin: Are there any plans to make it a regular event?
Mark: Not really, part of the appeal is that you never know where or when the next one is going to be, or if there is going to be a next one.
Gavin: Considering the sport, what do you believe the appeal is to it?
Mark: Beside the fact that its badass, I think it’s the risk involved. Not only do the participants have to face off in a competitive match, but they have to do it trying to control a menacing piece of machinery. And for a brief second you get to witness a violent mess…. That’s a formula for fun!
Gavin: What have you got planned for the next event?
Mark: A couple new things: New location, mini tall bikes, and word is out that a ‘Tall Bike Jesus’ is going to MC this event.
Gavin: A little local, what are your thoughts on the possibility of rental bikes coming to downtown?
Mark: It’s a great way for a city to develop. With the bars no longer being private clubs, the church rebuilding the city creek center, and events, like summer concerts being held at the Gallivan Plaza, adding an additional means of simple transportation for both tourists and locals is fantastic. Salt Lake is a great city to ride; more people should get out there.
Gavin: What do you think about the local bike culture that's growing, especially in the downtown area of SLC?
Mark: Bike culture in salt lake has come up quite a bit in the last few years. We do everything we can to just have fun and get more people involved. The more people riding bikes, the safer it is out there.
Gavin: What's your take on extreme sports and how its affected cycling as a whole?
Mark: I think that extreme sports are great entertainment, and get large attention due to the danger involved.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
Mark: Saltcycle.com! The best place to see any events and get to know the people out on their bikes. It’s sweet!