Ideas for Twin Cities Bike Builders

Conceptual Bicycles

When I draw cartoons about imaginary bicycles, I try to make the designs believable and think about how they might actually be constructed.

In this first example, the projector bike would be pretty complicated to build, perhaps impossible, but the other three designs wouldn’t be that hard and they might produce bikes that would be fun to ride .

The same thing is true of this Rowing Recumbent bike or this Orchestrocycle. Both of them wouldn’t be that hard to build and they’d be super fun to ride, row and play.


(No Exit) The Rowing Recumbent


Outlandish bicycle designs bring attention to bicycling. Drivers, cyclists and everyone else can’t help but notice a tall-bike, towering above traffic. Some locally made, pedal-powered contraptions have been highlights of the May Day parade and images of them get passed around the internet. I’m thinking of the “summersault bike” or various pedal-powered elevators. A lot of cities have “Art Car” parades. It would be fun if the Twin Cities had an annual “Art Bike” or pedal-powered parade. The Saint Paul Classic and other local bicycle events have a little of this. People create fish-bikes, buffalo-bikes, flamingo-bikes and other stuff but, once a year, it would be nice to get them all in one place.



(No Exit) Organize A Pedal Powered Parade!


In addition to the outlandish, I’d love to see the Twin Cities devote some energy to more practical bicycle or tricycle designs. Cargo trikes or “Box Trikes” are perfect for Minnesota winters. Their three wheels make them stable on ice and snow. When my wife and I got a house, the first thing I did was get a Christiania Trike from Denmark. In Denmark, at the low-end, they cost between $1400 and $1600 dollars for the basic box trike and a few extras. You can choose a steel or (lighter) aluminum step-through frame, and anywhere from a 3-speed to an 8-speed Shimano internally geared rear hub. They have disk brakes up front and a drum brake in back for quick stopping. You can get a frame lock, different types of removable seats in the box (with seatbelts), and different styles of optional rain covers. There are lots of other optional design features as well, including removable front doors, custom colors, different saddles, etc..

The boxes are made from panels of enameled, marine plywood riveted to an aluminum frame. I’ve had mine for 5 years of fairly heavy use and it’s still going strong. I use it all winter (and summer) to get groceries and run errands, or I ride it for everyday transportation when winter streets are so slick that I don’t trust the studded tires on my regular bike. It can haul 220 pounds in the cargo box. That’s a decent sized adult, multiple kids, groceries, garden supplies, or just about anything else.


The one problem with the Christiania Trike (or a Dutch one made by Bakfiets) is they cost a fortune to import. I only spent $1600 to buy my trike but I spent over $1200 to ship it to the US and pay all the tariffs, taxes and customs fees. This is why, in the USA, they retail for over $2800. This seems like a great opportunity for a local manufacturer in Minnesota. There are lots of great custom frame-builders in the Twin Cities as well as big companies like Quality Bicycle Products. We could build a box-trike of similar quality here and save people the $1200 in shipping and customs fees. At a $1500 price point, it would attract a lot more buyers like me who want something that works in the winter and it might convince more people to give up their cars. There are a few domestically made box trikes (Haley and Worksman) but they just don’t compare in terms of design, handling and quality to the Danish and Dutch ones.

So get out there and make some outlandish and practical new bike designs. …Or lend me your arc welder and pipe cutters and I’ll give it a try.


Andy Singer

About Andy Singer

Andy Singer served as volunteer co-chair of the Saint Paul Bicycle Coalition off and on for 13 years. He works as a professional cartoonist and illustrator and has authored four books including his last, "Why We Drive," which examines environmental, land use and political issues in transportation. You can see more of his cartoons at