Taking cycling to new heights

Elliott Cope with his oversized bicycle. Photo: John Borren.

A new addition to Papamoa’s cycle lane has caused some jaw dropping amongst motorists this week.

Papamoa College student Elliott Cope has been enjoying the increased visibility that his tall-bike gives him as he cycles around Papamoa and Mount Maunganui.

The 36kg cycle built from recycled cycles is the product of Elliott’s NCEA Level 3 hard tech project.

“My tech teacher Mr [Mark] Thomas and I came up with the idea, along with a friend of mine. We looked at a couple of existing designs and thought about an elongated steering rod and other design attributes that we wanted.”

"Elliott and I had a number of robust conversations about the risks and challenges of designing a tall bike,” says Mark. “We came to the conclusion that the idea could take off by developing safe riding practices for mounting and dismounting and that it would take time to develop the skill to ride it."

Elliott’s love of SketchUp, a 3D modelling computer program, came in useful, resulting in various design iterations.

“It started off as a very angular, basic shape and from there I developed seven different designs. We had to narrow it down to the best one, based on what we have.

Budget, availability of equipment and materials, and whether it could feasibly be built were all considerations that Elliott and his teacher had to agree on.

“I couldn’t have got a better teacher. Mr Thomas was a really good help, he’s very passionate about striving to help his students succeed.”

The majority of his class took on woodwork projects, such as bedside tables and industrial furniture.

“I’d done metalworking and really enjoy new challenges and looking into new ideas. I've got all this equipment and my teacher’s quite into bikes, so he has knowledge that I could build upon. I like challenging myself, so I thought, why not?”

Getting on and off the bike and actually riding it isn’t as hard as it may look. Elliott leans his tall-bike up against a wall or lamp post and simply steps up on pegs welded into the bike. The large wheelbase gives it great stability at slow speeds.

“I can go at a snail’s pace compared to most bikes, and with the elevated view, you can easily see oncoming traffic.”

It’s a six-speed bike with standard gears. The variable gears help with slowing down and speeding up.

One of the recycled parts had some front suspension which helps give a smoother ride over uneven terrain, something that early penny farthings and ‘bone rattlers’ never had.

“The bike’s made up of two frames. A friend donated his two old bikes to me.”

The tyres, gears, most of the chain, the brakes, steering, handlebars - all recycled.

“I've used some steel tubing from Vulcan Steel at the Mount to build some of the frame. But a good part of it’s made out of recycled bike parts.”

Engineering is his passion, and it’s in his blood, with two of Elliott’s grandparents working as engineers in the British services. Elliott is heading to the Auckland University of Technology next year to study for a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours.

“I want to specialise in mechanical engineering. It’s quite a broad degree and you can go into so many different fields with that.

“I think it's very important to do something that you're passionate about as then you strive for a high standard.”

At the recent Papamoa College prize-giving, Elliott received the top award for academic excellence in engineering.

“I also received a scholarship for it, which I was very surprised about. That will help ease some of the course costs over the next couple of years.”

Apart from the obvious drawback of not being able to put your foot on the ground, Elliott has found many advantages for riding a tall-bike over a more traditional bike.

“It’s very easy when it comes to road cycling, it’s surprisingly smooth. And if someone opened a door into my pathway, a normal cyclist would go straight into that and be quite badly injured whereas for me I would clear that.”

"This project shows students that technology can challenge existing ideas and concepts,” says Mark.

“The process of problem solving and designing quality solutions is immensely satisfying and fun. Elliott has a bright future in technology and engineering, and teachers at Papamoa College look forward to seeing him grow and advance into tertiary education."

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