Biology student Bas Nooren has gotten used to it. Heads turn everywhere he goes on his high wheeler. What was that?
© Guy Ackermans
It all started while browsing Google. There he saw a high bicycle built from existing bikes. ‘I could do that’, he thought. Or rather: ‘I could do that better’. The result is a vehicle you could encounter in the streets of Wageningen: his version of the high wheeler from the second half of the 19th century, the early days of the bicycle.
The bicycle consists of two frames that have been welded at an angle. Only the new extended fork is new. That is; ‘I used two pipes I got at the Gamma.’ With a bit of imagination, you can recognise the old high wheeler, the bicycle with a large front wheel and a small rear wheel. Except it does not have a large front wheel. But it was not meant to be that kind of retro bike.
The bicycles he used were stolen, he says honestly. ‘But stolen with an ethical approach. The bicycles had been left a long time ago near the Haarweg. One had a broken pedal, the other a defective rear wheel.’ The assembly took place in the garage of the workshop where he works his side job. And that is a story in itself.
‘During my first year, studying went smoothly’, Nooren says. ‘I had a lot of time on my hands. And I thought to myself: I’d like to know how cars work. I visited all workshops in Wageningen, and one let me try. I’ve been working there for a year now. Sometimes up to 10-15 hours a week. How I combine work and university? I skip most of the programme parts that are not mandatory.’
The bicycle is easy to use. Getting on, seemingly the most difficult part, barely takes any practice. Cycling gives a very light sensation: the world up there does look a bit different. ‘Once you are cycling, it really isn’t that hard’, Nooren explains. ‘Keeping your balance works just like on a regular bicycle.’
Braking is a bit of a challenge, though. The one handbrake on the frame only works ‘for 30 percent’. How does he approach traffic lights? ‘I simply roll up slowly and put my foot on the post.’ Nooren does not perceive any safety problems. ‘I’m the only one to use it, and I know how it works.’ Well, you have to be a tad crazy, he admits. ‘I do like to do things differently.’
The high wheeler is not Nooren’s only idea. ‘I would also like to create a vertical tandem. One where one person is above the other.’ According to him, it has never been done before. But how would one get on? ‘Erm, I don’t know that yet. I first have to think about it some more. Then I’ll see how to continue.’ But the world will have to wait for this novelty. Nooren: ‘I don’t have time to start working on it yet.’