Art Bike Project Profile: Mike Zeitz is Learning to Make Tall Bikes

Big Mike has spearheaded the first ever Vancouver Mini Maker Faire art bike project, where he is recruiting Makers to start decorating, building and creating custom bicycles – of all shapes and sizes. So far he’s managed to wrangle bicycle fabricators, sign decorators, and has found a pile of bicycle parts for pillaging. His overall goal is to learn how to make bicycles from old parts, meet friends, engage with Vancouver’s cycling community, and help promote Vancouver Mini Maker Faire. He’s looking to do more, and looking for more people to get involved. You do not have to have experience with welding to join the project – just enthusiasm Sign up now to get involved!

1) Where did the idea for the art bike project come from, and how did it start?

I was inspired by the yarn bombing project from last year. I had been thinking over the winter about creative, maker-themed ways to attract attention and media coverage. I realized that art bikes, and tall bikes specifically would be a great way to do that. Vancouver has a very strong bicycle culture with lots of people already making tall and alternative bicycles here. I figured that a brightly colored, wildly decorated tall bike, with boldly emblazoned across it would be a very effective mobile platform for promoting Maker Faire.

2) Can you talk a bit about the different people that are helping to make this happen?

I have received a lot of support and advice from many quarters, but there are some in particular who have proven invaluable. Nearly all of the old bicycles and parts I have used have come from the Pedal Depot and the UBC Bike Co-op. Huge thanks to both those organizations! Many of the people on the Maker Faire team have been invaluable with support and guidance Emily, Richard and Ben have been awesome at encouraging and motivating me! Christina has done so much for this project, and it’s about to payoff in a big way! I am going to have lots of bikes for her and her creative, artistic people to decorate very soon!  Neal DeGroote has also decorated his own bicycle and let us show it off at the MOV Fundraiser. You may see him riding it around the city as well. Down at the Vancouver Community Lab there’s been many people, like Jim and Conrad who’ve given some very good advice, but the one person who’s made the biggest difference is Ryan Paton.This dude is awesome! He’s been there for every one of our Wednesday evening and Saturday build session (plus lots of other time). He’s given materials, shared expertise and loaned tools and equipment! We’re getting very close to having bikes ready to put out on the street and we wouldn’t be if it weren’t for Ryan! All you have to do is look at the Facebook page and what you see is Ryan, making bikes and riding them!

3) What kinds of skills are you gaining through the process of putting together this project?

Aside from the larger goal of helping Maker Faire, I did have a few personal goals for this project. I wanted to get to know some of the people in the art and bicycle scenes. I wanted to get some experience rallying and motivating people. Mostly I wanted to get a bunch of like-minded strangers together and have them emerge as a large group of bike making fiends! I mean friends!

I also have the goal of learning to make creative alternative bikes. Years ago, I was very into biking but had fallen away from it. I’m wanting to get back into biking in a big way! In 1995 I went on a big bicycle tour, and I’m working on getting a leave of absence from my job to do a big ride this fall. I want to make myself a recumbent bike and ride it 2-3000km. Actually, I’m going to make a fairly normal recumbent bike first (a tour-easy clone), but I have some very ambitious ideas about a hybrid recumbent/upright/cargo/camping solar-powered, arduino-controlled, electric assist bike. There’s a whole lot of things about that bike that I don’t know how to do, (yet) but I’m aiming high and taking it step by step, acquiring skills as I go. First thing – learn to weld old bikes.

4) How many bicycles do you think you will be putting together? Decorating?

Initially, I had been hoping to make 15-20 bikes. I have come to realize that 8-10 is probably more manageable for our first year. We have 4 bikes nearly ready for decorating now, and now that the process is worked out, the rest will materialize quickly. I want to have at least 3 or 4 out on display at various prominent bike racks at any given time, with a few in reserve for weekends, big events and repair (hopefully not necessary, but I’m prepared to repair/replace). We’re going to be aiming for main commuter hubs during the week, making sure to place the bikes out of the way, but in high-visibility locations. Tallbikes are awesome for this as they have no larger a footprint than a normal bike, will not take up any more than a normal footprint at a bike rack, but really stand out! On the weekends, we’ll be targeting events (craft fairs, bike events, sporting events) where there’ll be lots of foot traffic and high-visibility bike racks. I’m looking for suggestions for events, bike-themed or otherwise.

5) What’s your favourite part of this project so far?

I’ve met some amazing people! That’s been the best part by far! This city is full of really awesome, creative people!

I love having an output for my creative energy! sending out ideas and bouncing them around with people is awesome!

All of the bikes we have used have been pulled from the garbage stream. Every single bike was on it’s way to being recycled or trashed. I love to get new value and new life out of old things. We throw away too much stuff. I really love the Pedal Depot and UBC BIke Coop for the invaluable work that they do in this area. They rebuild/recover old bikes and get them to people that need and will use them. It’s an honor to me that I can take the stuff that even they can’t use and make something wonderful out of it.
Least favorite part = I keep burning my arms while welding ’cause I’m a klutz.

Do you want to make an art bike but don’t know how or have the tools/facilities? Come talk to us! Our regular times at the Colab are Wednesday evenings 5-9(ish) and Sundays 10-4(also ish). Also, keep an eye on the Volunteer calendar for more updates and events if you’d like to come help out.

We are looking for bicycles too! If you have some old beast that’s been lurking out back or under your stairs, unloved and unappreciated, let us show it some love!

If you have an idea for some other way you could, or would like to contribute, please let us know! Send Mike an email at