Designed by Paul Norton, the Zander Lander was originally conceived to ferry his son Leo around the Burning Man Festival. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton via https://zanderlanderandgem.shutterfly.com/pictures/17)

Designed by Paul Norton, the Zander Lander was originally conceived to ferry his son Leo around the Burning Man Festival. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton)

Maker Faires, festivals, and bazaars are great places to see unusual inventions and works of art, some of which include aspects that need to be experienced. One of those unusual projects comes from inventor Paul Norton with his Zander Lander – a visually interesting tricycle that has its roots based in Paul’s interest in human-powered sculptures and recumbent bicycles.

In fact, Paul designed the Zander Lander to ferry his son, Leo Zander Lew Norton (hence the name), around Burning Man when he was just 1-year old, which is why the tricycle originally featured a rollover sunshade and a reclining stroller seat in the center. It has since undergone a few revisions as Leo has grown older over the years. Leo has since transitioned from the center seat to the right, where he can help power the Zander.

The engineering that went into the Zander Lander is pretty impressive and I recently had a chance to ask Norton how he designed and built his impressive trike. “It is a tadpole (2 wheels in front, one in back) tricycle layout and carries 3 people – two peddlers and one barnacle (along for the ride). The two front wheels are powered completely independently. The right person pedals the right wheel and the left pedals the left wheel.”

The Norton family in the Zander Lander next to an impressive sculpture at Burning Man 2013. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton via leozander.blogspot.com)

The Norton family in the Zander Lander next to an impressive sculpture at Burning Man 2013. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton via his blog)

He then went on to explain how the drivetrains function, specifically how the trike is controlled. “Each of the two bicycle drivetrains is a fairly simple, traditional design. Each peddler has their own independent 15-speed gearing and can pedal at their own cadence. The rear wheel is steered by the person on the left using a cable steering system.”

Paul went on to say, “The wheels are laid-out in an equilateral triangle. The barnacle sits in the seat of honor in the center of the craft. The craft can spin nearly on its own axis in either direction. The person on the outside of the turn powers the turn. Both front wheels have caliper brakes in the control of the steerer. The person on the right only pedals. Believe it or not, it can be ridden fairly easily by one person.”

The three umbrellas on the Zander Lander are driven by three independent electric motors, which add to the tricycle’s unique visual. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton via leozander.blogspot.com)

The three umbrellas on the Zander Lander are driven by three independent electric motors, which add to the tricycle’s unique visual. (Image courtesy of Paul Norton via his blog)

While the tricycle design of the Zander Lander provides a solid base in project design, it’s the rotating umbrellas that give it that uniqueness that makes it a roving work of art. “The ZL is equipped with three umbrellas driven by independent small electric reversible motors. They provide a delightful visual effect. The top umbrella is 9′ diameter, the side umbrella are 3′ to 5′ diameter.”

What’s more, they’re interchangeable too, “We have two top umbrellas and four sets of very different side umbrellas so the ZL can change its appearance often. The use of umbrellas for visual effect provides shade to the drivers and can be quickly collapsed in the case of high winds. The spinning umbrellas and unique turning complement each other nicely.”

The Zander Lander even sports a car stereo, sound, and lighting system that includes LED ultraviolet floodlights to illuminate the umbrellas and three strobe lights that act as collision lights to prevent accidents during night drives. Paul says that the Zander Lander has been used extensively for almost a decade and has made appearances at not only Burning Man but various Maker Faires, parades and festivals as well.

Since the creation of the Zander Lander, Paul has collaborated with his son Leo on other projects that include the GEC (a giant electric cupcake) that’s often driven by Leo and a fireball generator that creates 6 to 7-foot tall fireballs like the ‘puffers’ found at Burning Man. There are also future projects in the works, including a “full-body roller suit” that will pack 25 rollerblade wheels and fiber optics for a rolling, illuminated outfit.