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Ethan Schlussler of Sandpoint, Idaho, built this clever bicycle-powered treehouse elevator to make it easier to reach his nearly 30-foot-high treehouse.

“I got tired of climbing a ladder six and a half million times a day, so I made a bicycle powered elevator to solve this problem,” he writes.

“It was originally a 20-something speed bicycle, but first gear wasn’t slow enough, so I cut the large sprocket off the front, and welded it on the rear to get a lower gear. I also had to do away with the de-railers and make a new chain tensioner.”

The treehouse is not yet complete, but Ethan says, “I will be building walls and insulating it in the next few weeks, and eventually I intend to live (or at least sleep) in it. “

bicycle-powered treehouse elevator
A heavy chain keeps the bicycle from being pulled up by the counterweight.

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Ethan pedals his way to his treetop hideaway.

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Bike’s eye view.

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On the way down (feet off the pedals).

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Preparing for touchdown.

[Thanks, Phil!]

Laura Cochrane

I’m an editor at MAKE and CRAFT. I like hiking, biking, and etymology.


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Comments

  1. So rad! I’m having treehouse-envy right about now :)

  2. Erica Cheun says:

    wow! I love it! What a great idea. I as well, am having treehouse envy right now. Great job!

  3. TomMadeO says:

    I hope like the Otis Elevator that there is some sort of safety catch built into that. I would hate to fall only to hit the large rock at the bottom!!

    1. Rahere says:

      And a coiled wire ladder or knotted drop-rope on the bike in case it jams: a twenty-five foot drop is likely t do serious damage if nobody’s around.

  4. If I let my son see this, I will be forced to build it.

    1. Laura Cochrane says:

      Show him, Andrew!!

  5. Ryan Rose says:

    Wow.. What can’t Tom Hanks do!

  6. GatorALLin says:

    Love to see how he gets off the bike at the top and then back on…. and love some more details about exactly how this system is setup using counter weight. Is he using the hand break to slow the descent at the bottom? I don’t see a rope or chain coiling up on the bike wheel or sprocket, so is this a continual loop system? Would this same system work just as well on 200 feet distance vs the 30 or so he is using this for now? I can see some tension on it and rock at the bottom must be used to anchor it when someone not on the bike to add their own body weight back into the system.

  7. From what I can tell, the cables that attach to the bike are, front-to-rear:

    1) stabilizer, connected to counterweight
    2) the drive cable that pulls the bike—this enters from above through a tube, around the bottom bracket, and eventually anchors onto the rear rim
    3) the opposite end of the drive cable, anchored to a contraption bolted onto the bike above the rear wheel
    4) another stabilizer, connected to the counterweight

    Pedaling turns the rear wheel, which wraps the (2) end of the drive cable around the rear rim. The drive cable is attached to the ceiling of the treehouse between (2) and (3). As the distance between (2) and (3) becomes shorter as a result of the (2) end being wrapped around the rim, it pulls the bike toward the drive cable anchor point on the tree house ceiling.

    The rear brake is used to prevent the rear rim from moving. This keeps the distance between point (2) and (3) static, preventing the bike from moving down when the rear brakes is fully engaged. The rider and bike are heavier than the counterweight as we see in the descending footage, so I suspect there is some sort of travel stop mechanism (the tube where the (2) end of the drive train enters the bike?) that keeps the bike from being pulled higher than a certain point when the rider steps off into the tree house. The rear brake also likely has a lock, to prevent the bike from descending after the rider takes his feet off the pedals, but before he removes his weight fully from the bike

    Descending is simple—the bike and rider weight more than the counterweight, so as long as the rim can rotate, they’ll fall, and the counterweight will rise. Note that the rider has to keep his feet clear of the pedals while the bike drops—reversing the rear wheel and setting up the drive train on the left (assuming it’s not a fixed gear bike) would avoid this problem. Speed in descending is controlled by the rear brake. Once at the bottom, the large rock is locked to the frame to prevent the counterweight from pulling it back up.

    1. GatorALLin says:

      excellent description. (thanks!). So if this person wanted to go up 100 feet, vs. 30, then the coiling of the rope may not fit on the back wheel, or need more room to coil…? And if he wants to lower himself slower, maybe the counter weight should weigh a bit less, or use the brakes more. I was guessing there was a stop at the top and that when Not on the bike the counter weight would thus hold it at the top (against a stop). Lack of an opening in the rail for the treehouse seemed harder to get off the bike at the top and weird he did not show that in the video (thus had me curious on if/how a stop was built into the system for the top). anyhow.. thanks for your descriptions.

  8. das says:

    Looks to me like there are 2 counterweights, 1 each front & rear. As far as how much vertical lift you can get, I’d say it was limited by how much cable you can wrap around the rear rim.
    At first, I was imagining sort sort of capstan drive, where the rear rim simply moved cable, rather than storing it like a winch, but it it looks like Cyclocosm has it right. A capstan drive might be somewhat more complicated to implement, but would allow you an arbitrarily long lift cable, because you wouldn’t need the drum capacity.

  9. Gramcakes says:

    I am so glad you had this conversation between you so I could get an idea of how it was made. But I am a diagram and drawing type of person to help me understand completely how this
    worked, would it be possible for the simpleton in the group who really wants to understand this
    to have pictures? I could be the coolest grandmother ever if I could rig up a smaller type for my
    grandson. Thanks for any help available.

  10. Metricphy says:

    At last, there is no upper platform to park bike, so no one actually gets off at the top or keep the bike going back to the ground or retreiving bike if you are at the top and bike on ground, elevator needs more work, but cool concept.