The Fun Bike Unicorn Club (FBUC), a lively group of bicycle enthusiasts based in Sonoma County, Calif., brought the Death Defying Figure 8 Pedal Car Races to Maker Faire Bay Area in 2012. They threw down a challenge to makers: to hand-build a pedal-powered single seater with no less than four wheels, bring it to the Faire, and race it on their tricky track bearing two turns and a cross. The result was a mighty good time had by all, and the races are back for this year’s Maker Faire Bay Area, taking place on May 18 and 19 at the San Mateo Fairgrounds. FBUC’s focus is on fun and bikes, with a sprinkling of unicorns thrown in for good measure. We caught up with one of FBUC’s founding members, Klaus Rappensperger (pictured above in the lead), to get the inside scoop.
1. How was FBUC formed?
FBUC was formed out of necessity. We (as artists and bicycle junkies) needed a way to display our toys outside of the Handcar Regatta [race in Santa Rosa, Calif.]. We all met racing each other on the railroad tracks and had a great respect for vision, craftsmanship, and what we were doing to make our community more fun. We organized a meeting in my garage one night and wrote down as many random words that epitomized what we do and how we wanted to be portrayed. Then, by random selection (closed eyes and finger points), we selected the four words that make up the Fun Bike Unicorn Club. The idea was that FBUC could stand for anything (F*cking Broken Useless Crap — not as cool as unicorns). We claim to be the North Bay Chapter, in hopes that everyone could be a unicorn and start their own chapter. We do not discriminate, nor exclude anyone. Unicorns are everywhere.
2. What types of events have you participated in?
We participate in parades, bike expos, non-profit fundraisers, parties, art openings, galas, events that contact us and pique our interest.
FBUC member Joshua Thwaites working the Whiskeydrome like a boss.
3. Tell us about the Whiskeydrome.
Whiskeydrunk Cycles built the Drome for Joshua Thwaites initially. He found a picture in a book (The Noblest Invention) of Keith’s Bicycle Track, a sideshow attraction of the late 1800s to early 1900s. We found absolutely no information on the track or who Keith was. This has always haunted me — I gotta know what happened to that track. I feel like we have such a connection to the four men of the original photo, but know nothing about them. We only found a few photos of it online. I printed out the photos we found and scaled them to the best of my ability. I decided to change the dimensions a bit to make it a bit more rideable. Our track diameter is a bit bigger and Keith’s is a little steeper. It’s not a replica, but more of a homage. We ran into some obstacles and confusion on how they actually built it, so the design was modernized. It breaks down into eight pieces, fits into a 6×10 trailer, and takes about 1-2 hours to set up.
The legendary Keith’s Bicycle Track from the early 1900s.
4. Why a Death Defying Figure 8 race?
I saw a small little blurb in a MAKE magazine about cyclekarts [Volume 26, page 54]. These makers were, and are, building little replicas of racecars from the 20s and 30s. They have little 5-horsepower motors in them and they are absolutely beautiful! They race each other and look like they’re having a blast. I wanted that. We needed that. The Regatta was done and we needed a new avenue to build, race, and inspire. I put the challenge out to the Unicorns and anyone else who can sit still to build a car within the requirements. Originally the idea was to build a huge board track and have races, but the figure 8 was easy and way more death defying! For me it was an inexpensive way to fulfill my need to have a vintage racecar. The pedal power just came naturally. We are Junkies of the Bicycle and have a lot of spare parts.
FBUC’s Todd Barricklow and his beautiful classic pedal car.
5. How many members does FBUC currently have and how often do you meet?
Whiskeydrunk Cycles meets on Wednesday nights. The Unicorns crash the meetings on occasion. Currently there are five organizations that make up the North Bay Chapter: Klank-Boom-Crank, T3D (Todd Barricklow), Eight Pack, Bunnyfluffer Cycles, Whiskeydrunk Cycles.
Racers taking off at Maker Faire Bay Area 2012.
6. What is the FBUC philosophy?
Fun, bicycles, unicorns! Inspire people to put down the remote and pick up a wrench.
7. How many years have you been makers at Maker Faire and what keeps you coming back?
Four years. It’s a great platform for inspiration! It boggles my mind to see the amount of people who walk through those gates and see stuff that they would have never found if it were not for MAKE magazine. The look of awe on the children’s faces is what keeps me motivated to continue doing what I do. I had Popular Science and the Boy Scouts when I was a kid, but nothing even close to what MAKE has done. I still haven’t seen everything the Faire has to offer.
Read more about this year’s Death Defying Figure 8 Pedal Car Races at Maker Faire Bay Area and enter to compete!