Project Rickshaw First Report: Trials & Tribulations

Given my fondness for bikes (the only way to fly!), and my fondness for cute girls, my tandem bike works quite well in my life. But, that being said, I also have a fondness for mini-skirts and high-heels (I know, I know) and things like that :-) So what to do?…..

A few weeks ago, the answer dawned on me:

Project Rickshaw!

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Step 1: Find an awesome cute girl
(ahem)
Step 1: Find a rickshaw!

I checked Craigslist up and down the West Coast (& a few East Coast cities) and then eBay, and then Googled everything I could think of. Most of the links were about modern pedicabs and the like – but a few were gold, especially after I realized I needed to filter my search to classic Asian ones.* After much Googling I came up with a few different types like these…

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Step 2: Find one actually for sale.
Many of the posts were for ones that were once on sale and had been sold or were otherwise unavailable. Luckily one of my first hits was a guy (Hi Jason!**) down in Orange County who happened to have a genuine ROMP (Rickshaw of My People)….it was gorgeous but was sadly missing it’s canopy. He had bought it off someone a few years earlier who had brought a few back with him from India & had no need of it. I really liked it, esp. the hand painting (see the photo below) , but I was really bummed about the canopy. I kept looking, but in the end decided the price was right, the seller was helpful & really it was just a beautiful machine – so it was on.

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Step 3: I borrowed something big enough to fit a rickshaw in it (it turns out a rickshaw will just fit perfectly in a small SUV(!)), woke up crazy early last Sunday and drove down to Orange County. In a brutal day of driving I returned around midnight with a large disassembled rickshaw! (thanks for the loan Sean!)

Step 4: I put it back together, took it to a nearby bike shop, let them do some fixes on it & took it for a test ride. Up until that point, I had never ridden it – it’s chain was broken when I bought it – so there was no test ride. Thus, I was really excited to try it out.

Hmmmm. Not what I hoped.

It was crazy heavy, and really uncomfortable to ride. :-( The seat was like a brick, the handlebars way too low, and the fixed-rod breaking system left me skeptical. But more than anything else – it was just heavy heavy HEAVY. I have strong legs, and bike constantly, but this really had me intimidated – would it be any fun?

I took it back to the bike shop, where we put on a new seat, and raised the handlebars as high as we could (only a little more) and did some other minor tweaks that rendered it a lot more comfortable, but there wasn’t much else to be done & I took it home. The only thing to do was to try it out for real as soon as possible.

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I think this says “May your journey be blessed/auspicious”. (Thanks Srikar!)

Step 5: So yesterday was the day: the shakedown cruise. I decided to surprise Kimberly (the alpha-cuteness in my life) by picking her up on a cross town grocery shopping trip (she’s a fan of the Chinese shops on Clement).

And how was it? Well the bad news is that it was still crazy-super heavy, but the good news is that it was nonetheless SOOO MUCH FUN. The ride there by myself was slow (45 minutes) but fun, and the ride back with Kimberly and a bunch of groceries was even better. Kimberly got out and pushed once and decided to give me a ride for a block or so :-) and we had to walk it up a hill – but wow – what fun! People all over town got excited or amused seeing us (We posed for lots of pictures). The passenger seat was comfortable and easy to sit on(another concern I had) & there was plenty of room for groceries :-) It was just a great time, leisurely trundling around town on a gorgeous spring day.

The hardest part was biking up my street on the way home. By that time I was plenty tired & the slope up Valencia St. to my house (& on to Kimberly’s 4 blocks later) is long and steady. It was a big problem and no fun. But at least the rest of the day was fantastic.

CONCLUSION:
In the end, I LOVE MY RICKSHAW. It is seriously FUN! That being said, I’ve decided that as much as I love that it is a fully authentic Indian rickshaw, I’d rather have a somewhat less authentic Indian rickshaw that I’d use more often. The part I’m most excited about is the gorgeous passenger seat assembly with the hand-painted peacocks, lions, and Hindi script (see possible translation above). So I think I’m going to try to get a lighter frame bike for the front half, and have someone build me a lighter back assembly to put the original passenger seat on. I think that will be perfect & even more fun. Also hopefully they can build me a canopy :-) We’ll see! So, stay tuned for the continuation of Project Rickshaw! (and if you know of any bike frame whizzes let me know!)

‘deep

.ps
And fear not Trikeasaurus fans! Trikeasaurus 2.0 is almost here!

Here are more pix from the shakedown cruise:

IMG_6230.jpgThanks Fawn!

These next few shots are from Brian Kusler’s always-fun Flickr stream. There are a few more cute shots there! Thanks BK!

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*This also fits in well with my new found appreciation and curiosity about the ancestral homeland, India. But I also have to say, I REALLY want one of these Taiwanese ones, bad!

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Here are some more pics of these awesome Taiwanese ones… I found a tiny children’s version (so cool!( but it is way too small for actual use….))

If you ever come across one please let me know.

Also this cool Chinese one is on sale on eBay & I can’t help but to keep thinking about it :-)

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** BTW: Jason seems to have another one that he’ll probably be selling soon if anyone is interested.

20 thoughts on “Project Rickshaw First Report: Trials & Tribulations

  1. I think the translation is more along the lines of: May your journey be blessed/auspicious.

  2. Can you put a cluster on that rear axle to allow you some flexibility or are you determined to keep it a single speed?

  3. Actually though, I think “the best niece ever to live ever” would have entered the blog comment on the appropriate post, rather than the first post she came across, so you’ll have to settle for “almost the best niece ever to live ever”

  4. Hey Deep, saw your email! Lovely Indian rickshaw, I was curious about them. I’ll invite you to any future expo/industry seminars I put on :)

    Man, that thing needs guardrails or some kind of back/sides so people don’t need to practice good posture – or tumble off the backside with a disgruntled beer mug. Are you up for ferrying any politicians on one?

    If you can put some gears on it like the “mainstreet” ones that GGP/SFP use then you’ll be able to heft a lot more weight/distance. One speed pedicabs are no fun.

    Cheers,
    Ken

  5. Welcome to the wonderful world of recreational rickshaw! I’ve been at it for about half a decade and it’s lots of fun. Your ride looks like the ones I saw last year in northern India:
    http://www.rickshawseason.com/tag/india/

    The biggest difference is the angle of the carriage. The ones of your style I saw in multiple cities in India all had what appeared to be wood blocks that upped the angle. Look above the axle on this picture for an example:
    http://www.rickshawseason.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/smallindianrickshaw.jpg

    This style of rickshaw would also do cargo duty sometimes.

    I respectfully disagree with Ken, I think one speed rickshaws are FUN! Here’s my Chinese one:
    http://www.rickshawseason.com/about/

    I just picked up a Main Street Pedicab, and it’s 21 speeds and far better build than my Chinese single speed. My Chinese one has to be heavier than what you’re rolling, and I’m glad I kept it as a single speed. I plan on keeping both, and using the Main Street for longer trips.

    Happy rickshawing, fellow rikshawala!

    -Brock

  6. nice. I’m on a similar journey and have been trying to figure out a rickshaw food cart for a while now. Looks good. And btw thanks for the sounds down 24th street for Sunday Streets last week. peace

  7. your rickshaw is realy cool I have a 40s taiwon i cant find tires i herd they were metric my cab is trimed with copper and fenders are brass it has bell by right rear tire rickshaws rule

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