2010 NAHBS Interview: Ted Wojcik of Ted Wojcik Custom Bicycles

Ted Wojcik of Ted Wojcik Custom Bicycles talked with Heather Higgins on the first day of the 2010 Shimano North American Handmade Bicycle Show about two of the bikes he brought to the show.

Excuse me for gawking. You’re sitting on a pedal-powered lawn mower. Can you tell me about it?

Ted Wojcik on his pedal powered recumbent lawn mower

It was made for Matt Langley of Portsmouth, NH. His brother is Jim Langley, the chief Technical Editor of Bicycling Magazine from 1989 to 1999.

Matt says he has the world’s greatest talent for blowing up gasoline-powered lawn mowers. Matt had been dragging this reel mower behind a mountain bike. The reel mower part of this is marketed and sold to be pulled behind a wheel chair. We forget that people in wheelchairs need to mow their lawn too.

Jim said to Matt, “hey there’s a guy up by you who makes bicycles, go see him and see what he can do.” My son Cody is a recent graduate from Worcester Polytech. He’s a Mechanical Engineer. It was interesting working with my son and seeing what $200,000 worth of education gets you. He did the whole thing, with my input, in SolidWorks and it was functioning in animation in SolidWorks before we cut a piece of metal. So, this was a very contemporary design and engineering project that an old Yankee like me got drawn into. This is the result. I’m very proud of Cody. I was a little bit pessimistic, but we put it together at the shop and took it outside. It’s been mowing grass since August.

Do you think that the process you used on this pedal powered mower will influence how you design bikes in the future?

I’ve actually been using a simple CAD program for making bikes since 1990. One of my customers gave me a very simple CAD program and I used it to document all of my bike designs and categorize them. One bike transitions to another which transitions to another. So the computer part of it I was very open to. But I’m an old dog and new tricks are hard. It was easier to have my son use SolidWorks; he’s very competent with the software. It was neat to witness it.

This is the first public showing. Although whenever we had it outside of the shop, cars pulled in off the street to see it. You can also take the mower off it if and ride it for fun, though that’s not really the intention.

The debut of Ted Wojcik's pedal powered recumbent lawn mower

We’re getting reading to make the second version of it which will be a little different. We’re going to make it a little shorter so it turns tighter. It has a multi-speed rear hub with a coaster brake, but we’re going to put a fixed gear in it so you can back up. It really doesn’t need brakes. If you stop pedaling, it stops. With fixed gear, you can hold it back with the pedals.

We’re going to go ahead and make some. We’ve had so much interest in it here at the North American Handmade Bicycle Show, we’re optimistic it will work out well for us.

This was very expensive to make. We’re shooting for between $3,500 and $5,000 for it. Hopefully it’ll work out. We paid $500 for the seat. By the time you add everything up, it was a lot of money to build this bike. Buying parts in quantity will help lower the cost.

We have some Wooster Polytech mechanical engineer students who are interested in interning. We’ll set up a production facility and try to make a couple of them a day. We’ll separate it from the bike business, but they’ll be associated. This will be a start up that we’ll go ahead with.

Ted's Bike - a bike for the people

Can you tell me the story behind “Ted’s Bike”?

I’m getting a little older. I had traded a frame for a Rohloff hub and wanted to build a bike with it. I like bicycles for transportation. This pedal powered mower and a bike you’re going to use for transportation really tell the story about bicycles in our lives. It’s not a mountain bike which is for fun or a racing bike for athletes. It’s a bicycle for the population. You can run down to the store and get your beer with it, which for me is important. It has two chain rings in the front which is unusual. It doesn’t really add that many gears. I put it on there so that I could use Mark Norstad’s dropouts from Paragon Machine Works that mounted the disc brake caliper in between the stays. I don’t like eccentric bottom brackets to adjust the chain so I used that and it has a derailer hanger on it and a chain tensioner. And now I have two ranges of 14 speeds. The old pudgy guy that I am, I can make it up the hills in New Hampshire.

In the future, I’d recommend making this bike with the 2011 Shimano Alfine 11-speed internal hub and a chain guard so you don’t have to roll your pant cuff up. A complete bike like that is probably between $3,500 and $5,000 depending on stuff that you would throw on it. A frame and fork from me is $1800. Whatever you pick for the rest you add onto that price.

Thank you Ted and best wishes with your new pedal powered mower!

14 Comments

  • speeling geek
    February 28, 2010 - 9:10 pm | Permalink

    please change breaks to brakes
    for the love of spelling

  • February 28, 2010 - 11:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for pointing that out, @Geek. When you're writing this stuff you won't believe how easy it is to make silly simple spelling and grammar mistakes like this.

  • March 1, 2010 - 11:48 am | Permalink

    Awesome, Richard! Hey, can I steal your photos and use them on my blog to spread the word?

    Thanks for doing this nice report on my brother's invention,

    Jim

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  • blamflaberghasted
    March 2, 2010 - 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Did you know that this man almost shares a name with a bear that was an enlisted soldier in WW2?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wojtek_%28soldier_

  • WICKEDPISSA
    March 8, 2010 - 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Where the hell is the Beer Holder!!???

  • March 8, 2010 - 4:01 pm | Permalink

    @Blam: That's pretty cool.

  • Pingback: pedal-powered lawn mower « Beyond Bicycles – RPSC May 2010

  • April 29, 2010 - 10:30 pm | Permalink

    I think that you have a great invention. Too bad that it's not at a reasonable price for us down south, where we have to mow our lawns from February through November / December, if not all year.

  • April 30, 2010 - 8:52 am | Permalink

    Eric – this is just a prototype. The inventor Matt Langley's plan is to get the price down on the production model so that most people can afford it.

  • May 13, 2010 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I think this type of article is useful for many readers blog.Thank you sou much.

  • May 13, 2010 - 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I think this type of article is useful for many readers blog.Thank you sou much.

  • October 27, 2010 - 12:36 am | Permalink

    Great interview!

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