"He Wears Black and Has a Beard"

Bikes: The Reading School Years

Toby Roworth

Aug 4, 2014

My two years of sixth form, at Reading School, were some of the more influential of my life, setting me firmly on the path of designer of things, often somewhat "different". And this was all because of a small group of us who spent nearly all of time in the tech department, especially the "worky S".
Iain in traditional Tech Crew dress - © Matt Beddow
Sadly, one of our number passed away a few years ago, and would've celebrated his 23rd birthday today (4th August). Iain was a key part of the crew, always keen to offer ideas towards how to make our projects even more outrageous, rarely afraid to try the latest food we'd cooked on the workshop equipment and always guaranteed to use PRO/desktop in manners never before conceived. This one's for Iain:

A day in the life of a tech student

The day began with coffee - we all chipped in toward an espresso machine, and eventually added in a drip machine. Mungo kindly bankrolled the whole affair, which got me addicted in no time. The raspberry white mochas were quite something, and well worth " forgetting " chapel for. Tired of carrying all the equipment out of the cupboard every morning, I build a trolley to hold both machines, 6 bottles of syrup (in a wine rack affair) and all the other crap we had. It could collapse down to fit under the shelf in the cupboard, and even featured a built-in grinder.
We'd then decant to the workshop, where grinding, welding, carpentering and the like would take place. We'd split our time between our actually projects and "banter" projects with a split right proportional to how course the coursework deadline was.
After a couple of hours it would be time for an early lunch, usually garlic bread or pies cooked in the plastic oven, but sometimes more elaborate - bacon, steak and pizza were not uncommon. The rule was simple: 2 minutes on each side always cooked everything to perfection. E found the rule for coming on the forge was more like: any time on each side burns it. We later improved forge cooking methods (see below).
Mr F would then notice the banter that happened, and tell us to "do some bloody work". Alternatively I'd go to my maths of physics lessons, although I generally considered these optional.
Lunchtime sometimes meant more food, but often just served as more time to get some welding in.
The afternoon was more building time which, close to deadlines, could go on for several hours after school, thanks to the commitment of Mr F and Mr Dance staying late to help us out.
Final year projects
The year above us had done interesting projects - a portable BBQ and desk with linearly-actuated secret bar compartment were both alright, but we're dwarfed by the monowheel.
That's right - an actual working (ish) monowheel. Blads took a 2-stroke scooter backend, a five foot steel ring and a lot of metal and ended up with the scariest machine I've ever ridden. He set himself on for at least once during the build process.
Monowheel - © Chris Bradbury
Then our year had to beat this. We ended up with five bike projects:
Matt built an inline recumbent tandem,
The Wagnandem - © Toby Roworth
Doug built a side-by-side recumbent tandem,
Doug's Bike - © Doug Cave
Andy built a three-wheeled chucklemobile,
Chucklemobile - © Andy Cocks
Chucklemobile - © Andy Cocks
and I built my chopper. The fifth bike, when it eventually got "finished" was a BBQ bike, consisting of two bikes wooded next to another, with an oil drum hanging off the back.
Ridiculous BBQ Bike - © Matt Thomas
Alongside this was a bookshelf - it's the rules that someone has to use wood I think.
The last project was Iain's portable forge. At the end of year 12, tired off the school forge being broken, Iain to a brake drum, some pipe and a hair dryer he didn't steal from the art dept and turned them into a forge that easily reached 1500°. Naturally, the first thing we did was to cook some steaks on it, before he demonstrated what it could do to a piece of steel.
The forgyQ - © Matt Beddow
Not content with the best forgyQ the school had seen, he then built a collapsing frame underneath it to load it into a transit van.
testing the forgyQ frame - © Matt Beddow
A note on forgyQs - leaf bowers don't lead to more heart in the coals, they lead to bits of hot coal going everywhere! Stick to hair dryers not stolen from the art dept.
Banter projects
When the end of term came close, tech lessons stopped being educational in the traditional sense, and instead we set outspokenness lose in the welder. This resulted in many banter projects.
One of my favourites was death scooter, a microscooter with the back wheel replaced by a bar with two castors on. This was intended to enable drifting round corners, but also led to a certain lack of control in a straight line. And on corners. On several occasions I had to replace the castors due to the bushes melting from excess speed.
Death Scooter - © Chris Bradbury
Then came death board, a piece of wood with four castors on. Where the scooter to skill to master, the board to extreme skill just to approach. It ended up working well as a trailer, until we discovered some steering problems:
Death Board travelling down steps - © Chris Bradbury
As a precursor to the final year bikes, a basic tandem was built by spacing two bike apart with metal and welding them together. An extra seat was added to enable passengers. However, tieing the steering together involved too many extra components, so was "allowed". As a result the bike's initial test required the two riders to synchronise their steering, preferably with a touch of [Ackermanning], which went well until they pays chicken with a fence. One rider cried 'steer now' as he saw the fence getting a little too close for comfort, turned his handle bars, and promptly bent the wheel quite severely. After that the rim required regular straightening.
Death Bike towing death scooter - © Chris Bradbury
Looking at our range of bikes, I noticed they were all the right way round. A morning later and I'd flipped the rear wheel round, made a basic steering linkage and created a bike that was almost impossible to ride.
Top Tech Gear Crew Track Day
To end year 12 we put on a track day, where we took all our contraptions and did timed laps round a track we made outside biology.
Unfortunately, +Chris's wonderful compilation video is hard/impossible to download, so you'll have to take my word for it, or try this link and hope for the best! Edit: now on DropBox, and YouTube
Honerable Mention: Shoeper Shonic
As a final little aside, a few years ahead of us, some of the students (and teachers) entered the Red Bull soapbox race. Shoeper Shonic came third, and from then on formed a key part of the furniture in various tech classrooms.
Me in Shoeper Shonic during transportation - © Matt Beddow
Bonus Round: Optimus Prime
Tobymus Prime - © Matt Beddow