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Winnebiko & BEHEMOTH Specs

© 2004 by Steven K. Roberts
Nomadic Research Labs


This document briefly lists the key features and statistics associated with each of the three versions of my gizmologically-intensive recumbent bicycle (there is also a much more playful narrative of the whole epoch).

All were adaptations of the same recumbent substrate, expertly custom-built to my specs (well beyond them, actually) by Jack Trumbull of Franklin Frames after I discovered that framebuilding is harder than it looks.  Very little modification of the bike itself took place over 17,000 pedaling miles or the nearly quarter-million Mothership miles that followed, although all of the “components” did evolve considerably (gearing, brakes, handlebars, and the like).  So, of course, did the electronic systems.

It began simply…

Winnebiko

Fabricated over a 6-month period leading up to initial departure on September 28, 1983, this was the essential, most “pure” form of my technomadic adventure substrate.  The weight varied during the 10,000-mile tour from 135 to 195 pounds, and gearing was a straightforward wide-range 18-speed system.  There was no provision for writing while riding, although I did have a remote-controlled audio cassette deck for note-taking while underway—this, along with a large pile of spiral notebooks, helped tremendously when writing the Computing Across America book.

Basic Mechanical Features

Electronics

Winnebiko

Winnebiko

Winnebiko II

The second system, though not too imaginatively named, was a huge step forward in that it integrated a wide range of computer and communication systems in such a way that they could be effectively be used while riding, including a chord keyboard in the handlebars that never failed to enchant reporters.  The bike itself was rebuilt from the frame up, with new components (and a bit later, the addition of an Equinox trailer).  But there were huge changes in electronics, including an aircraft-like control console and a number of remote-control features.  This was launched in 1986 and was on the road until 1988, covering about 6,000 miles on both coasts of the US... leading to the Miles with Maggie series of stories (there's a PDF available for $5.95 over here, although all the chapters are slowly being added to the site here).  Also, I unearthed a technical article about the Winnebiko II, written back in 1987 when it was new.  There are also a few rare posters of this version available.

Electronics

Winnebiko II

Winnebiko II


BEHEMOTH
(Big Electronic Human-Energized Machine... Only Too Heavy)

This was the version that got the most media coverage: it was over-the-top, weighed 580 pounds, and was the resultant of 3.5 years of development with about 160 corporate sponsors and 45 volunteers.  You can read the Notes from the Bikelab covering the most intensive 18 months of the project, or a reasonably complete overview of the entire system in this series of pages

Ironically, this machine only covered about 1,000 actual pedaling miles; circumstances propelled me into a Mothership-based speaking tour in 1991, and by 1993 I was beginning the Microship project.  Also, despite BEHEMOTH's seductive geek appeal, it was prohibitively heavy and complex... and, even more importantly, I had already "been there" in the bicycle touring sense.

Still, it was an amazing machine, and is now on permanent loan to the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.  The feature list says it all...

Console

RUMP (white enclosure behind seat)

Brain-Interface Unit (Helmet)

SPARCpack (aluminum case atop RUMP)

Trailer

Bike- and Frame-Mounted Components

BEHEMOTH

N4RVE working the world from BEHEMOTH
(we sell a mousepad with this photo)


More Photos

The three versions appeared in Sean Topham's delightful book, Move House (Prestel, 2004) about the influence of nomadic urges on housing:


Images from Move House book

More images from Move House book


In addition, here is a photo album with about 50 scans of randomly-selected media coverage... lots of good bike shots.


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