Back in April I rode the last two miles of CicLavia that started in downtown Los Angeles and wen to Venice beach with my son. On the way back to our starting point we ran into this:
This rig was clearly hand built with gobs of personality. The bright orange longjohn was being ridden by it's builder Rex Hazard. Rex spoke passionately about building bikes. I was so impressed I asked for an interview and Rex was happy to participate. Here are the highlights of my conversation with Rex.
RH: I grew up in the countryside of Michigan and upstate New York. NOT New York City. Through a course of destiny I've ended up in the heart of L.A. bike culture. My free time is spent mainly on bikes and projects. Some recent projects include a 15 foot tall sea-saw, free standing two story loft with elevated desk, and for some relaxation time a hot spring adventure in Ojai.
BL: Describe your relationship with cycling?
RH: I did a little mountain biking and flatland BMX. I spent a few years in Boston recently where I got bike-napped by the S.C.U.L.S. who reintroduced me to the bicycle. The S.C.U.L.S. introduced me to tall bikes which I immediately fell in love with and started building bicycles. I had a dream of riding cross country on my tall bike and finally woke up one morning and decided to make it happen. I got rid of everything I owned and gave my self 7 days of preparation time before leaving. I had never rode more than maybe 30 miles at once before. I did some quick research and took a bus to NYC to launch from there with no set plans or route.Well after 4,000 miles riding a 200 pound tall bike with a portable MIG welder a lot of my design concepts and ideas grew. I used the welder to build bikes for people along the road.
BL: How did you get your start with building bikes?
RH: Like many engineers and builders I grew up breaking things and taking apart the family VCR...for scientific purposes of course. I got my start in metal work by becoming an automotive collision repair and refinishing technician.
BL: How did you first learn about cargo bikes?
RH: Cargo bikes come in many different designs. I consider a cargo bike any bicycle that has a cargo space. Many of the group rides would have bikes of every size and shape, some long, some tall, and some just bizarre. Many of the bikes including freak bikes would be loaded down with gear, food, sound systems, batteries etc. I always take an opportunity to jump on a new set of wheels and understand how weight and geometry affect ride quality and comfort.
BL: Why did you choose to develop a cargo bike and why a Longjohn?
RH: Cargo bikes are going to be a common thing very soon because of practicality. Gas prices are rising, people are becoming more environmentally aware, bicycle lanes are spreading, and bicycle awareness advocacy has recently taken a giant leap. People are also becoming more health conscience since most of the food produced these days is horrible for our bodies.,
BL: How long does it take to build?
RH: It can take anywhere from one day to two weeks depending on design, new or used parts, electric assist add on, paint finish, back orders, etc.
BL: How often do you use your bike instead of a car for local travel (less than 10th miles)?
RH: I don't own a car. The only time I use a car is when I need to pick up something large. Which will soon be changing because I'm designing a cargo bike with electric assist to haul 4x8 sheets of plywood, couches, and anything large and weighing a couple hundred pounds. with one person effortlessly pedaling.
BL: Portland is bike crazy and leads the way on cargo bikes. How big do you think the cargo bike market can be in Los Angeles?
RH: We have greater distances to cover in LA so those wanting to transport items via bike and leave their car at home will love the opportunity to do so affordably. I have exciting new plans for getting the bikes into peoples hands and into bike shops that is not your conventional system of a one man shop. I will be incorporating free school classes on different aspects of metal work, painting, tuning, etc while I simultaneously build bikes.
BL: What is the big picture for Rex Hazard Bikes? You've mentioned there is more in store than just you Longjohn bike.
RH: I broke my leg in January this year from missing the LAST step of stairs and falling 8 inches. It was my first broken bone and I spent almost 4 months in a wheelchair. During this time I was able to first hand study the difficulties of having no car and living in the city with a disability far from a bus stop with hills in the way and not having an extra $4,000 laying around to buy an electric wheelchair or hire a chauffeur. I started pile ideas together and using my love of bicycles to build a hand cycle, After I built the hand cycle I realized the true freedom would be if I could be as FAST and as MOBILE in a wheelchair around town on street and public transport and in my house as a person with legs and a bike, I Invented a new style of wheelchair that is going to change peoples lives forever. And Just like the cargo bikes it will be easily affordable and attainable.
It was a pleasure getting to know Rex and I am looking forward to taking his front loader for a test ride soon. There will be more to great things from Rex Hazard in the cargobike world and bikelocally.com will be there to tell you about it.
What's the best local artisan bike you've seen in your community?